THE NIBBLE BLOG: Products, Recipes & Trends In Specialty Foods
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TIP OF THE DAY: Pick A Better Cheese For Your Cheeseburger

September 18th is National Cheeseburger Day. That typically means a slice of supermarket American, cheddar or Swiss cheese: The same old, same old.

How about some better cheese, for a change?

Murray’s, a New York City cheese and specialty food store, has a separate restaurant that has fine cheeses in every course. If this is your idea of paradise, be sure to visit Murray’s Cheese Bar on Bleecker Street.

Of course there are cheeseburgers on the menu, using the great cheeses from the store. While the options change, the recipes from one recent menu are below.

You’ll note that some of these cheeses are not “melters.” Who says that the cheese on a burger has to melt?

The reason melty American cheese is the most widely used is tradition: The cheeseburger started at a sandwich shop where American cheese was the a popular ingredient.

Adding cheese to hamburgers first became popular in the late-1920s. While there are several claims as to who created the first cheeseburger, Lionel Sternberger of Pasadena, California is largely given credit.

In 1926 at the age of 16, he was working as a fry cook at his father’s sandwich shop, The Rite Spot. The creative lad placed a slice of American cheese to a burger sizzling on the grill, to see what the combination might taste like. We all know the answer.

The next step: A 1928 menu for O’Dell’s restaurant in Los Angeles shows a cheeseburger “smothered” with chili.

Other claimants to cheeseburger history:

  • Kaelin’s Restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky, claims to have invented the cheeseburger in 1934, as have numerous other restaurants.
  • The founder of the Steak ‘n Shake restaurants, Gus Belt, applied for a trademark for “cheeseburger” in the 1930s. However…
  • In 1935, the trademark for the name “cheeseburger” was awarded to Louis Ballast of the Humpty Dumpty Drive-In in Denver, Colorado [source].
    Since local news didn’t travel in those days, we might credit the claims to the concept of multiple discovery, a.k.a. simultaneous invention. The hypothesis is that scientific discoveries and inventions can be made independently and more or less simultaneously by different scientists and inventors.

    Have you ever heard of a steamed cheeseburger? It’s the cooking technique used at Ted’s Restaurant in Meriden, Connecticut. They developed the steam box and trays used to cook the “World Famous Steamed Burgers.”

    While Ted’s didn’t open until 1959, Wikipedia credits a restaurant called Jack’s Lunch in Middletown, Connecticut, with the creation, in the 1930s.

    TRIVIA: McDonald’s opened both kosher and non-kosher restaurants in Israel. A kosher cheeseburger can be created with vegan cheese (made from soy or nut milk).

    The way to make the best cheeseburger is to use the best ingredients: not just the meat and the roll, but the cheese.

    Some of the cheeses used at Murray’s Cheese Bar follow. You may not be able to get these specific brands, but go to the best cheese shop in town and ask for something similar.

    You don’t even have to follow these recipes. Our goal is simply to expand your cheeseburger horizons.


  • Prairie Breeze Cheddar
  • Benton’s Bacon
  • Sir Kensington’s Special Sauce
  • Tomato

  • Aged Goat Gouda (substitute fresh goat cheese)
  • People’s Pickles

  • Lillie’s Q Hot Smoky Sauce
  • Bay Blue Cheese
  • Grilled Onions

  • Challerhocker*
  • Gruyère
  • 3 Little Figs Onion Confit

  • Mac and Cheese (see photo #3)
  • Lillie’s Q Hot Sauce

    Pimento Cheese Cheeseburger
    [1] Pimiento cheese cheeseburger (photo courtesy Gardenia Restaurant | NYC).

    Blue Cheese Cheeseburger
    [2] The blue cheese-bacon cheeseburger, almost a classic, at The Cheesecake Factory.

    Mac & Cheese Burger
    [3] How about a mac ‘n’ cheese burger, at Glory Days Grill?

    Bacon Jalapeno Burger
    [4] A bacon-wrapped jalapeño burger at ViewHouse Eatery | Denver.

    Apple Bacon Brie Burger
    [5] Apple, bacon and Brie burger. Here’s the recipe from Olivia’s Cuisine.

    *Pronounced “holler hocker,” meaning “sitting in the cellar, Challerhocker is a Swiss cheese washed in brine and spices, then aged for a 12 months or longer.



    RECIPE: Apple Dumplings For National Apple Dumpling Day

    [1] A classic apple dumpling, decorated with pastry scraps to look like an apple. Here’s the recipe from Martha Stewart.

    [2] Add some ice cream, pan sauce or caramel sauce, and maybe some toasted pecans. Here’s the recipe from Jo Cooks).

    [3] Apple dumplings as rugelach. Rugelach was rolled with a filling, but not apple. This version uses refrigerated crescent dough. Here’s the recipe from Cincy Shopper.


    Say the word “dumpling” and most people we know would think of Chinese and Japanese dumplings, two bites of pork, shrimp or vegetable stuffing in a noodle casing, fried or steamed.

    But before the rise* of Asian restaurants in the U.S., most Americans thought of a dumpling as a sweet pastry wrapped around sliced apples or other fruit (photos #1 and #2).

    September 17th, National Apple Dumpling Day, celebrates that pastry, a different form for the ingredients of apple pie. If you’re in the mood, we have a recipe below.

    These delicious filled pastries are made by putting cored and peeled apples on a piece of dough, along with butter, cinnamon, lemon zest and sugar. Sometimes raisins or dried cranberries are added.

  • Some people bake the whole cored apple, creating a round shape.
  • Some use half an apple, creating a domed shape.
  • Others prefer diced apples, which are easier to spoon up and eat.
  • More recently, bakers have been playing with other shapes: horns (photo #3), pyramids, squares and even crescents, like Japanese gyoza.
    The dough is then folded over the filling, and dumplings are popped into the oven.

    What’s the difference between an apple dumpling and an apple turnover, you may ask? Largely, the shape:

  • Apple dumplings are round or dome-shape and filled with whole or halved apples.
  • Turnovers are typically triangles filled with diced apples.


    The word dumpling is first found in England around 1600, in the Norfolk dialect. It possibly derived from the Low German word for lump, dump. It described a small, usually globular, piece of boiled or steamed dough. Initially, dumplings were savory, filled with meat [source].

    But the first dumplings—bite-size packets of filling wrapped in dough—are thought to have originated in the Eastern Han Dynasty of China, some 1,800 years ago.

    They were a way to serve meat in smaller, cheaper amounts. The first dumplings were thought to be filled with mutton, chilis and herbs, followed by other meats and seafood.

    Much later, in Europe, a dumpling was a ball of dough cooked and served in soup or stew.

    In Northern Europe, the dough was usually made with suet†, and was boiled, as in today’s Chicken And Dumplings. These pastries were also fried or baked.

    Other regions used other ingredients: potatoes (like Italian gnocchi, matzoh meal (Jewish matzoh balls) and flour dumplings that were often filled (Jewish kreplach, Polish pierogis, Russian pelmeni and numerous others).

    Dumplings likely emerged as a food of the poor: a cheaper way to satisfy hunger alongside a small piece of meat. The concept evolved into pastries filled with ground meat.

    Later, the word was ported to describe larger pastry dumplings filled with fruit, which became popular in Northern Europe. Apples, pears, plums and other fruits found their way into these sweet dumplings.

    Fruit dumplings were popularized in the U.S. by the Pennsylvania Dutch, who immigrated from Germany (Dutch is an American mis-spelling of their nationality, Deutsche).



    This recipe is adapted from Southern Living and uses refrigerated pie crusts as a hack.
    Ingredients For The Syrup

  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup butter
    For The Apple Filling

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • Optional: 1/4 cup dried cranberries or raisins

  • 8 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled and cored, whole
  • 1 package (15 ounces) refrigerated pie crusts
    Optional Garnishes

  • Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, caramel sauce, toasted pecans or walnuts

    Granny Smith Apples
    [4] Granny Smith Apples (photo courtesy Good Eggs).

    Microplane Zesting Lemons
    [5] A bit of lemon zest perks up any fruit dessert (photo courtesy Microplane).


    1. COMBINE the sugar, water, cinnamon and nutmeg in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

    2. REMOVE from the heat and add the butter. Stir to combine and set the syrup aside.

    3. COMBINE the apple filling ingredients in a small mixing bowl Mix with a fork until you have a crumb consistency. Set aside.

    4. CUT each pie crust in half. Form each half into a ball and place on a lightly floured surface. Roll into 8-inch circles.

    5. PEEL and core the apples. When you core, leave enough of a well to hold the filling.

    6. PLACE each apple onto the center of each circle and fill the empty core with the crumb filling. Fold the dough over the apples, pinching at the top to seal. Place apples in a lightly greased 13″ x 9″ baking dish. Drizzle with the syrup.

    7. BAKE at 375°F for 40-45 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream and other garnishes as desired.

    *The 1965 Immigration & Nationality Act enabled many more Asians to immigrate to the U.S., where they established restaurants.

    † Suet is a special type of fat, the hard white mass of fat surrounding the kidneys and loins of cattle (plus sheep and other animals). It has long been used in European cooking to make puddings, pastry and mincemeat. Suet has the the cleanest and mildest taste of all the animal’s fat. Fat from grass-fed beef fat is the best (although in the suet-loving past, all beef was grassfed!).

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    FOOD 101: The History Of Peanuts For National Peanut Day

    September 13th is National Peanut Day. January 24th is National Peanut Butter Day, and PB&J lovers can look forward to April 2nd.

    A bit of history about the peanut, also known as a groundnut and goober. First, it isn’t a nut, but a legume.

    The difference: A legume is a pod with multiple seeds. A nut has a hard outer shell protecting a single seed, the “nut.” You can drill down here.

    Along with the bean, cacao, cassava, chia, chile, corn, papaya, pineapple, potato and sweet potato, quinoa, squash, sunflower, tomatillo and tomatoes, peanuts originated in Latin America.

    According to the National Peanut Board, botanists believe that peanuts originated in Brazil or Peru. While there is no fossil record, we have a pottery record: Pottery in the shape of peanuts or jars decorated with peanut motifs date back as far as 3,500 years.

    The archaeological record also shows that as early as 1500 B.C.E., the Incas in Peru used peanuts as a sacrificial offering. They were entombed with mummies for the afterlife. Tribes in central Brazil made a beverage from ground peanuts and maize.

    Spanish and Portuguese explorers encountered peanuts in the 16th century; the Spanish in Mexico, the Portuguese in Brazil. They brought peanuts back to their home countries, and from there traders and explorers spread them to Asia and Africa.

    Peanuts came to North America in the 1700s via Africa, where they had been introduced by Portuguese traders. But it wasn’t until the early 1800s that peanuts were grown in the U.S. as a commercial crop, first in Virginia, where they were used mainly for oil and as a food for livestock and the poor.

    Peanuts were eaten by Civil War soldiers as a protein-rich subsistence food. The Southern folk song “Goober Peas” was sung by Confederate soldiers (here’s a version sung by Burl Ives and Johnny Cash). After the war, Union soldiers brought them north.


    Bowl Of Peanuts
    Ready for snacking and garnishing (photo courtesy PB Crave).

    Boiled Peanuts
    [2] Boiled peanuts are a popular Southern food, boiled in salted water that gives them a fresh, legume flavor. Here’s a recipe (photo © Bittersweet Blog).

    Peanut popularity grew in the late 1800s thanks to P.T. Barnum, whose circus wagons traveled across the country selling “hot roasted peanuts” to the crowds. Soon street vendors and then ballpark vendors began selling them.

    Around 1900, labor-saving equipment was invented for planting, cultivating, harvesting and picking the peanuts, then shelling and cleaning the kernels. With an abundance of supply, demand grew and their use expanded, especially for oil, roasted and salted nuts, peanut butter and candy (source).

    And you get to enjoy them!



    TIP OF THE DAY: Frozen Herb & Olive Oil Cubes

    Freeze leftover fresh herbs in olive oil (photo courtesy Pre Brands).


    What do you do when you have leftover chopped herbs and minced garlic?

    Some people place them in a small container, to be used the next day in eggs, on salads, or to garnish other foods.

    Some people freeze them, but they become soggy and lose flavor.

    Some people toss them.

    Here’s another solution: Freeze the chopped herbs in olive oil (or cooking oil of choice).

    More specifically, place the herbs in ice cube compartments and fill with olive oil.

    Then, just pop a cube to.

  • Cook eggs.
  • Sauté anything, from cutlets to seafood to vegetables.
  • Add them to the roasting pan, the sauce pot or the soup pot.
    The olive oil will quickly melt when you turn on the heat.

    You can also let the cube melt at room temperature and use it to flavor a vinaigrette.

    It’s a great trick for a big hit of flavor without having to buy fresh herbs.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Add Crunch To Your Foods

    When chefs create a recipe, they include elements of salt, acid, fat and heat (and sometimes, a pinch of sweetness).

    It’s all about flavor: Salt enhances flavor; acid balances flavor; fat delivers flavor and mouthfeel; and heat (pepper, chiles, etc.) is a counterpoint.

    But what about texture?

    Good recipes take time to add texture as well: crunchy vegetables as well as leafy ones in a salad, meat in soup or croutons on top, nuts or brittle atop ice cream or a cookie alongside. It’s all about the crunch.

    We all love to crunch, hence the popularity of chips and pretzels and other crunchy munchies (here’s why humans like crunchy foods).

    You can crunchify foods at every meal of the day. For example, at breakfast alone, nuts and seeds can be added to:

  • Breads and muffins
  • Oatmeal and other hot cereal
  • Cottage cheese and yogurt
    At other meals of the day:

  • Sandwiches with spicy radish slices or crushed chips instead of bland iceberg lettuce
  • Soups and salads, with crackers, croutons, nuts and/or seeds
  • Chicken and fish, breaded with panko crumbs, Corn Flakes, crushed pretzels
  • Plate garnishes, such as vegetable chips
  • Desserts with crunchy toppings

    Savory Crunch

  • Asian accents: Chinese fried noodles, Japanese arare* (Oriental rice crackers mix), roasted edamame, wasabi peas
  • Chips and crisps, any kind, including pita chips
  • Corn nuts, soy nuts, roasted chickpeas
  • Crackers, including cheesy crackers
  • Croutons or panko bread crumbs
  • Fried pork cracklings/rinds (chicharrones)
  • Pretzels, mini or sticks
  • Raw veggies: bell peppers, carrots, celery, cucumber, fennel, jicama, radishes, sugar snap peas, etc.
  • Seeds: pumpkin, sunflower, etc.
  • Nuts, toasted
    Sweet Crunch

  • Banana chips
  • Biscotti
  • Caramel corn
  • Crushed hard peppermints
  • Diced apples
  • Dry cereal: Frosted Flakes, etc.
  • Graham crackers and other cookies
  • Pocky sticks
  • Toffee chips, crushed brittle
    So plan ahead for a trip to the market, or just search the cupboards, for crunch. As one of our colleagues says, “Crunchiness is next to godliness.” (She’s referring to the god of cuisine.)


    Jumbo Croutons
    [1] Salad croutons the size of biscotti. Here’s the recipe from Morningstar Farms.

    Panko Baked Fish
    [2] Panko, Japanese breadcrumbs, add crunch to chicken and fish. Here’s the recipe from Martha Stewart.

    Gazpacho Garnish
    [3] Gazpacho with crunchy cucumber garnish (plus chiles and peaches), from Botanica Restaurant | L.A.


    *Arare are a classic Japanese bar snack: crunchy, seasoned mini rice crackers, some wrapped with nori; wasabi peas and nuts (photo). The crackers are made in different sizes, colors, and shapes: a fun and tasty snack!



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