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

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FOOD TIP OF THE DAY: Gourmet Dieting

A great salsa is not only delicious but very low in calories. One of our favorite lines of salsa is Jardine’s, and one of our favorite Jardine’s salsas is the Bobo Salsa, shown above.
  If your New Year’s resolutions include dieting, you can still enjoy many exciting specialty foods. We review several “diet” products a month—low calorie, no calorie, fat free and sugar free (also, an occasional gluten-free item). You should also be treating yourself to the “best of the best” traditional calorie-free products, like teas and coffees—see our favorites in the Beverages Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine. You’ll find low-calorie delights in the Fish, Seafood & Caviar Section; incredibly flavorful, low-calorie products under Condiments and Oils, Vinegars & Salad Dressings; great discoveries in Meat & Poultry; terrific Pasta Sauces (our recommendations are sugar-free and low-calorie); very low-calorie Salsas, and more. And don’t forget our entire Diet Nibbles section. You’ll find links to all in our Main Nibbles directory.

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NEWS: Flatbread On The Rise

Just ten years ago, if you asked someone to name a flatbread, they’d probably say lavasch (an Armenian cracker bread, popularized as sesame-encrusted strips sold under the brand name Nejaime’s Lavasch)—if they could name anything at all. Today, we look at flatbread in a much broader scope—and it’s a rapidly-growing segment of the $14 billion bread industry. In fact, wraps (tortillas) are flatbread; tortillas, Indian naan (and a festival of other Indian breads including bhatura, chapati, papadum, paratha, poori and roti), Greek pita, Ethiopian inerja, Scandinavian crispbread and the most famous of the unleavened (flat) breads, matzoh. There are many others: Flatbread is the original bread; leavening was developed much later. Pizza crust is a flatbread, too.   Flatbread
Turkish flatbread. Flatbread can be spread with hummus, tapenade, or with goat cheese, tuna salad, or whatever appeals to you. Photo by Enver Uçarer | SXC.
The next time you’re thinking about putting together an interesting bread basket for your guests, consider a flatbread basket. As we reported in April, 2007 in this space, you have quite a lot to choose from—there are about 60 different flatbreads worldwide, including:
– Unleavened flatbreads (arepas, crepes, matzoh, pita, tortillas)
– Chewy leavened flatbread (bruschetta, ciabatta, dosai, focaccia, inerja, naan and other Indian breads)
Stop by your local specialty food store and ethnic markets to see what’s available. But flatbreads are no longer isolated there—they’ve gone mainstream. Quiznos is including flatbread with much of its salad line. Dunkin’ Donuts is testing flatbread sandwiches. Arby’s has flatbread melts. And Stouffer’s has flatbread pizzas. Goodness gracious, the world is flat!

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NEWS: Weak Dollar Forces Importers To Search Beyond Europe For Specialty Foods

Fleur De Sel

Sometimes the answer is to buy California olive oil instead of imports. But for certain products, like Fleur de Sel, shown above, there are no U.S. substitutes. Photo courtesy of
  It’s no surprise that due to the weak dollar, along with higher shipping costs, imports from Europe and other parts of the world will be pricier this year. As of this writing, it costs about $1.44 to buy one euro, up from $1.30 this time last year. This means that those delicious French cheeses and sea salts, Italian olive oils and pastas, Hungarian paprika and Spanish Serrano hams—plus the eagerly anticipated Jamón Ibérico Bellota, already priced at $96 a pound—will cost more. With the poor saffron and fig harvests, the tab for those specialty products will climb even higher. Even if you’re willing to pay more, you may not be able to find your favorite products—because most people won’t spring for that $8.00 pasta, so retailers won’t stock them.
Betsy Power of the Culinary Collective, which imports some our favorite Spanish products (including the Matiz Olivada olive spreads and El Rebost cava vinegar and violet gourmet gels we wrote about last month), says that she is forced to discontinue three dozen slow-selling items, including some beautiful jars of gourmet artichokes that now have to retail at $10 a jar. “There’s only so high you can raise your price before [a product is] priced out of the market,” she recently told The Seattle Times. She also commented that she and many other importers are expanding their horizons from Europe to regions where the dollar stretches further, including Mexico, the Philippines, South America and Australia, hoping to find more reasonable, if different, gourmet specialties. So instead of beautiful stemmed artichokes to garnish your roast this Easter, you just might be finding jars of prickly pear cactus. Stay tuned!

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FOOD TIP OF THE DAY: Regifting Food Gifts

If you received a food gift for Christmas that wasn’t to your liking—marmalade, spicy cocoa, flavored vinegar, whatever—don’t stick it in the back of the cabinet and forget about it. Products should be used within 12 months, or they begin to deteriorate—some items like cookies much sooner. Many products have expiration dates, but if you don’t like the food to begin with, the dates don’t really matter. It’s better to share the item now, with people who will enjoy it. Bring the food to your co-workers, be a friendly neighbor or donate it to a volunteer enterprise. Then, visit the Main Nibbles section of THE NIBBLE online magazine to find reviews in more than 70 categories of specialty foods, and pick something you’d rather have.   Pink Peppercorns
Thanks, but no thanks: If you’ll never use those fancy pink peppercorns, don’t stick them in the back of the cabinet to fade—give them to someone who’ll be thrilled to have them.

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TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Lucini Italia Olive Oil & Vinegar

Several months ago, we wrote about the tomato sauces and soups of Lucini Italia, a company that imports top-quality, handcrafted Italian specialty foods. The products include an extra virgin olive oil and a limited-edition organic extra virgin olive oil, plus a 10-year-old balsamic vinegar and a Pinot Grigio white wine vinegar. Since January is “Healthy Food Month” at THE NIBBLE, we couldn’t wait to recommend the heart-healthy olive oils and the vibrant, yet smooth and mellow, vinegars. The rich, flavorful regular oil has been a favorite at THE NIBBLE offices for many months now. It’s a classic Tuscan blend that is delightfully fruity, bursting with a green apple freshness and sporting only the faintest hint of the pepper for which so many Tuscan oils are known (and which create that infamous back-of-the-throat cough when you try to taste them). The oils are also certified kosher. Take the money from whatever holiday gifts you returned and buy yourself the Lucini gift set—bottles of both vinegars plus the regular EVOO. When they arrive, enjoy a spoonful of each—straight—and rollick in the delectable aromas and flavors. Read the full review in THE NIBBLE online magazine, and see more of our favorites in our Oil & Vinegar Section.   Organic Olive OilLucini Italia organic olive oil (foreground) and regular olive oil are kosher-certified.

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