THE NIBBLE BLOG: Products, Recipes & Trends In Specialty Foods
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NEWS: Olive Oil Consumption At All-Time High

Olive Oil

Healthy olive oil is a monounsaturated fat, rich in oleic acid. Photo by Clare Freierman.

  Global olive oil consumption is at an all-time high: 2.9 million tonnes (3.2 million U.S. short tons) in 2006/7 compared with 1.6 million tonnes in 1990/91, according to the World Olive Oil Council. Olive oil, which has been produced for thousands of years, achieved a boost in the 1990s, with medical studies on the “French Paradox”—the apparent contradiction between the relatively rich diet enjoyed by the French (cheese, cream sauces, foie gras) and their lower percentage of cases of cardiovascular problems, compared with other northern Europeans Americans. Researchers named a high intake of fruits and vegetables, wine and olive oil, a monounsaturated fat rich in oleic acid. Scientific studies on the benefits of the Mediterranean diet reinforced the heart-healthy benefits of olive oil. Its use spread worldwide, often replacing butter. Olive plantations multiplied, and places as far afield as Australia became major olive oil producers. Olive oil replaced butter on many American tables and at restaurants, engendering a product category called “bread dippers”—seasoned oils.
The FDA allows producers of olive oil to place the following health claim on product labels:

Limited and not conclusive scientific evidence suggests that eating about two tablespoons (23 grams) of olive oil daily may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease due to the monounsaturated fat in olive oil. To achieve this possible benefit, olive oil is to replace a similar amount of saturated fat and not increase the total number of calories you eat in a day.

Saturated fats include butter, coconut oil, cottonseed oil, ghee, lard, palm kernel oil, suet and tallow. With the new year just days away, its easy to convert some of that delicous but cholesterol-filled butter to olive oil. Olive oils vary widely in flavor and quality. See the Oil & Vinegar Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine to learn about the tastiest.

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FOOD TIP OF THE DAY: Gourmet Hot Chocolate

We love those luxury, super-rich hot chocolates that can cost up to $25 a box. Some are simply chopped up bits of fine chocolate, so you can make your own for far less money by chopping up a good chocolate bar. Combine 1 ounce (3 tablespoons) of chopped chocolate with 1 ounce of whole milk in mug. Microwave for 30 seconds and whisk thoroughly to blend. Add another 6 ounces of milk, stir, and heat for 60 seconds. You can use any chocolate: dark, milk, or white, including flavored bars (or add a dash of cinnamon, anise, nutmeg, and chili powder for “Aztec” hot chocolate). You can use chocolate morsels, but the key is, the finer the chocolate, the more delicious the drink. For a richer beverage, don’t use cream: The secret is to add a tablespoon of sweet butter to the milk before you heat it. Don’t try to make luxury hot chocolate with 2% or fat-free milk: The purpose is to enjoy a sumptuous beverage. If you’re cutting back, sugar-free “diet” cocoas are the best route, topped off with some whole milk. Read our reviews of the best diet cocoas, and our reviews of more than 65 gourmet cocoas and hot chocolates, in THE NIBBLE online magazine.   Hot ChocolateBefore you chop up the chocolate bar to make hot chocolate, shave some chocolate curls for garnish.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN COCOA AND HOT CHOCOLATE? Cocoa is made from cocoa powder, hot chocolate is made from shaved or ground chocolate bars, or from pistoles, tiny drops of whole chocolate. Hot chocolate is naturally richer, because it contains the cocoa butter that has been removed from cocoa powder.

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TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: The Top Picks Of 2007

Tuna Sandwich
No sandwich will ever taste the same once
you switch to Ojai Cook mayonnaises.
  Our final Top Pick of the year is actually the Top Picks of 2007, five products we wrote about earlier this year that continue to bring happiness to our table. These are not fancy boxes of chocolate or special foods for entertaining, but everyday foods that have become part of our every day life. One of our goals is to introduce you to foods you might not have discovered on your own. So if you aren’t familiar with these special products, we hope you’ll have the opportunity to try them in the coming months. You can read the Top Pick Of The Week with capsule summaries of each product, or click on the links below to read the full reviews.

Cypress Grove Chevre, a northern California cheese maker, creates a broad variety of creative fresh and aged goat cheeses, including the popular Humboldt Fog.
Peeled Snacks Fruit & Nut Mixes, of New York City, makes nutritious, grab-and-go fruit and nut mixes in innovative packaging that keeps the fruits moist and the nuts crisp. Better than a candy bar!

The Ojai Cook Gourmet Mayonnaises, of California, reinvents mayonnaise into something flavorful, fabulous and worth every calorie. Made in a variety of flavors from lemony to Latin, any recipe that these mayos touch will be vastly improved.
Pierre Marcolini Confitures (Jam), the only import on the list (from Belgium), are jams unlike any in the marketplace. Using so little sugar that diabetics can enjoy them (20% or less), these velvety, spreadable fruits have the richness of a curd without curd’s calorie- and cholesterol-laden eggs and butter. Truly a jam miracle.
Starr Ridge Bread Sticks, from Phoenix, are so flavorful that they require no embellishment—although a tapenade or other dip makes a splendid hors d’oeuvre. The five flavors—Asiago Cheese, Olive Oil, Parmesan Cheese With Black Pepper, Roasted Garlic and Seed—can be served at elegant dinners or for casual snacks.All of the Top Picks Of The Week (dating back to 2004) are archived on TheNibble.com.

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RECIPE: Cheese Christmas Tree

When the crowd arrives for holiday revelry, wow them with this wonderful Christmas tree cheese board.

The recipe, developed by Cabot Creamery, builds the tree with different flavored Cabot Cheddar cheese cubes—Pepper Jack, Extra Sharp Cheddar, Chipotle Cheddar, Tomato Basil Cheddar and Horseradish Cheddar.

The company also makes “Light” reduced fat Cheddars in Sharp and Jalapeño.

But you can use any semi-hard cheeses: young Asiago, Colby, Edam, Fontinella, aged Gouda, Jack, Manchego, Provolone and Queso Blanco, for starters (learn more about these cheeses in our Cheese Glossary).

If there are any leftovers, use them in cheese omelets or a fondue.
 
RECIPE: CHEESE CHRISTMAS TREE

Ingredients

 

Cheddar Cheese Christmas Tree

Gouda wishes for a happy holiday! Photo courtesy of Cabot Creamery.

  • 5 eight-ounce bars of different cheddars, plain and flavored (or substitute other semi-hard cheeses for color and flavor variety)
  • 1 bundle fresh rosemary or thyme sprigs
  • Red grape or “teardrop” tomatoes (substitute cherry tomatoes or olives)
  • 1 large white button mushroom or a small mozzarella ball (bocconcini, or carve a star from a slice of mozzarella)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CUT each bar of cheese into 1-inch cubes.

    2. ARRANGE the cubes in rows on a large platter or cutting board, to form tree shape. If you can, use a different shade of cheese for each row. Separate the rows of cheese with thyme or rosemary sprigs (rosemary looks like an evergreen twig) and rows of grape tomatoes and/or pimento-stuffed green olives.

    3. CREATE the star on top by carving a star pattern into shape with the point of a sharp knife, or similarly carve mozzarella.

    Enjoy the compliments!

      

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    FOOD TIP OF THE DAY: Panettone

    PanettonePanettone makes great French toast! Photo by Gabriel T | Sxc. Did you get a panettone for Christmas? Panettone is the Italian version of fruitcake, a fluffy, sweet yeast bread dotted with raisins, candied lemon and orange peel (called pan dulce in Latin America). In Italy, this tall, dome-shaped, airy Christmas yeast bread, which dates to Medieval times, is very popular for the holidays. The classic accompaniment is a sweet hot beverage or a sweet wine such as spumante or moscato (but any dessert wine will do). Some Italians add a side of crema di mascarpone, a cream made from mascarpone cheese, eggs and Amaretto (or substitute zabaglione). If you have more panettone than you can enjoy, cut it into slices and freeze it: After seconds in the microwave, it’s deliciously warm and fluffy again. We enjoy it toasted—buttered for breakfast or made into a luxurious piece of French toast, and for dessert with a scoop of vanilla or rum raisin ice cream. And it makes one heck of a bread pudding (there’s a recipe in Giada’s Family Dinners, by Giada de Laurentiis).Merry Christmas from all of us at THE NIBBLE.

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