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


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ON OUR RADAR: Interesting Nibbles From The Past Week

Lunch ToteSave money by bringing your lunch to work. Bring it in style with this Built NY Lunch Tote.
  The Urban Vegan lists 25 money-saving kitchen tips for pure vegans. The article starts with the premise that veganism doesn’t have to be expensive, but you don’t have to be vegan to find the tips useful. Some will sound familiar: Pack your own lunch—you can save at least $2,000 after-tax dollars a year. Invest $19.99 in the chic, insulated tote at the left, and you are now cool instead of a brown-bagger. (Shown: The Built NY Lunch Tote, available in black, orange or silver, keeps food and drink separated. Made from the same material as a diver’s wetsuit, it insulates for up to 4 hours with no additional refrigeration necessary.) Some tips are earth-friendly (we do all of them at THE NIBBLE, including using cloth napkins instead of paper napkins and rinsing/reusing Ziplock-type bags). It’s a good list to review. One of our favorites: Borrow rather than buy cookbooks.
 

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TODAY IN FOOD: It’s National Pistachio Day

We’re the last to make light of Fundamentalist Islam, but we do have better pistachios for it.

Prior to the overthrow of the Shah of Iran in 1979, there was no pistachio industry in the U.S. A series of political events ensued, beginning with the fundamentalist Islamic revolution of the Ayatollah Khomeini that ousted Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi.

It was followed by the Iran Hostage Crisis, in which the U.S. Embassy in Tehran was stormed and 66 hostages were taken.

This led to a U.S. trade embargo against Iran. Since a majority of the pistachios eaten by Americans were imported from Iran, California farmers saw the opportunity to plant the crop.

A better pistachio resulted, since the U.S. has the benefit of more modern farming methods. When there are delays in processing the harvested nuts, the white shells begin to stain and blemish, which is why pistachios from the Middle East were often dyed a cover-up red*.

So look for California pistachios and enjoy your fill: They’re a good-for-you nut (pistachio nutrition).

Check out the history of pistachios below; then go nuts and celebrate.

 

Pistachio Nuts
Perfect pistachios from
Santa Barbara Pistachio Company.

 
Our favorite pistachios come from Santa Barbara Pistachio Company. They farm organic pistachios, and sell salted and unsalted pistachios plus wonderful flavors (Crushed Garlic, Hickory Smoked, Red Hot Habañero Lemon Zing and more) plus gift assortments in case your valentine doesn’t like chocolate.

February 26th is National Pistachio Day.
 

PISTACHIO NUT HISTORY

Pistachio trees are native to the Middle East, and have been cultivated there for thousands of years. They are mentioned in the Old Testament (Genesis 43:11) as one of the “best products of the land,” along with balm, honey, aromatic gum and myrrh, and almonds.

Pistachios have always been considered a delicacy in the region. Legend says that pistachios were a favorite of the Queen of Sheba, who demanded all of the crops harvested in her land (present-day Yemen) for herself and her court.

Pistachios reached Greece through Alexander the Great (334-323 B.C.E.). Later, under the rule of the Roman Emperor Tiberius (14-37 C.E.), the nut was introduced into Italy and Spain.

During the Persia Empire (present-day Iran), ownership of pistachio groves and trading in pistachios meant high status and riches.

Cultivation expanded with the spread of Islam and the resulting Arab expansion in the Middle Ages. The Venetian Republic had close trade ties with Syria, one of the main cultivation areas for the pistachio. The nuts reached northern and central Italy via the sea trade routes.

North of the Alps, the pistachio remained unknown for a long time. Upon reaching central Europe via Italian sales routes, over the Alpine passes, it was used primarily as an expensive addition to baked goods.

Only after World War II did pistachios become affordable to enjoy as a popular snack [source].

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*Later, pistachios were dyed red to stand out in vending machines. Today, some pistachios are still dyed red for marketing purposes.

 

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FOOD TIP OF THE DAY: Onion Magic

OnionDon’t weep over me: Get goggles!   If your eyes water when you chop onions, the best kitchen gadget is a pair of swimmer’s goggles. They keep the sulfur enzymes away from your eyes like magic! To remove the smell of onions (or garlic) from your hands, squeeze lemon juice on them (or if you’ve squeezed lemon juice for a recipe, rub the squeezed pulp) and then rub your hands against stainless steel—your sink, faucet, a serving spoon. The “kitchen chemistry” works. While swimmer’s goggles may not qualify as kitchen gadgets, you can see some of our favorite traditional (and not-so-traditional) gadgets in the Kitchenware Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.
 

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TODAY IN FOOD: It’s National Peanut Butter Day

Peanut butter lovers have a day to celebrate—and to try new and different peanut butters. Take a look at this comparison of the two-dozen-plus different flavors offered by our favorite brands. P.B. Loco’s Sundried Tomato PB is one of our favorite flavors; their Asian Curry makes instant sesame noodles, as well as an exotic PB sandwich. Both of these savory flavors can be enjoyed with roast beef or turkey, instead of mustard or mayo, and with vegetable sandwiches (try avocado). We put them in vegetable sushi, too, instead of wasabi. We eat the Raspberry White Chocolate PB from the jar like candy; the Sumatra Cinnamon and Raisin PB is the best of its breed. All of the savory flavors of Peanut Better demand to be tried. The Onion Parsley and Rosemary Garlic are incredible—you’ll make amazing hors d’oeuvres with them, as well as enjoy them on sandwiches with the aforementioned turkey and beef. The Peanut Better line is certified kosher and organic. Read our full reviews of P.B. Loco and Peanut Better, and bake this banana bread recipe with PB.   Peanut Butter
All PB is not created equal: If you love your peanut butter, try these gourmet brands, and their special flavors.
 

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FOOD TIP OF THE DAY: Eating The Rinds Of Cheeses

Bloomy Rind Cheeses

Aged Parmigiano-Reggiano

Red Wax Gouda
[1] EAT ME! Cheeses with bloomy white rinds like Brie, Camembert and triple-crèmes are delicious (photo courtesy Murray’s Cheese). [2] COOK WITH ME! Rinds from aged hard cheeses like this Parmigiano-Romano can be tossed into soups and stews (photo courtesy Whole Foods Market). [3] TOSS ME: Waxed rinds are not edible (photo © Karcich | Dreamstime).

  Recently we were at a professional wine event, and some fine cheeses were being served.

We were dismayed to note that most people had scooped out the soft, runny centers of the bloomy rind cheeses, leaving the white rinds as ghostly shells.

Cheese fans: The soft, white bloomy rinds are meant to be eaten. If you’ve been cutting them away, try them while they’re still pure and white. Connoisseurs consider them part of the unique character of the cheese, and will eat them even as they age and lose their pure white appeal.

You’ll find bloomy rind cheeses made from cow’s milk, goat’s milk and sheep’s milk, although the most famous happen to be from cow’s milk and are also two of the most popular cheeses in the world, Brie and Camembert. Other bloomy-rinded favorites include triple crèmes such as Brillat-Savarin, Saint-Andre and Pierre Robert. (See the Glossary Of Cheese Terms in the Cheese Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine for more information.)

Other wines can be eaten, too. As long as the rind is soft, from a semisoft cheese, it is edible and quite tasty, too, with mushroom accents.

People are either rind-lovers or not; few are on the fence. But there’s no harm in trying a bite. After all, it’s that soft rind that enabled the cheese to develop its lovely flavors.

Beyond white rinds of Brie, Camembert and triple-crème cheeses, the gray or yellow rinds of many other soft or semisoft cheeses deserve a taste. (think Brie or Taleggio) are edible and often have a pungent, mushroomy flavor.

Even if it looks questionable to your eye, give it a try. If the cheese is good, so is the rind. You may find that a little rind complements the cheese and enhances its flavor. But if it’s strong or bitter. pass it up and try the next rind..
 
WHAT ABOUT HARDER RINDS?

Some people chew on the rinds of aged cheese, as long as it’s not covered in wax, which is inedible.

If that doesn’t appeal to you, remember this kitchen trick: Toss the rind it in a pot of soup to add extra flavor (remove it before serving). The earthy rinds of hard aged cheeses like Parmesan and Pecorino have been used this way since…the beginning of aged cheese!
 
MORE ABOUT BLOOMY-RIND CHEESES
Brie and Camembert are essentially the same cheese made in different locations and in different sizes.

  • Camembert, named after its village in northwest France, is made in 4.5-inch wheels and Brie, named for the province in northern France where it originated, is made in 11- to 11.8-inch wheels [although “baby Bries” are now made as well]. Read our full article on the difference between Brie and Camembert.)/
  • The bloomy rind category of cheese refers to those cheeses with snowy white, downy rinds and soft, creamy interiors.

  • Bloomy rind, also called white rind or soft-ripened cheese, is one of the major categories of cheese. Along with the fresh (un-aged) cheeses, it comprises the soft cheese category.
  • The bloomy rind is composed of one of the greatest cheese molds, Penicillium candidum, which grows naturally as the cheese ages. The rind is produced by spraying the surface of the cheese with Penicillium candidum before the brief aging period (about two weeks). The mold grows on the outside of the cheese, breaking down the protein and fat inside, making it soft, runny and more complex.
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    CHECK OUT ALL THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF CHEESE IN OUR CHEESE GLOSSARY.

     
     
      

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