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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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TODAY IN FOOD: It’s National Fettuccine Alfredo Day

Fettuccine Alfredo is rich comfort food, made from fettuccine, ribbon-shape strands of pasta (fettucce means “small ribbons” in Italian).

Wider than the other popular flat shape, linguine, fettuccine provide a better surface for catching rich and creamy sauces.

(Fettuccine is similar to tagliatelle, the flat pasta from the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna, but is narrower. See our Pasta Glossary for more shapes.)

To make Fettuccine Alfredo, the pasta is tossed with cream, butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

The cheese melts when tossed with the hot pasta, cream and butter, creating a sauce (at home, the ingredients are simply stirred on the stovetop.

In a restaurant, tossing at tableside is part of the experience.

The original recipe was created in 1914 by Alfredo Di Lelio, owner of Alfredo alla Scrofa, a restaurant in Rome.

It is simply a variation of traditional Italian recipes, fettuccine al burro (fettuccine with butter) and fettuccini al burro e panna (with butter and cream)—both served, of course, with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Alfredo tweaked the traditional recipe slightly.

When butter is added both before and after fettuccine is put in the serving bowl for tossing, it is known as doppio burro, double butter.

Di Lelio doubled the amount of butter in the bowl before the fettuccine was added, creating a triplo burro, triple butter, recipe: more butter made more of a sauce.

Why? The chef created the dish to entice his pregnant wife, who had lost her appetite. He served it with egg fettuccine, hoping that the “nutritious dish” would do the trick.

Today, we know that a typical serving of the “nutritious dish” has 455 calories, 38g of fat, 291mg of sodium and 143g of cholesterol.

But for people who love rich, creamy food, it hits the spot!

According to Musso & Frank Grill in Hollywood, the recipe for Fettuccine Alfredo was brought to America by silent film stars Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbank.

While honeymooning in Rome in 1920, they dined at Alfredo alla Scrofa, had the dish, and liked it so much that they asked for the recipe.

They brought the recipe back to Los Angeles, to Musso and Frank Grill, which had opened the year before. Not surprisingly, it became a hit (source).

It became known as Fettuccine Alfredo.

By the way, in Italy, fettuccine Alfredo and Alfredo sauce are not common terms. Instead, order fettuccine al burro e panna—triplo burro.

In the U.S., additions proliferated: green peas, chicken, lobster and other seafood, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes.

One of our favorites is salmon caviar.

In addition to the parmesan, you can add an extra cheese: crumbled blue cheese, for example.

For something different, try these recipes:

  • Fettuccine Alfredo with Goat’s Milk and Goat Cheese—if you like goat cheese, you’ll like this variation.
  • Blue Cheese Alfredo (a recipe for traditional Alfredo sauce is included).
  • Dessert Fettuccine Alfredo, with crème anglaise instead of cheese sauce.

    [1] The original Fettuccine Alfredo was a triple butter and cream sauce. Here’s the recipe from Cooking Classy (photo © Cooking Classy).

    [2] Seafood Alfredo, with lobster, scallops and shrimp (photo © Mackenzie Ltd).

    [3] Pumpkin Fettuccine Alfredo. Here’s the recipe from Pinch of Yum (photo © Pinch Of Yum).



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    TIP OF THE DAY: Cherry Bonanza

    Montmorency Cherries
    Dried tart (Montmorency) cherries from Chukar Cherries.
      It’s National Cherry Month. Even though fresh cherry season is in July, you can guess that National Cherry Month in February honors George Washington. Celebrate with delicious dried cherries, made from last summer’s harvest. We put them in everything from breakfast yogurt, cereal and pancakes; to luncheon salads; to sauces for meats and poultry at dinner. For snacks, make cherry caramel corn by tossing hot popcorn with sweet butter and adding dried cherries and honey-roasted pecans; then drizzle with caramel. There are more than 1,000 varieties of cherry tree. The cherry is believed to have originated around the Black and Caspian seas, which may explain why Russians prefer cherry preserves to sugar in their tea!

    Learn all about cherries
    Find cherry recipes in the February issue of THE NIBBLE online magazine: Caramelized Salmon With Cherry Mango Salsa, Carrots With Cherry Glaze, Cherry Chocolate Chip Cookies, Cherry Turkey Chili, Curried Cherry Chicken Salad Wraps, Pork Chops With Orange Cherry Sauce, Sweet Potatoes With Cherry Glaze

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    REVIEW: Superfruit Pomegranate Juice

    The pomegranate is an ancient fruit, originating in Persia. It has been cultivated in the Mediterranean region for several thousand years. Remains dating back to 1000 B.C.E. have been found in Armenia. Yet, five years ago, the pom was an oddity in the U.S. It was an exotic fruit enjoyed largely by immigrants and Americans who learned to enjoy them abroad—until the debut of POM Wonderful juice, and the subsequent announcement of high antioxidant values and potential anti-carcinogenic properties. Suddenly, everyone wanted pomegranate, and the flavor has appeared in everything from ice cream to salad dressing. In juice, brand after brand has proliferated to meet America’s desire for healthy, high-antioxidant food. Our intrepid taster drank all she could get her hands on—more than 50 juices, although only the top 19 have been recommended to NIBBLE readers. They include 100% pure pom juices plus blends with other juices (blueberry, cranberry, etc.), as well as brands that are certified kosher or organic. Read the full review and get juiced in the Juices & Ades Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.   Pomegranate Juice
    Pretty in purple: 100% pure pomegranate juice. While pom juices are wonderful blended with the right quality companions, watch out for juices “flavored” with pomegranate that are largely composed of less expensive apple or grape juice.

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    PRODUCT WATCH: Daregal Frozen Herbs

    Daregal Frozen HerbsIn the freezer, ready to thaw.
      Having fresh herbs in one’s kitchen at all times is a nice fantasy, but in reality, those pricey herbs often wither away before they are put to use (or, before the three-quarters of them that remain after you’ve used the first few tablespoons’ worth are used). Daregal Gourmet has solved our fresh herb woes with herbs that are pre-chopped, frozen and packed in space-saving boxes. Take out the amount you need, let it thaw, and it tastes almost as good as fresh herbs—and a whole lot better than dried herbs. They jazz up bland pasta, meat or fish dishes and also serve as lovely plate garnishes (see our article, Garnish Glamour for additional tips). They work well with vegetables too. Our favorites are the individual herbs (basil, cilantro and parsley) but people who enjoy spice blends can opt for Grilling, Italian and Original. Find a store locater on the website, Find more of our favorite spices in the Salts & Seasonings Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.

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