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THE NIBBLE BLOG: Products, Recipes & Trends In Specialty Foods
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TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Nuovo Pasta Gourmet Ravioli

Ravioli lovers, dinner-party givers, and foodies of all inclinations: It doesn’t get more exciting than this. The word “ravioli” typically conjures up the image of pleasant pasta pillows stuffed with some vague meat or cheese. Not any more! Be prepared to be blasted to a higher level of ravioli consciousness by the artisans at Nuovo Pasta. For years we have lusted after Nuovo Pasta’s visually stunning, palate-tantalizing ravioli. We have longed to introduce them to you, dear NIBBLE reader. Heck, we have longed to get our own hands on them, but have been limited to tasting them at trade shows. The unmovable obstacle has been that Nuovo sells its gorgeous products only to restaurants, caterers and distributors. But now, we all can buy the same amazing ravioli that the professionals do, and wow our families and guests in the way that diners are wowed at top restaurants. Our good fortune is thanks to Marx Foods, a distributor of gourmet products to fine food establishments. They’ve made their wares available to consumers nationwide, through their online store.   Gourmet Ravioli
A trio of gourmet raviolis: from the top, a regular round ravioli, a girasole (sunflower) and a pansotti (trainagle).
As we sit here eating giant ravioli (a.k.a. ravioloni—a single piece is an entire first course), one stuffed with osso bucco and one with Point Reyes blue cheese (a prior NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week), we are eternally grateful. There are plenty of regular-sized ravioli, too, but there is nothing “regular” about these beautiful pastas—triangular, round and rectangular, flecked, striped and marbled. They are stuffed with veal Bolognese, crawfish and andouille sausage, Grand Marnier roast duck, portabella mushrooms and Asiago cheese and dozens of other wonders. They’re irresistible, and will make your dinner parties the talk of the town. Read more and see all the photos in the full review. Pick your favorite and order a memorable first course for Easter dinner. And find more of our favorite pastas and sauces in the Pasta Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine. Want to know the difference between ravioli, ravioloni, girasoles, pansotti, sacchette and a hundred other types of pasta? See our Pasta Glossary.

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GOURMET GIVEAWAY: Win A Key Lime Tart & Tostitos

Key Lime Tart
This tasty key lime tart could be yours.
  We just selected the winner of last week’s Gourmet Giveaway, who is now the proud owner of a delicious Easter ham (at least, it will soon be on its way to her). So if you’d like to win the Key lime tart at the left—which, owing to the strangeness of Easter falling this Sunday, will be your post-Easter gift from THE NIBBLE—enter this week’s Gourmet Giveaway and answer a few trivia questions about limes. The Q&A isn’t exactly trivial: You’ll learn fun facts about the tart green fruit (although some varieties are as sweet as oranges), without which there would be no Margaritas, either.

There’s a special bonus this week: 10 MORE PRIZES! In honor of National Chip & Dip Day, March 23 (coincidentally, that’s Easter Sunday this year), Tostitos® is giving ten lucky winners second prizes of Tostitos Chips & Dip gift sets.

So, if you’ve refrained from entering the Gourmet Giveaway in the past because you think your chances of winning the one big prize aren’t so great: Now we may pull your name out of the hat (actually, it’s a computerized random selector) for one of 11 prizes. See our favorite fruits in the Fruits & Nuts Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine…or check out the chips in our Snacks Section.

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TODAY IN FOOD: It’s National Coconut Torte Day

March 13th, Coconut Torte Day, begs the question: What is a torte? Is it just a pretentious word for cake, something to make you think the torte is more special than an everyday cake?

Nein, mein freund. While torte is the German word for what the British (and Americans) call cake and the French call gâteau, they don’t refer to identical confections.

Different cooking traditions led to different styles of baking.

  • British cakes, German tortes and Italian tortas are generally hardier creations than delicate French gâteaux.
  • The French, those keen culinarians, went for light, rich, layered affairs stuffed with custard, whipped cream or butter cream, frosted, and decorated with fresh fruit—oh la la, but very perishable.
  • While British culinary tradition created sturdier, longer-lasting pound cakes and fruit cakes, tortes are rich, dense cakes made with many eggs and little or no flour, using ground nuts (and sometimes breadcrumbs) for texture.
  •  
    A torte is thus easily recognizable because it’s one layer that’s shorter than a typical cake layer, often no more than 2-1/2 inches high because there’s not much, if any, flour to rise. Flourless cakes are tortes. The crumb is denser than the airy crumb of a layer cake; it’s similar to the density of a Bundt cake.

    And a torte is wider than a cake—usually 10 to 12 inches in diameter compared to the typical 8-to-9-inch cake. That’s to compensate for the shorter height, so each short wedge will be a good portion.
     
    KNOW YOUR TORTES

    Alas, many people, including some bakers, use terms incorrectly. The following may be called “torte” by their makers and/or sellers, but are not tortes:

  • Bundt cakes
  • Layer cakes
  • Sheet cakes
  •  
    Remember these words: one short, dense, round layer.
     
     
    TORTE VS. TART: THE DIFFERENCE

    These two are not related except broadly: both are filled baked goods that can be sweet or savory.

  • A torte (photos 1, 2 and 3) is a type of cake. It does not have a separate crust, as do tarts and pies. It is baked in a tin with smooth edges.
  • A tart (photo #4) is related to a pie: a filled crust. A tart has no top crust but it may have a lattice. A pie can have a top crust, no top crust, or a lattice. It is baked in a tin with crimped edges (more difference between tarts and pies).
  •   /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/coconut torte sweetsmarts 230
    [1] A torte can be plain or iced. Here, a plain coconut torte from SweetSmarts.com; it’s also sugar-free.

    Coconut Torte
    [2] A Key Lime Coconut Torte from Pixilated Crumb.

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/coconut torte food52 230r
    [3] A flourless almond and coconut torte. Here’s the recipe from Food 52.

    Linzertorte
    [4] A linzer tart. A tart is NOT a torte. See the difference at left.

     
    Unlike a pie, which has a soft, thin crust and—often—a soft filling that will ooze out once sliced, tarts have a hard, thick crust and a firm filling.

  • The entire tart stands erect on its own, with no pan to hold it. In fact, the baking pan is removed before the tart is brought to the table.
  • Similarly, the firm filling of a sliced tart will not ooze.
  •  
    What to remember: torte is a cake, tart is a [relative of] open-face pie.
     
     
    CHECK OUT THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF CAKES IN THE NIBBLE’S TASTY CAKE GLOSSARY.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Irish Cream Icing

    White Chocolate Cake
    Make a white chocolate frosting with Irish cream liqueur. Photo courtesy of Equinox Maple Flakes.
     

    Celebrate the 17th with Irish Cream Icing. You can bake or buy brownies or a loaf cake and add this tasty homemade topping. Take 1/3 cup Irish cream liqueur (such as Bailey’s) and 8 ounces of top-quality white chocolate. Buy a good chocolate bar instead of baking chips, which can be vegetable oil instead of real chocolate. You can buy Green & Black’s, one of our favorites (it’s organic, too), readily available at Whole Foods Markets and elsewhere. In a small pan, bring the liqueur to a slow boil; then remove from the heat and whisk in the chopped white chocolate until it’s completely melted and the icing is smooth. Refrigerate until it becomes thick enough to spread, stirring occasionally. Spread the icing over the brownies or cake. Keep refrigerated until 30 minutes before serving.

    – Make Irish Coffee to go with your dessert.
    – Find more cake recipes in the Gourmet Cakes Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.

     

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    TODAY IN FOOD: It’s National Baked Scallops Day

    We love scallops, so National Baked Scallops Day isn’t a hard day for us to fit in to our eating schedule. Scallops are found in all the world’s oceans. They are a member of the oyster family, Ostreida, and have the familiar central adductor muscle that attaches their two shells. The adductor muscle of scallops is larger and more developed than that of oysters, because the little dudes are active swimmers. Not just content to hang around at the bottom of the ocean, waiting to be scooped up, they exercise their inner Michael Phelps (or does Michael Phelps exercise his inner scallop?) by rapidly opening and closing their shells. Another fun fact: Scallops are hermaphrodites, and switch sexes. Both sexes produce roe. So, here’s an example in the animal kingdom where dads can give birth (if you call expelling your roe into the water, where it is fertilized by by some other scallop’s expelled spermatozoa, and then sinks to the bottom of the ocean to hatch, giving birth).   scallops-260.jpg
    Bake me tonight.
    Scallops were traditionally caught by dredging (dragging) the seabed, but scuba divers now catch the quality ones—hence the term “diver scallops” or “dayboat scallops” (the divers go out just for the day) on menus of better restaurants. If you saw or read “The Perfect Storm,” you understand that seafood can spend two or more weeks on ice in the hold of a boat before getting to port. Diver scallops get to market quickly, and thus are so much are fresher and tastier. Now, onto baked scallops: Perhaps the most famous baked scallop dish is Coquilles Saint-Jacques, translated as Saint James’s scallops, a rich mixture of butter, cream, mushrooms and Parmesan cheese, baked in a scallop shell. The scallop shell is the emblem of Saint James the Greater. The saint’s association with the scallop shell is based on a legend that he once rescued a knight covered in scallops, or alternatively, that while his remains were being transported to Spain from Jerusalem, the horse of a knight fell into the water and emerged covered in scallop shells. As a result, Medieval Christians making the pilgrimage to the shrine of Saint James in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, often wore a scallop shell symbol on their clothing. You can easily find a delicious recipe for Coquilles Saint-Jacques online (we use the one from Mastering The Art Of French Cooking by Julia Child. It’s easy to make—pick up the ingredients and enjoy it tonight. You can buy the scallop shells in any cookware store (including chain stores), and they’re useful for serving other foods, from desserts to hors d’oeuvres (olives, for example). And of course, you can serve the dish on any plate—scallop shells not required!

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