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THE NIBBLE BLOG: Products, Recipes & Trends In Specialty Foods
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TIP OF THE DAY: A Festive, Low Calorie Dinner

[1] Salmon skewers atop a chopped salad of greens with apples (photo © RA Sushi Bar & Restaurant).

[2] Top a salmon fillet with ponzu sauce, sliced scallions and sesame seeds (photo © McCormick).

Lettuce Cups With Salmon
[3] Something light: lettuce cups with fresh or pouch salmon. See the recipe below (photo © Chicken Of The Sea).

[4] Make the salad exciting, like this mesclun mix (photo © Burpee).


Not everybody is heading out for a festive dinner on Valentine’s Day.

A reader writes: “My partner and I are on reducing diets, and will be spending Valentine’s Day at home. What can we make that’s special, yet low in calories?”

A piece of poached or broiled salmon—pink for Valentine’s Day—served with a couple of steamed green veggies and salad, is always an easy choice.

You can upgrade the salmon with shellfish: lobster, shrimp, scallops.

But it’s just as easy to make this “standard” healthful dinner more special:
1. Serve a different vegetable. Think beyond asparagus, broccoli, green beans and kale to serve vegetables you don’t eat often:

  • Dark, leafy collards; mustard, beet and turnip greens; and Swiss chard are are low in calories and high in nutrients flavor.
  • Asian vegetables—bok choy, snap peas and snow peas—are commonly available and have some crunch.
  • Edamame, a Japanese favorite, can be purchased frozen in the shell, and are fun to pop out of the shell.
    2. Vary your green salad. Save the romaine for regular dinners, serve arugula and baby spinach.

    Or, buy a bag of specialty greens, such as:

  • Asian or Italian salad mixes.
  • Baby greens (Dole’s mix includes arugula, endive, kale, mâche, mizuna, red and green chards and tatsoi).
  • Butter lettuces.
    To take it further, you can add a garnish of edible flowers.
    3. Re-format the salmon. If you frequently have grilled salmon, do something special with it, as in photo #1, or:

  • Salmon skewers.
  • A crunchy green salad topped with warm salmon, sliced into strips.
  • Lettuce cups with salmon (recipe below).
    4. Toast the occasion. For 90 calories, you can enjoy a flute of champagne or other sparkling wine.
    5. Dessert. You know the options: berries, fruit skewers, a slice of melon with a squeeze of lime. You can use a small heart cookie cutter to cut harder fruits into Valentine shapes.

    You can have a cup of lemon sorbet for 130 calories (depending on brand), or half a cup, plus a berry garnish.

    Ingredients Per Serving

  • ½ cup broccoli florets, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup Minute Ready to Serve Brown Rice (or substitute)
  • 4 butter lettuce leaves
  • ¼ cup red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup carrot, shredded
  • ¼ cup celery, thinly sliced or finely chopped
  • 4 ounces cooked salmon (fresh or pouch)
  • 1 tablespoon cashews, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Garnish: snipped herbs of choice: cilantro, dill, parsley
  • Optional garnish: 1/8 teaspoon chia or sunflower seeds
    For A Condiment

    On the side, you can serve a favorite condiment, like vinaigrette or flavored olive oil (basil, garlic, etc.).

    Or, choose an international condiment, like:

  • Asian chile sauce (hot)
  • Chimichurri sauce
  • Gochujang sauce (hot)
  • Harissa sauce (spicy)
  • Pesto
  • Plain yogurt flavored with black pepper and garlic
  • Salsa verde
  • Savory chutney
  • Worcestershire sauce
    For A Condiment


    1. PREPARE the lettuce leaves: wash and pat dry. Set aside.

    2. WRAP the broccoli in damp paper towels and place on a microwave-safe plate. Microwave on high for 1½ minutes.

    3. HEAT the rice according to package directions.

    4. PLACE all ingredients except the salmon in a bowl, and toss to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper to taste.

    5. DOUBLE-stack the lettuce leaves so you have two cups of two leaves each. Spoon the vegetable mixture into the lettuce cups and serve immediately. Top with the salmon and garnish with the herbs and seeds.



    FOOD FUN: Pink Crudités (Raw Vegetables)

    For a low-calorie, high-visual Valentine’s Day plate, how about pink crudités?

    Specialty produce purveyor Sid Wainer created this beauty with:

  • Breakfast radishes and conventional radishes
  • Chioggia beets (photo #2)
  • Purple potatoes (cooked)
  • Red/purple endive (photo #4)
  • Red jacket potatoes (cooked)
  • Red onion (pickled garnish for dip)
  • Watermelon radishes (photo #4)
    You can also add: purple cauliflower florets, red cabbage, red bell pepper strips, cherry tomatoes, radicchio (a cousin of red endive), and even some purple or red grapes.

    For a pink dip, consider classic Russian Dressing or Thousand Island Dressing, or this spicy pink dip recipe:


  • 2 cups mayonnaise (full fat)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup sherry wine (not cooking sherry)
  • 1 tablespoon dried tarragon, finely crushed or 1-1/2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce sauce, or to taste
  • 2-3 drops red food coloring or beet juice

    1. MIX mayonnaise, sour cream, sherry, tarragon, garlic powder and hot sauce until well blended.

    2. ADD a few drops of food coloring to desired shade of pink. If the dressing is too thick, you can thin it with a small amount of milk. Chill well before serving.

    Recipe courtesy

    Some people make an easy Russian Dressing by combining equal parts of chili sauce (or ketchup) and mayonnaise.

    For Thousand Island Dressing, they add pickle relish.

    Here’s a Russian Dressing recipe is on the spicier side, thanks to a bit of horseradish and hot sauce.

    It can be made up to two weeks ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container.

    Ingredients For 1-1/4 Cups

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup Heinz chili sauce or ketchup
  • 4 teaspoons bottled white horseradish, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • Salt

    1. WHISK the ingredients, except salt, together. Chill.

    2. TASTE and season with salt, as desired.

    Ingredients For 1-1/4 Cups

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup Heinz chili sauce or ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish, drained

    1. WHISK the ingredients together and chill to allow flavors to meld.

    2. TASTE and season with salt, as desired.


    [1] Think pink and make a beautiful plate of crudites (photo © Sid Wainer & Son).

    Chioggia Beets
    [2] Chioggia beets (pronounced kee-OH-juh), also known as bullseye beets, candy cane beets and candy stripe beets.Here’s more about them (photo © Good Eggs).

    [3] Red (or purple) Belgian endive (photo © Melissa’s Produce).

    [4] Watermelon radishes. Depending on the variety, the interior can be various shades and densities of pink or red—or even green (photo © Good Eggs).




    FUN VALENTINE GIFT: A Can Of Rosé Wine

    [1] An ideal small Valentine gift: a can of rosé wine (both photos © Bonterra Vineyards).

    [2] Think Pink!* on Valentine’s Day.


    Like many people, we have always given chocolate as a Valentine’s Day gift. It’s the conventional choice, along with red roses.

    This year we’re going pink, with gifts of rosé wine.

    Some friends and family will get a standard 750ml bottle of rose (photo #2).

    But for the “little gifts,” we’re giving everyone (adults, of course) a 250 ml can of rosé from Bonterra (photo #1), tied with a red ribbon.

    The can design, flowers on a pink background, is perfect for the occasion.

    The Bonterra style is dry rosé, ideal for an apéritif and a versatile wine for pairing with food.

    Rosé pairs with the same foods as pinot grigio: salads, lighter pasta and rice dishes, softer cheese like burrata and goat cheese, and especially seafood: raw, grilled and other preparations.

    The wine, from California, is made with organic grapes.

    A four-pack is $17.99, which amounts to $6 per can—less money than a typical solid chocolate heart from the drugstore.

    You can buy it online or at stores nationwide.

    For those who care about sustainability, Bonterra vineyards have been farmed organically since 1987—long before organic products were widely available in the U.S.

    The name means “good earth.”

    The company is committed to organic farming and regenerative practices that enrich the biodiversity in their vineyards.

    Here’s more about Bonterra.


    *The phrase “Think pink!” was originated by Italian fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli in 1937. She introduced a collection in hot pink, which she called shocking pink—a color rarely seen before then. Here’s more about it.


    RECIPE: Romesco Soup, Bright Red For Valentine’s Day

    We’re making dinner at home on Valentine’s Day. Every course is a shade of red or pink (and in one case, purple grilled cabbage steak).

    The Romesco Soup for the second course is bright red, like Romesco Sauce, whose ingredients, including ground peppers, garlic, and almonds, are included in the soup.

    It’s packed with flavor, yet only 160 calories per serving!

    Romesco is one of the signature sauces of the Catalonia region of Spain. Think of it as Spain’s answer to Italian pesto. There’s more about Romesco Sauce below.

    Prep time is 10 minutes, cook time is 15 minutes. Thanks to Pampered Chef for the recipe.

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • Canola oil for spritzing
  • ¼ cup (50 mL) sliced almonds
  • 1 medium onion
  • ½ tbsp (7 mL) canola oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 jar (24 ounces or 660 g) roasted red peppers, drained
  • 1 can (15 oz or 398 mL) tomato sauce
  • 6 ounces (175 g) fresh spinach leaves
  • ½ tsp (2 mL) salt
  • ½ tsp (2 mL) smoked paprika
  • ¼ tsp (1 mL) black pepper
  • 2 cups (500 mL) water
  • ½ cup (125 mL) Israeli couscous
  • 1 cup (250 mL) unsweetened almond milk

    1. PLACE the almonds in a Dutch oven and pray them with oil. Microwave, uncovered, on HIGH for 5 minutes. Set aside.

    2. CUT the onion into chunks. Chop coarsely.

    3. HEAT the oil in the Dutch oven over medium heat for 3–5 minutes, or until it’s shimmering. Add the onion and garlic. Cook for 3–5 minutes, or until the onions are softened, stirring occasionally.

    4. COARSELY CHOP the red peppers. Add the peppers, tomato sauce, spinach, salt, paprika, black pepper and water to the Dutch oven. Increase the heat to medium‑high and bring to a simmer.

    5. ADD the couscous. Cook, covered, for 8–10 minutes, or until the couscous is tender. Remove from the heat, stir in the almond milk, and top with the toasted almonds.
    Nutrients per serving of about 1½ cups/375 mL: Calories 160, Total Fat 4 g, Saturated Fat 0 g, Cholesterol 0 mg, Sodium 640 mg, Carbohydrate 26 g, Fiber 7 g, Sugars 3 g, Protein 4 g,


    Romesco is one of the signature sauces from the Catalonia region of Spain.

    Note that it isn’t romanesco sauce. There is no “romanesco” sauce. Romanesco is a language; the sauce is romesco.

    It’s a common confusion in the U.S., not just because of the name similarity but because of the exotic cauliflower-broccoli-like vegetable called romanesco. It looks like a pale green cauliflower with pointed florets (check it out).

    Romesco is a pungent, smooth, rich red sauce made from red peppers, tomatoes, ground almonds or other nuts, olive oil, garlic, and cayenne pepper.

    It originated in Tarragona, a port city on the Mediterranean Sea in the province of Catalonia in northeast Spain.

    Though the exact origin is unclear (as is the meaning of the name), it is believed that the local fishermen made it to eat with their catch.

    Some point to Roman origins, from the time that Tarragona was a provincial capital of Rome. But whatever form the sauce took then, tomatoes and chiles only arrived in Spain in the 16th [source].


    [1] Romesco gets its bright red color from roasted red peppers and tomato sauce. It certainly brightens up a gray day (all photos © Pampered Chef).

    [2] If you don’t like to chop with a knife, this chopper from Pampered Chef may become your friend. The cheap models don’t work very well.

    [3] A kitchen spritzer lets you use better oil than Pam. You can also use it to spray vinaigrette on salad, spray flavored oil onto meat, fish and vegetables, and more. This spritzer is from Pampered Chef.

    [4] Romesco, the sauce, is served with just about anything, including soft cheeses like burrata (photo © L’Amico Restaurant | New York City).

    Romesco has become a popular sauce beyond seafood, enjoyed with meat, poultry, stews and vegetables as well as for a dip and a bread spread.

    Some chefs have even used the flavorful sauce underneath a creamy—but somewhat bland—burrata cheese (photo #4).

    As with gazpacho, every cook has his/her own touches.

  • The nuts can be any mixture of roasted or raw almonds, pine nuts, hazelnuts or walnuts.
  • In Catalonia, the chiles can be mild bitxo chiles (red chiles similar to Anaheim/New Mexico chiles) and/or nyora peppers (a sun dried, small, round variety of red bell pepper).
  • Flour or ground stale bread is sometimes used as a thickener or to provide texture.
  • Other common ingredients variously employed include roasted tomatoes, red wine vinegar and onions.
  • Leaves of fennel or mint are added when the sauce is served with fish and other seafood [source].
    Start with the recipe above; then think of how you’d like to vary your next batch of Romesco Soup.



    VALENTINE GIFT: Hot Stuff From Jelly Belly (Habanero, Jalapeno & More)

    [1] Not for the faint-of-palate: Jelly Bellys made with five different types of hot chile peppers (both photos © Jelly Belly).

    [2] Take heed: There’a a warning label.


    If your Valentine likes food with hot chiles, a package of Jelly Belly’s BeanBoozled Fiery Five should be part of his/her Valentine’s Day gift.

    How hot can you handle? asks the package copy.

    And check out the package warning in photo #2.

    The hot-hot jelly beans are available in different sizes, from the conventional cellophane bag to a gift box with a spinner that suggests which flavor should you try next.

    The Fiery Five are seriously spicy flavors. They’re made with real chile pepper purée, including:

  • Carolina Reaper
  • Cayenne
  • Habanero
  • Jalapeño
  • Sriracha
    Each jelly bean looks like a conventional Jelly Belly.

    So buy them for those you think will love them.

    But don’t spoil anyone’s day by tricking them into eating Fiery Five by pretending they’re “normal” jelly beans.

    All Jelly Belly jelly beans are OU kosher, gluten free, peanut free, dairy free, fat free and vegetarian friendly.




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