THE NIBBLE BLOG: Products, Recipes & Trends In Specialty Foods

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TIP OF THE DAY: Buy Artisan Hams

The Chinese may have been the first to cure hams—or it might have been the ancient Egyptians. Whoever deserves the credit, thousands of years after the fact, we tasted dozens of hams to select a few that deserve the honor of gracing your table. See our favorites in the our review of the best hams in America. The comedian Steven Wright commented, “When you buy a cured ham, do you even wonder what it had?” We found an enormous difference between supermarket hams and artisan hams, which deliver rich meat flavor with much less salt. That said, quite a few of the hams in our tasting that arrived from artisan producers still needed to be “cured” of excessive saltiness, which purchasers tend to counteract by coating and baking them with sweet toppings! Why? We don’t need that excess salt or the sugar.   Kurobuta ham
Kurobuta ham, Japanese black hog, which originated in Berkshire, England, was purportedly discovered by Oliver Cromwell’s troops, and is now one of the best hams available in America, if not the best. It’s produced in Iowa. What a voyage!
Many mass-produced hams are cured simply by injecting them with brine. An artisan ham is immersed in brine or dry-rubbed with spices, then lightly smoked and aged. The quality of the pig is far superior, as well. Baked ham is a traditional Easter dish. This Easter, kick up your tradition by serving the most delicious artisan ham you can find. Read more about our favorite pork products—and find some gourmet ham glaze recipes—in the Pork, Ham & Bacon Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine. You can also take our Ham Trivia Quiz.

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TIP OF THE DAY: Peanut Pairing

Peanuts Beer
Not every type of peanut goes well with beer.


March is National Peanut Month. People (and bars) commonly serve goobers with beer; the idea behind giving them away at bars is that salty peanuts make you thirstier for more beer.

But there’s an art to pairing peanuts with libations:

  • German Hefe-Weizen beers, with their scent of roasted hops and wheat, echo the same notes in peanuts. A perfect match!
  • Sherry is known for its nutty qualities, so serve roasted peanuts with a sherry aperitif.
  • Honey-roasted peanuts match better with a fruity wine.
  • Hot chili peanuts also beg for a wine with residual sugar to offset the heat of the chiles.
    Visit the Snacks Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine to find our favorite gourmet peanuts.




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    NEWS: Social Networking Sites For The Restaurant Biz

    It was only a matter of time, but now at least two social networking sites have sprouted up, aiming to be the MySpace and FaceBook for the restaurant industry. Restaurant owners, managers, chefs, servers, vendors, and yes, foodies are invited to communicate in virtual communities such as (love that name!) and (insider lingo for Front Of House, the service staff, and Back Of House, the kitchen staff). At this time, Bite Club is more intimate and clubby, with a feature that enables participants to vote on the quality of each person’s post—if it isn’t good, it gets sent to the bottom of the lists so the good posts float to the top. Every site should employ this technology, so we don’t have to plow through those endless, vapid posts like, “Great idea, Brad.” “Yeah, I liked it too.” “Me too.”   Bite Club
    Are you a restaurant professional, or do you want to hang with them? Head to the virtual communities on and
    FohBoh has sub-groups from Pizza Lovers to Branding to Wine Lovers to Atlanta Area Wine Network. (Will somebody please tell the Bartender’s of Boston that they need to fix their punctuation?) If you’re a restaurant professional or a restaurant enthusiast, check ’em out.

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    TODAY IN FOOD: It’s National Banana Creme Pie Day

    White Chocolate Banana Tart
    This white chocolate banana tart, scrumptious in and of itself, has been accessorized with a chocolate straw, a miniature cookie, fresh raspberries and a mint sprig. Recipe and photograph courtesy of El Rey Chocolate.
      It’s National Banana Creme Pie Day. As we were going through our recipes, we found this one for a White Chocolate Banana Tart, which is far more interesting (sorry the photo isn’t better). It’s made with El Rey’s Icoa white chocolate, which many people feel is the finest white chocolate made (Icoa was a native goddess). However, it’s hard to find, so buy any top-quality white chocolate bar. Be sure to read the ingredients label: If the words “vegetable oil” appear, steer clear!—it’s imitation chocolate, and won’t taste so good. Look for the words “cocoa butter.”
    Tart Dough Ingredients
    • 7 tablespoons lightly salted butter, at room temperature
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1 egg
    • 1 tsp. vanilla
    • 1-3/4 cup all purpose flour, sifted
    Tart Dough Directions

    1. Cream the sugar and butter using the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy.
    2. Add the egg and vanilla. Mix until combined, scraping down the sides of the mixing bowl.
    3. Add the flour. Mix until combined. Refrigerate at least one hour before rolling out.
    4. Roll out the tart dough. Using tart pans that have been sprayed with baker’s spray, line each tart pan with dough. NOTE: After tart dough has been rolled out, it can be chilled for at least an hour and re-rolled. After the dough has been re-rolled once, discard it.
    5. Poke shells with a fork and bake at 350°F for 10 minutes, or until golden brown.Pastry Cream Ingredients
    • 1-1/3 cups whole milk
    • 1/2 vanilla bean
    • 1/3 cup sugar
    • 1 egg
    • 3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
    • 1 envelope gelatin, softened in 1/4 cup water and melted
    • 4 ounces El Rey Icoa or other top quality white chocolate, finely chopped
    • 2 ripe bananas, puréed

    Pastry Cream Directions
    1. Whisk together eggs, sugar and corn starch.
    2. Bring the milk to a boil, with the vanilla bean scraped into it. At the boiling point, add some of the hot milk to the egg/sugar mixture and whisk together.
    3. When the milk boils, stir in the egg mixture and lower the heat to medium. Simmer for 2-3 minutes until custard thickens and begins to pull from the side of the pot.
    4. In a stainless steel bowl, pour the custard on top of the white chocolate. Whisk together until the chocolate is melted. Stir in the butter. Add the melted gelatin and whisk together.
    5. Add the puréed banana. Cool in an ice water bath. Refrigerate until needed.

    Assembling The Banana Tarts

    • 1 recipe banana-white chocolate pastry cream (above), chilled
    • 2 cups heavy cream
    • 1/3 cup sugar
    • 4 bananas
    • Optional garnishes: raspberries, mint leaves, chocolate straws, miniature cookies

    Assembly Directions
    1. Whip the heavy cream and sugar until stiff.
    2. Whisk the chilled banana pastry cream.
    3. Fold 2/3 of the whipped cream into the banana pastry cream. Reserve the remaining whipped cream for garnish.
    4. Fill each tart shell with banana pastry cream.
    5. Using a propane torch or the broiler in your oven, brown the sliced bananas.
    6. Arrange the bananas around the inside edge of the tarts.
    7. Using a pastry bag, pipe a rosette of whipped cream in the center of each tart. If you do not have a pastry bag, scoop a dollop of whipped cream into the center of each tart.
    8. Garnish with raspberries, mint leaves, chocolate and cookies and serve.

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    FOOD HOLIDAY: St. Patrick’s Day

    St. Patrick’s Day will be celebrated on Monday, March 17, 2008, honoring the feast day and date of death of the priest and patron saint of Ireland, who died on March 17th around 460 C.E.

    The first St. Patrick’s Day parade actually took place not in Ireland, but in New York City on March 17, 1762. Kilted bagpipers and drum corps drawing enormous crowds (a few years ago, we joined them to see both a kilted Sean Connery and a suited Mayor Bloomberg march).

    These days the holiday is celebrated not just by people of Irish descent, but people of all backgrounds, in the United States, Canada, Australia, and even in countries where there is no Irish population, such as Japan, Russia and Singapore.

    In Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day was traditionally a religious holiday (pubs closed). But in 1995, the government decided to use St. Patrick’s Day as an opportunity to drive tourism. It is now a multi-day celebration featuring parades, concerts, fireworks and other attractions.

      Shamrock Cookies
    Bake shamrock cookies for a St. Patrick’s Day treat. Photo courtesy Eleni’s.

    Corned Beef And Cabbage and Irish Soda Bread are some of the favored treats of the day, along with Irish beer, Irish Cheddar, Irish Coffee and anything green—from bagels and beer to broccoli soup and green-tinted chocolate chip cookies (add 1-1/2 teaspoon green food color to your favorite recipe).

    Our own NIBBLE celebration focuses on food and drink, starting with a selection of sweets you can order for gifts, a St. Patrick’s Day party, or just to treat yourself and your family. Take a nibble of our recommendations.

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