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TODAY IN FOOD: It’s Pizza Pie Day

Pizza RomanaOur favorite frozen gourmet pizzas, from Pizza Romana.   While National Pizza Week is celebrated the second week of January, today is Pizza Pie Day. Most of us aren’t old enough to remember that pizzas were formerly called pizza pie—you can catch the reference in movies from the 1950s. The history of pizza is relatively recent, given how ancient flat breads and cheese are in man’s cuisine. The key element that turned them into what we know today as pizza is the tomato, which was brought to Europe from the Americas in the 16th century. This was the yellow cherry tomato, and as a member of the Nightshade family of plants, it was believed by many Europeans to be poisonous. The tomato was enjoyed as a houseplant. However, famine in the 18th century caused the fruit to be eaten by the poor, and no one died. The poor in the area around Naples then add tomato to their flat bread, often serving as their main meal with melted cheese and/or anchovies, and so the pizza was born. (So was tomato sauce for pasta and other dishes.)
Pizza gained in popularity, sold from open-air stands by street vendors, and soon became a tourist attraction. Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba in Naples is regarded as the world’s first pizzeria. It began as a pizza bakery in 1738, providing street vendors with pizzas, but in 1830 expanded to include a pizza restaurant with chairs and tables. It remains in business today. Pizza arrived in the U.S. with the first wave of Italian immigrants in the late 19th century.
– See our favorite line of frozen gourmet pizzas, Pizza Romana—imported from Italy.
– Try something different: An apple, cheddar and bacon pizza recipe.

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TIP OF THE DAY: Types Of Smoked Salmon

February 9th is National Bagels and Lox Day. “Lox” is an old generic term that is fading away, replaced by much more complicated choices. So how does one decide among the Irish, Danish, Nova Scotia, Norwegian, Scottish and other smoked salmon contenders? They differ in saltiness, smokiness and fishiness; the only way you’ll know is to taste. If it’s sliced-to-order, you can try a piece at the counter; but packaged salmon (which can be equally fine or better quality depending on manufacturer) is often less expensive because factory slicing is cheaper than store labor). Buy small amounts of each and compare. You don’t need bagels: Slices of salmon with a sprinkling of dill and capers, a lemon wedge and an optional garnish of crème fraîche make a lovely first course for brunch, lunch or dinner. TIP: Once you decide what you like, write it down—they sound so similar, it’s easy to forget.

– Learn about the different types of smoked salmon.

– Discover sustainable, line-caught smoked salmon from Nantucket Wild Gourmet & Smokehouse.

– See David Burke’s smoked salmon pops.

– Try a savory, smoked salmon cheesecake (for hors d’oeuvres or a first course).
  Smoked SalmonHow many types of smoked salmon can you name?

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TODAY IN FOOD: It’s Molasses Bar Day

Dark molasses.

If you’d like to bake molasses bars to celebrate National Molasses Bar Day (February 8th), you can find many recipes online. But first: What is molasses?

Known in the U.K. as treacle, it’s a thick syrup produced as a by-product during the refining of sugar cane. Molasses is the residue that is left after the sugar crystals are extracted (i.e., molasses is produced when no more sugar may be economically crystallized by conventional means).

Molasses is predominantly sucrose, with some glucose and fructose. It is 65% as sweet as sugar. About 80% of the world’s molasses comes from sugar cane, with the remaining 20% coming from sugar beets.

The better grades, such as New Orleans drip molasses and Barbados molasses, are unreprocessed and contain more sucrose, making them lighter in color> They are used in cooking and confectionery and in the production of rum.

  • Light molasses comes from the first boiling of the cane; it is also called sweet molasses and is used as pancake syrup or a sweetener.
  • Dark molasses from the second boiling; it is more flavorful and less sweet than light molasses, and often used for gingerbread and spice cookies.
  • lackstrap molasses, the lowest grade, comes from the third boiling; it is strong and bitter, and mainly used in mixed cattle feed and in the manufacture of industrial alcohol.
  • Sulfured molasses, has had sulfur dioxide added as a preservative (or, the sulfur in the manufacturing process is retained in the molasses).
    Read more in our Sugar & Syrup Glossary.

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Elvis’s Favorite, Bananas & Peanut Butter

    February 8th is Elvis Presley’s birthday, and Elvis’s favorite snack was a peanut butter and “nanner” sandwich—mashed bananas and PB on white toast, fried in butter. (Perhaps it never occurred to him to throw some chocolate morsels on that as well.) We prefer a slightly more gourmet version: PB Loco’s yummy Peanut Butter with Jungle Banana on toasted brioche or raisin bread. Read our review of PB Loco’s flavored peanut butters, and celebrate Elvis’s birthday by ordering a few jars. If you have like sweet PBs, don’t pass up the White Chocolate Raspberry Peanut Butter or the Sumatra Cinnamon & Raisin Peanut Butter—the best raisin PB we’ve ever had. On the savory side, Sun-Dried Tomato Peanut Butter is an exceptional experience. We use it for everything from canapés and tea sandwiches to regular roast beef, turkey, chicken or ham sandwiches; and on linguine or fettuccine as Sun-Dried Tomato Peanut Butter Sauce. Asian Curry Spice Peanut Butter is serious business. Spread some on a roast beef, chicken or duck sandwich for a Thai turn. Find more of our favorite PBs reviewed in THE NIBBLE online magazine   Cinnamon Raisin Peanut Butter - PB Loco
    P.B. Loco makes 10 flavors plus the basics (creamy and crunchy). Jungle Banana and CocoBanana will help you make a quick “Elvis Sandwich.”

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    NEWS: The Year Of The Rat & Chocolate Mice

    Chocolate Mice
    Celebrate the Year Of The Rat, a.k.a. Mouse.
      Today is the first day in the Chinese lunar year; the year ends on January 25, 2009. In China, the year is 4706, not 2008, and it is a Year of the Rat. The Chinese Lunar cycle is not based on 12 repeating lunar months that follow the movements of the sun, as in the Western calendar, but on a 12-year repeating cycle with roots based on the movements of the moon. There is an animal zodiac; each astrological animal symbol represents an entire year. In Chinese, the character for “rat” may refer to either the rat or the mouse; the words are interchangeable. The New Year celebration extends through February 21st. So, celebrate and treat yourself to our favorite gourmet mouse product, these chocolate mice from Burdick Chocolate. While the mice are available year-round, these have a special Chinese New Year flavoring and packaging. The wood boxes are sealed with a gold wax Gung Hay Fat Choy seal (“Best Wishes And Congratulations”), and the chocolate mice have almond ears and tails of red and gold silk. Dark chocolate mice have tangerine and Chinese tea ganaches; milk chocolate mice are filled with mango coconut or hot pepper hazelnut.
    Thanks, Year Of The Rat, for inspiriing these divine mice flavors, Nine mice, $30.00, 16 mice, $46.00. Read our full review of Burdick Chocolate, a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week.

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