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TIP OF THE DAY: How To Ripen Fruit


[1] Just pop fruits that need to be ripened in a paper bag (photo © Good Eggs).


[2] The riper the banana, the faster it will help to ripen the other fruits (photo © King Arthur Flour).


[3] Before you can dig into the creamy flesh, you need to ripen an avocado (photo © Aldi).


[4] Cherries are the one stone fruit that doesn’t ripen after picking. Stash them in the fridge (photo © Gaelle Marcel Wesual | Unsplash).

 

Some fruits, like berries, cherries, citrus and watermelon, don’t ripen further once picked (see the full list below).

So don’t wait for them to get better; they will only decline.

But other fruits need to ripen, no matter how much we’d like to bite into them.

Here are tricks to speed up the ripening.

What if the fruits are ripe but not sweet?

Add a bit of sweetener, caloric (sugar, honey, agave, etc.) or non-caloric (artificial sweeteners, stevia, etc.).

A restaurant trick for sprucing up boring berries is to place them in a strainer and dip them in a bowl of sugar water.
 
 
ALL FRUITS

For any fruit that needs to quickly ripen, paper bags are the go-to method.

These fruits include avocados, bananas, mangoes, melons (but not watermelon)*, pears, stone fruits† and tomatoes. They give off ethylene, a colorless gas.

The bag traps the ethylene inside, and the concentration of ethylene ripens the fruit quickly.

For extra help, add a banana to the bag. Bananas are a high producer of ethylene, so adding one to the other fruits will cause them to ripen faster than if it were in the bag by themselves.

The riper the banana, the faster it will help to ripen the other fruit.

Apples are another producer of ethylene, but less so than bananas.

Roll the top of the paper bag to close. Plastic bags are not recommended, because they concentrate moisture and heat that can encourage mold.
 
 
AVOCADOS & MANGOES

If you don’t have a paper bag but you do have rice, a rice bath is an option.

It can be used for fruits with inedible skins: avocados, bananas, mangoes, melons, papayas.

Uncooked rice—white or brown—traps ethylene gas effectively and ripens fruits with hard (inedible) skins.

Use a bowl or other container large enough to hold the fruit, and cover it completely with rice. You do not need to cover the rice itself.

If your fruit isn’t ripened within two days, check it once or twice on subsequent days, so it doesn’t over-ripen.

You can re-use the rice for cooking—or for more ripening.
 
 
STONE FRUITS

Our great-grandmother’s trick for ripening peaches, nectarines and apricots, was to spread them on a tea towel, topped with another tea towel.

The fruits should not be touching.

While the towels trap some ethylene, the paper bag method with an apple or banana works best.
 

FRUITS THAT DON’T RIPEN AFTER PICKING

These fruits may soften after picking, but don’t confuse that with ripening. The flavor doesn’t improve.

After they’re picked these fruits begin to break down, which ultimately leads to rot.

  • Berries, blackcurrants, cherries, gooseberries
  • Citrus, muskmelon, watermelon
  • Coconut, pineapple, pomegranate
  • Bell peppers, chiles, cucumber, eggplant, olives, summer squash, zucchini (while these are considered vegetables by consumers, they are botanically fruits)
  • Figs and grapes
  • Longan, loquat, lychee, prickly pear, rambutan, tamarillo
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    *Watermelons develop a creamy yellow splotch on the bottom, where they have rested on the ground. This means it’s ripe, and farmers tend to pick them when the splotch appears. You can also give the underbelly a thump with your hand. A ripe melon will have a deep, hollow sound.

    †Yes, avocados are a fruit—a tree fruit. Stone fruits include apricot, cherry, nectarine, peach, plum and hybrids like apriums, plumcots and pluots. However, cherries are picked when they are already ripe, and do not require further ripening—just stick them in the fridge. Here’s more about stone fruits.
     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: No-Cook Tomato Sauce

    Lush summer tomatoes invite a no-cook tomato sauce that delivers fresh tomato flavor.

    Use homegrown or farmers market tomatoes for the most vibrant taste.

    This no-cook sauce is also delicious on:

  • Polenta
  • Hot cereals like cream of wheat or rice and grits
  • Breakfast eggs
  •  
    It couldn’t be easier or faster to whip up. Thanks to DeLallo for the recipe.
     
     
    RECIPE: PASTA WITH NO-COOK TOMATO SAUCE

    Ingredients

  • 4 large homegrown tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Handful of fresh basil, torn
  • 1-pound package spaghetti or linguine
  • 1/4 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the chopped tomatoes in a large serving bowl. Using your hands, squeeze and smash the tomatoes to release all of their juices.

    2. COMBINE with the olive oil, garlic, basil and salt. Set aside to marinate for up to an hour.

    3. COOK the pasta according to package instructions. Drain.

    4. IMMEDIATELY ADD the hot pasta to the bowl with the tomatoes. Toss to combine.

    5. SERVE topped with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
     
     
    > CHECK OUT THESE PASTA SAUCE SUBSTITUTES
     
     
    > THE HISTORY OF TOMATOES

     


    [1] It takes less than 10 minutes to make this no-cook spaghetti sauce (photo © DeLallo).


    [2] Does this inspire you to grow your own tomatoes (photo © Bonnie Plants)?

     

      

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    FOOD FUN: Potato Ice Cream Recipe


    [1] Yukon Gold Potato Ice Cream (photo © Idaho Potato Commission).

    Yukon Gold Potatoes
    [2] Yukon Gold potatoes (photo © Bonnie Plants).


    [3] Yukon Gold potatoes (photo © Good Eggs).

     

    July is National Ice Cream Month; so pull out the ice cream maker (or consider buying one).

    There’s nothing better than freshly-churned ice cream, before it goes into the freezer. The flavor has a vitality that disappears once the ice cream hardens.

    While summer is the season to make fruit ice cream, here’s some food fun that uses a vegetable.

    Vegetable? Yes indeed. We’ve also made beet ice cream and truffle (the fungus) ice cream, both exquisite.

    You can amp up the potato ice cream recipe with mix-ins like chocolate chips and berries.

    A garnish? Chocolate-covered potato chips, of course.
     
     
    RECIPE: POTATO ICE CREAM

    Ingredients For 1 Quart

  • 3 small Idaho® Yukon potatoes
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • Pinch of salt and black pepper
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temp
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, room temp
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 375°F. Wash the potatoes, leave on the peel and cut into 1/2″ cubes.

    2. TOSS the potatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread onto a baking sheet and roast until cooked through, about 20 minutes. Set aside.

    3. BRING the milk, cream, sugar and corn syrup to boil in a saucepan. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

    4. REMOVE from the heat and whisk in the cream cheese and salt, then the sour cream. Chill.

    5. MIX the ice cream base with the potatoes in a blender, until completely smooth. Strain through a fine mesh strainer, preferably a chinoise.

    6. PROCESS in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions. Place in the freezer for 6 hours or overnight.

     
    ABOUT YUKON GOLD POTATOES

    Yukon Gold is a cultivar of potato most distinctly characterized by its thin, smooth, eye-free skin and yellow-tinged flesh. This potato was developed in the 1960s by Garnet (“Gary”) Johnston in Guelph, Ontario, Canada. The cross was made in 1966 and Yukon Gold (after its yellow-gold flesh) was finally released into the market in 1980.

    Yukon Gold quickly became a favorite with fine-cuisine chefs. It can stand up to both dry-heat and wet-heat cooking methods.

    Its waxy, moist flesh and sweet flavor make it an ideal potato for boiling, baking and frying. You can also use them for grilling, pan frying, and roasting.

    Here’s more about the Yukon Gold potato.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Green Iced Tea & Types Of Green Tea

    We spent much of yesterday sipping on ice-cold green tea, with lots of fresh mint.

    We had an overabundance of mint from the farmers market, and couldn’t think of a better use than iced tea (mint works equally well in black, green, herbal and white teas).

    To add fresh mint* or other herbs to tea (try fresh organic lavender, rosemary or sage), crush the leaves and stems lightly in your hand to release the essential oils, before adding the mint to the tea.

    You can make cold brew green tea in the fridge.

  • Combine loose-leaf tea or tea bags and water in a pitcher, 1 teaspoon loose-leaf tea or 1 tea bag per 6 to 8 ounces of water (less water for stronger tea).
  • Let the tea infuse for 6 to 12 hours in the fridge. Strain the loose leaves or remove the bags, and you’re ready to sip! Consume within 5 days.
  • If brewing in hot water, add the mint with the tea and pour the hot water over both.
  •  
    You can also make herb tea using only fresh mint.

  • Place the washed mint in a heat proof bowl. Pour 8 cups of boiled water over the mint; cover and let steep for 10 to 15 minutes. Strain, reserving the mint leaves if you want to make mint simple syrup. Transfer the tea to a pitcher and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  • To make mint simple syrup, place the strained mint leaves in a small saucepan along with 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup water and optional vanilla (1/2 vanilla bean or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste or vanilla extract). Bring to a simmer; cover and steep for 10 minutes, then strain and discard solids. Transfer to a small jar or bottle and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  •  
     
    INFUSED GREEN TEAS

    Tay Tea, one of the nation’s finest artisan tea blenders, offers plain bancha, matcha and sencha green teas, as well as these proprietary blends:

  • Berber, an aromatic blend of Chinese gunpowder green tea blended with wild Moroccan spearmint
  • Genmaicha, bancha tea with 50% roasted or popped rice grains
  • Jasmine, a seasonal green tea blended with midnight-blooming May jasmine flowers for an abundant jasmine character
  • Kyoto, green sencha with cherry blossom petals
  • Saba, lichee-infused green tea blended with jasmine blossoms
  •  
    You can find many other flavors elsewhere, but for the best taste, Tay Tea uses only natural ingredients that infuse (petals, e.g.). Other companies sell flavors made with extracts, natural or not (blueberry and other fruit, caramel, vanilla, etc.).
     
     
    TYPES OF GREEN TEA

    There are different types of plain green tea, based on how the picked leaves are treated. Thanks to Ito-En for the details.

    Sencha Green Tea: The most well-known variety of green tea, sencha is made from the leaves (photo #5) that are steamed and rolled (photo #4).

    Fukamushi Sencha: Steamed approximately twice as long as regular sencha, fukamushi means “steamed for a long time.” The extra steaming provides a stronger taste and darker green color, and it lacks the grassy aroma and astringency of sencha.

    Gyokuro Green Tea: A special production where the tea bushes are covered with cloth or reed screen some 20 days prior to picking (called “covered culture]”. By limiting the amount of light that reaches the new shoots while they are growing, the catechins from amino acids (theanine) are suppressed, resulting in lower astringency and a rich flavor than sencha. The aroma is similar to nori seaweed.

    Kabusecha Green Tea: Prepared similar to gyokuro, except the bushes are only covered for one week prior to picking.

    Tencha Green Tea: Tencha is mainly used to grind into matcha. Similar to gyokuro, the raw leaves (ichibancha† or shincha) used for tencha are grown with the covered culture method, and are typically covered for longer than the 20 days for gyokuro. However, after plucking and steaming, the leaves are dried without being rolled. After removing the stems and leaf veins, the tea leaf flecks are stone-ground into matcha.

    Matcha Green Tea: The tencha flecks that are turned into matcha (photo #5) are stone-ground into a powder immediately before shipping, for maximum freshness. Matcha is used in Japan’s traditional tea ceremony. It was previously made from the leaves of tea bushes that were 100 years old. Modern production techniques have led to different cultivar selection.

    Genmaicha: Genmaicha is sencha tea that derives its name from the Japanese word for brown rice. The soaked and steamed brown rice is roasted and popped, and is mixed with sencha in a ratio of approximately 50:50 (and thus decreasing the amount of caffeine). Editor’s note: The combination of the toasty rice and the bright sencha makes this one of our favorite green teas.

    Hojicha: Hojicha is roasted sencha or other green tea. Through roasting, it becomes less bitter, and is considered has a clear, light taste and is considered easy to drink.

    Shincha: Meaning “new tea,” shincha is the first picking of the season. Shincha and ichibancha are the same tea, the difference being in name only. Shincha is known for the refreshing and invigorating aroma of the leaves. It is low in catechins but also in caffeine content, and is thus less bitter and astringent than the second (nibancha) and third (sanbancha) pickings. Shincha tends to have a higher content of theanine (amino acids), which give it full-bodied flavor and sweetness.

    Bancha Green Tea: Bancha is harvested from the second flush of sencha tea, which occurs between summer and autumn.

     
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    *If you’re near a farmers market or specialty produce store, try the different types of mint to see which you prefer.

    There are more than 600 varieties of mint beyond peppermint and spearmint. Somee varieties you are likely to find include apple mint, chocolate mint, lavender mint, orange mint and pineapple mint.

    †Tea buds hibernate through the winter. In March, buds start appearing (“flushing”) and new leaves develop.

    In a month, it will be time for the first harvest. Between late April and early May, ichibancha, the first flush tea, is harvested. Ichibancha is rated a top quality tea.

     


    [1] Green iced tea with fresh mint. The red tea at left is hibiscus, one of our favorite herbal teas (photos #1 and #2 © Tay Tea).


    [2] Tay Tea’s Kyoto blend, green sencha tea with cherry blossom petals.


    [3] Iced green jasmine tea with lime and mint (photos #3 and #4 © Mighty Leaf Tea | Peet’s.


    [4] Sencha green tea.


    [5] Matcha, powdered tea leaves, is whisked into water instead of brewed like other tea (photo © Matcha & Co | Unsplash).


    [6] Close up on a tea plant: bud and leaves (photo © Gryffyn M | Unsplash).

     
    About two weeks after the first harvest, the new buds begin to grow. In approximately 45 days, the new leaves are ready for the second harvest.

    These teas are called nibancha. The reason that ichibancha has superior quality and aroma than nibancha is because the ichibancha leaves store nourishment over the winter. They also contain 3 times more theanine, an antioxidant that is a main source of taste of tea.

    The reduction in theanine explains why nibancha is less flavorful and aromatic [source]. Sanbancha is the third picking, which ends in the autumn. The plants rest through the winter, and in April, the new leaves are ready to be harvested. They are ichibancha, the first flush.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Seafood Mixed Grill…& Vegetables Too!

    Seafood Mixed Grill
    [1] Fish fillet with mussels and shrimp (photo © Bamboo Sushi | Portland).

    Seafood Mixed Grill
    [2] Three different fish fillets, scallops and shrimp (photo © Allen Brothers).


    [3] Grilled asparagus, carrots, red bell pepper, red onions, yellow squash. Here’s a recipe (photo © Taste Of Home).


    [4] From top: portabella and shiitake mushrooms, plum tomatoes (seeds removed), yellow squash, multicolor bell peppers (photo © Happily Unprocessed).

     

    A grilled fish fillet or a skewer of shrimp is delicious; but a selection of different seafood—known as a mixed grill—is even better.

    If you like to toss seafood onto the grill, mix it up.
     
    No grill? Broiling or sautéing works, too.

    It takes more effort to cook different types of seafood. But the result—different flavors, textures and shapes—is a treat for the palate and the eye.

    You can construct a mixed grill from fish only, or shellfish only. You can also have a surf-and-turf mixed grill, with chicken, sausage, steak, etc.
     
     
    FISH, SHELLFISH & SEAFOOD: THE DIFFERENCE

    Seafood refers to both fish and shellfish.

    Shellfish refers specifically to an aquatic invertebrate with a shell, such as a mollusc or crustacean of a mollusc.

  • Crustaceans include crab, lobster and shrimp, among others.
  • Mollusks include mussels, octopuses oysters and snails, among others.
  • Fish have spines; crustaceans and mollusks have shells (the exception is octopus, which has a cartilage skull).
  •  
     
    THE BEST FISH TO GRILL

    These fish can withstand the heat of the grill without falling apart:

  • Mahi Mahi
  • Snapper
  • Salmon
  • Swordfish
  • Tuna
  •  
     
    THE BEST SHELLFISH TO GRILL

    Clams, crab, lobster, mussels, oysters, prawns/shrimp* and scallops can be easily cooked on a grill.

    Here are details on how to grill shellfish.
     
     
    ADD COLOR TO THE PLATE

    Grill them flat or on skewers.

  • Asparagus
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Cherry tomatoes (look for multicolored tomatoes).
  • Corn on the cob (consider cutting the raw cob in quarters)
  • Edamame
  • Green beans
  • Kale
  • Multi-color baby bell peppers or chunks of conventional bell peppers
  • Plum tomatoes (insides removed)
  • Red onions
  • Shishito peppers
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Yellow squash
  •  

  • Here are tips on grilling vegetables.
  •  
    Enjoy your mixed grill: seafood and veggies.

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    *While the taste and look are similar, the difference between prawns and shrimp is the anatomical structure. Shrimp have lamellar, which are plate-like gills, and a set of claws on their front two pairs of legs.

    Prawns, in comparison, have branching gills and claws on three sets of their legs, with the front pair being noticeably larger.

     

     
      

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