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FOOD 101: Butter Cookies, Sugar Cookies, Shortbread ~ The Difference

July 9th is National Sugar Cookie Day.

Don’t all cookies have sugar? Yes.

But look at three basic cookies types. All are made with sugar (or sugar substitute), plus fat (butter, margarine, oil) and flour, and there are distinct differences.

It’s the ratio of ingredients and the preparation instructions that determine the cookie’s texture (chewy, crunchy, etc.) and butteriness.

Take a look at these three basic cookie types:

  • Shortbread cookies have the highest ratio of butter to flour. They are baked at a lower temperature, for a longer time; the amount of butter makes them the most crumbly cookie. Fine shortbread should be tender, not crunchy, with less sugar than other types of cookies. Sablés (sah-BLAY) are the French word for shortbread-type cookies. The word means “sand,” to denote the crumbly texture.
  • Butter cookies have the next highest amount of butter, but the proportion of flour is increased. This makes the dough hold its shape, for rolling and slicing or cutting with a cookie cutter. .
  • Sugar cookies have the highest ratio of flour to fat. The more flour, the sturdier the dough. The category is typically the sweetest: more sugar. Since it has the least amount of butter, it is also the hardest. Sugar cookies are popularly used for cutting into fancy shapes, decorated with hard icing.
    The easiest way to tell them apart is to bite into them, of course. For example, although chewy chocolate chip cookies are typically butter cookies, the harder, crunchy variety may be sugar cookies.

    But there are also chocolate chip shortbread cookies! With a bit of focus, you can learn to tell the difference upon sight.

    Note that many published recipes get the names wrong, calling butter cookies sugar cookies, and vice versa. But who cares, if you’re enjoying the cookie recipe.

    Here are the eight basic types of cookies:

    Bar, drop, molded, no-bake, pressed, refrigerated, rolled, sandwich and fried. Take a bite!


    Funfetti Sugar Cookies
    [1] Sugar cookies. Here’s the recipe from Sweet Sugar Belle.

    Cocoa Ancho Butter Cookies
    [2] Coco-Ancho Chile Butter Cookies. Here’s the recipe from Cook’s Recipes.


    CHECK OUT OUR COOKIE GLOSSARY: More yummy cookies than you have time to eat!



    RECIPE: Ceviche & Lettuce Cups

    Ceviche Wraps
    [1] Ceviche in lettuce cups (photo courtesy The Chalk Board Magazine).

    Ceviche Stuffed Avocado
    [2] Want something more substantial? Fill an avocado half: Here’s the recipe (photo courtesy Avocados From Mexico).

    Ceviche MartinI Glass
    [3] Want something more elegant? Get out your Martini glasses (photo courtesy Elegant Affairs Caterers).

    Ceviche Grilled Lime
    [4] Ceviche with a fried plantain garnish from Chef Todd English | MXDC.


    A light lunch or first course on a hot summer day…high in protein, low in calories and carbs…a fusion of a popular seafood dish and lettuce “cups…”

    It’s ceviche cups (photo #1). Originally made as a “vegan ceviche” recipe from The Chalkboard Magazine, we adapted the concept to a mix of fresh fish and shellfish (the mix is up to you).

  • Freshwater or saltwater fish
  • Crustaceans: crab, lobster, shrimp
  • Mollusks: clams, mussels, octopus, oysters, scallops, squid

    Ceviche (pronounced say-VEE-chay, also spelled cebiche, seviche and sebiche based on region) is a dish of fish and/or shellfish cured by acidic citrus juice—typically lime juice. It includes onions and other vegetables.

    It has been popular in Latin America for many centuries: It’s one of the national dishes of Peru, and its roots go back for millennia.

    In the early 1500s, the Spanish conquistadors wrote of an Inca dish of raw fish marinated in chicha, a fermented maize beer. That recipe dates back some 2,000 years.

    Other curing methods used tumbo (Passiflora tarminina, a relative of passionfruit), or salt and fermented corn.

    The concept evolved into ceviche: raw fish or shellfish cured with citrus juice. Over time, fruits were incorporated; most popularly, tomatoes (native to Peru) and mango.

    A chemical process occurs when the fish/shellfish is marinated in the highly acidic citrus juice, which denatures the protein. The result is similar to what happens when the fish is cooked with heat. Instead of “cooking,” however, the fish is cured in the marinade, which adds its own delicious flavors.

    Both Ecuador and Peru claim to have originated ceviche; both were part of the Incan Empire. But why quibble: Today, ceviche—or seviche or sebiche, depending on the country—is so popular that there are cevicherias, restaurants that specialize in ceviche.

    The Spanish brought the limes, onions and bell peppers that are integral to modern ceviche. In fact, the term “ceviche” is thought to come from the Spanish escabeche, meaning marinade. Others argue that the word comes from the Quechua (Incan) word siwichi—although we could not find this word in the Quechua dictionary we consulted.

    Ceviche is found in almost all restaurants on the coast of Peru, typically served with camote (sweet potato, which originated in Peru). It has been called “the flagship dish of coastal cuisine,” and is one of the most popular dishes in Peru [source].

    June 28th is National Ceviche Day.
    Types Of Raw Fish Dishes

    Ceviche is part of a group of refreshing raw or cured fish dishes, including:

  • Crudo, thinly-sliced raw fish, typically drizzled with olive oil (Italy). It is served at room temperature or slightly chilled. Carpaccio refers to raw fillet of beef, not fish.
  • Escabeche is not raw, but seared fish (or meat) that is then marinated. As with ceviche, it is always an acidic marinade, with herbs and spices. It is served chilled or at room temperature, like ceviche.
  • Poke, a raw fish salad, typically with cubed fish and raw vegetables (Hawaii). It is served at room temperature.
  • Sashimi, thicker than crudo, rectangular cuts of raw fish, typically served with soy sauce, wasabi and pickled ginger (Japan). It is served at room temperature.
  • Tartare, an adaptation of steak tartare, chopped and seasoned fish (France). It is served at room temperature.
  • Tataki is a fillet of fish that is lightly seared. Just the surface is cooked, with the interior of the fillet eaten in its raw state (Japan).
  • Tiradito, raw fish cut in a shape similar to crudo, in a spicy sauce (Peru—it reflects the influence of Japanese immigrants on Peruvian cuisine). It is served at room temperature or slightly chilled
    Mix & Match

    As with the other dishes, ceviche welcomes almost every type of fish and shellfish. You can also vary the:

  • Marinade
  • Garnishes
  • Presentation (photos #2 and #3)
    Here’s the master template for how to create your ideal ceviche recipe.

    Here are more ways to present ceviche.


    Bibb and butter lettuces turn into natural “cups,” while baby romaine leaves are sturdy and can be picked up to eat by hand (the different types of lettuce).


  • Shrimp ceviche recipe or recipe of choice
  • Baby romaine bibb lettuce, separated into leaves

  • Cilantro, minced
  • Avocado, small dice (substitute mango)
  • Lime wedges
  • Optional: pomegranate arils
  • Cracked black pepper
  • Salt (while salt will be in the marinade, a pinch of pink Himalayan sea salt or other flavored salt is an attractive garnish)

    You don’t need anything more with the ceviche, but popular accompaniments include:

  • Chinese fried noodles
  • Inka corn (cancha), popular in Peru
  • Plantain chips (photo #3) or yucca chips
  • Popcorn (served with Ecuadorian ceviche)
  • Saltines (served with hot sauce in Panamanian ceviche)
  • Tortilla chips
  • Vegetable chips

    1. PREPARE the ceviche and keep in the fridge. You can do this a day in advance. When ready to serve…

    2. PREPARE the lettuce leaves: wash and pat dry. Fill each leaf with a scoop of ceviche.

    3. GARNISH as desired.
    Ceviche Vs. Tiradito

    Why Ceviche Is Good For You

    What To Drink With Ceviche



    FOOD FUN: Decorated Goat Cheese

    All you need is a sharp knife and a peeler or mandoline to decorate goat cheese logs the way John Karangis does.

    Karangis is the executive chef at Union Square Events, and his job is to present dazzling foods.

    Yet, this particular dazzler does not require culinary school. Here’s all you need:



  • Goat cheese log(s)
  • Baby carrots (ideally the tricolor bags)
  • Baby zucchini, summer squash or cucumber
  • Edible flowers (two different types, or mixed)
  • Fresh dill or other feathery herb
  • Fresh cilantro, parsley or thyme
  • Gherkin-size cucumbers
    If your crowd likes hot and spicy, add narrow red chiles like birds-eye or cayenne; or sprinkle some red pepper flakes.

    For the holidays, you can create a seasonal look with strips of pimento or minced peppadew, rosemary leaves, golden raisins (sultanas) and pink and green peppercorns.

    1. SLICE the vegetables as thinly as possible, ideally using a mandoline. The zuccchini or summer squash should be sliced into vertical ribbons; leave the skin on. Everything else in horizontal circles.

    2. SNIP the herbs as shown in the photo. Pull petals off the flowers.


    Decorated Goat Cheese Log

    Decorated Goat Cheese Log

    Decorated goat cheese logs, shown in full and close-up (photo courtesy Chef John Karangis).

    3. CREATE your own piece of edible art. To adhere vegetables on top of the ribbons, use water to moisten.



    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: MilkBoy Swiss Chocolate

    Milkboy Milk Chocolate Bar
    [1] Switzerland is known for its milk chocolate. Milkboy makes three varieties (all photos courtesy MilkBoy Swiss Chocolates).

    Milkboy White Chocolate
    [2] Lovers of white chocolate will especially appreciate this excellent bar. Both milk and white chocolate were invented in Switzerland.

    Milkboy 60% Dark Chocolate
    [3] Milkboy’s semisweet bar is 60% cacao. In the industry, bittersweet chocolate begins with 70% cacao. Both semisweet and bittersweet are grouped into what consumers call “dark” chocolate.

    Milkboy 85% Dark Chocolate
    [4] This 85% cacao bar is for those who want to enjoy deeper chocolate flavor with much less sugar.

    Cacao Pods West Africa
    [5] Where it all begins: in the pods (called cabosses in the industry) that hold the precious beans that get ground into chocolate. You’ll note that the cabosse (kuh-BAHS) motif is on each square of MilkBoy chocolate.


    July 7th is World Chocolate Day.

    Over the past 15 years, THE NIBBLE has reviewed some of the world’s great chocolates. Almost all of them are made in Belgium, France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the U.S.—even though all the beans are imported from the warmer climes.

    Theobroma cacao, the tree that bears the pods that contain the beans that get made into chocolate, was originally cultivated from the wild in Central America. The first cacao farmers were the Olmecs, beginning around 1500 B.C.E. They taught the Maya, who taught the Aztecs who conquered them (the history of chocolate).

    Today, cacao trees are planted in three major sub-tropical regions: Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia (among other countries, a boutique industry has recently spring up in Vietnam). Each region and sub-region has its own terroir, environmental factors which, as with coffee beans, gives the cacao beans their unique flavor nuances.

    The world’s major cacao-growing regions are, in alphabetical order:

  • Brazil (Latin America)
  • Cameroon (Africa)
  • Cote d’Ivoire (Africa)
  • Dominican Republic (Latin America)
  • Indonesia (Southeast Asia)
  • Ghana (Africa)
  • Ecuador (Latin America)
  • Mexico (Latin America)
  • Nigeria (Africa)
  • Peru (Latin America)
    When you’re biting into that bar or bonbon, silently thank the agricultural workers who toil under the hot sun for your pleasure.

    MilkBoy Swiss Chocolates, a premium chocolate bar company that was founded in 2014, is actually based in Brooklyn, New York. The chocolate bars themselves are produced in Switzerland; the manufacturing is overseen in Zurich.

    The bars, 3.5-ounces each, ($5.00), include:

    Milk Chocolate

  • Finest Alpine Milk Chocolate
  • Alpine Milk Chocolate With Refreshing Lemon And Ginger
  • Alpine Milk Chocolate With Roasted Almonds
  • Crunchy Caramel And Sea Salt Milk Chocolate
    Dark Chocolate

  • 60% Cocoa With Essential Pine Tree Oil
  • 85% Extra Dark Cocoa*
    White Chocolate

  • White Chocolate With Bourbon Vanilla
  • White Chocolate With Blue Potato Chips and Sea Salt
    Snack-size bars, 1.4 ounces (10 for $24.99 on Amazon), are available in Alpine Milk, Alpine Milk With Crunchy Caramel And Sea Salt, and 85% Extra Dark Chocolate.

    All are delectable, of course; smooth, silky, melt-in-your-mouth. Our personal favorites are the Alpine Chocolate With Refreshing Lemon And Ginger, Crunchy Caramel and Sea Salt milk Chocolate and the White Chocolate With Bourbon Vanilla. (We haven’t get gotten a bar of Potato Chip.)

    The 60% Cocoa With Pine Tree Oil should definitely be tried. It is not “piney,” as the title might imply; but has slight notes of pine and mint that compliment the chocolate. It’s a gourmet’s milk chocolate treat.

    The line is sustainably-produced, using only UTZ certified cocoa and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper for its packaging.

    The chocolate is available on the company website, from Amazon, and at specialty chocolate shops. You can order by phone at by phone 718.221.5540.

    MilkBoy is a bean-to-bar manufacturer that sources its cacao from sustainable farms in West Africa.

    The brand honors the legacy of Alpaufzug, cow parades (less poetically, cattle drives). The milkboy is a historic cowherd who brings the herd from the village in the valley up to the mountains. Man and cow spend the spring and summer grazing seasons in high Alpine meadows, lush with green grass.

    The time spent grazing high up in the Alps created superior milk, to be made into distinctively delicious Swiss cheese and chocolate.

    Every spring at Alpaufzug time, processions of local dairy farmers and their cows leave villages at the foot of the Alps to climb way up to the pastureland that will be their home in the spring and summer. Their departure is marked by festivities: The villagers give them a rousing send-off, some dressing up in traditional garb.

  • Here’s one video of a cow parade.
  • This stunning video shows the very steep climb up to the grazing meadows, with exquisite scenery (give the video a minute to get rolling).
    In the fall, the return of the herds occasions another festivity, with music and dancing.

    In a tribute to this history, the founders of MilkBoy Swiss Chocolates commissioned their package art from a famous Swiss paper artist. Depicting Swiss Alpine motifs, the designs employ the ancient folk art of paper-cut silhouettes.

    Swiss chocolate is simply that produced in Switzerland. While cacao beans and other ingredients such as sugar can originate from outside Switzerland, the actual production of the chocolate must take place in the country.

    Switzerland’s milk chocolate earned an international reputation for high quality, based on its famous Alpine milk.

    Swiss producers began to import beans and manufacture chocolates beginning in the 17th century. By the 19th century, family business established brands that continue today. The brands more familiar in the U.S. include:

  • Cailler (François-Louis Cailler mechanized chocolate production in 1819 [today owned by Nestlé])
  • Lindt (today merged into Lindt & Sprüngli)
  • Sprüngli (today merged into Lindt & Sprüngli)
  • Suchard (today owned by Kraft Foods)
  • Tobler
  • Teuscher
    Up through the 1960s, Swiss milk chocolate was the chocolate of choice among Americans who wanted something better than a Hershey Bar. More than a few towns across the country had mom-and-pop chocolatiers who created fine chocolate using traditional methods. But often those chocolates were special-occasion purchases.

    With the beginning of the artisan chocolate movement in the U.S., around 1980, kick-started by young American culinary school graduates who had studied chocolate-making from European masters—Americans became aware of higher-quality chocolate. Local and national periodicals gave them lots of press. American chocolate-lovers took note.

    To meet the new quality-chocolate consciousness, top chocolate bar brands were imported from Belgium and France: Callebaut, El Rey, Michel Cluizel Pralus, Valrhona and others (see the world’s greatest chocolate producers).

    The first domestic premium chocolatiers that gathered a larger-than-local reputation were Ghirardelli (1852) and Guittard (1868). It took 128 years for the next major American bar brand, Scharffen Berger (founded 1996, owned by Hershey since 2005), to appear. All three companies are from the San Francisco Bay area. However, they were little-known outside their region until the evolution of America’s artisan chocolate movement.

    Prior to then, Americans who wanted something better looked to Swiss Chocolate—or later, to a gold ballotin (box) of Godiva bonbons, which were first imported from Belgium in 1972. They became the rage, the national vision of “the best.”†
    FOOD TRIVIA: Switzerland has the highest per capita rate of chocolate consumption worldwide: 25.6 pounds/11.6 kg per capita per annum. In the U.S., it’s “just” 9.5 pounds.


    *The global term is cacao. Cocoa is an error, a result in a transposition of letters on an English ship’s manifest about 300 years ago.

    †The following year, Godiva was purchased by the Campbell Soup Company, and the chocolates transitioned to being made in the U.S. The quality went down, featuring more sweet milk chocolate preferred by Americans than Belgium’s quality dark chocolate. The chocolate made in Belgium for the European market continued to uphold the original standards.



    WINE COCKTAIL RECIPE: Pineapple Rosemary Cooler

    Looking for a new drink for the weekend?

    We received this sparkling wine cocktail (“winetail”) recipe a few summers ago from Whole Foods Market. Although we have been enjoying it, we never published the recipe.

    The ingredients are those you might find in a punch: wine, fruit or fruit juice, and carbonated water or a soft drink like ginger ale. It may include added sugar.

    In 1981, the term “wine cooler” for an alcoholic drink was launched into the national consciousness by the E & J Gallo Winery, with its Bartles & Jaymes line: a wine-based drink in various fruit flavors.

    Because the flavor of the wine is largely obscured by the fruit and sugar, wine coolers represented a way to sell off the cheapest grades of wine, or substituting wine for even cheaper malt liquor.

    In this recipe, you shouldn’t use a top-tier sparkling wine. A $10 bottle will work just great.


    You can find tasty sparkling wines from $8 to $15 a bottle. Prices vary by retailer, but keep an eye out for:

  • Asti Spumante from Italy: Martini Asti is about $12; the sweeter Cinzano Asti, $13, is great with dessert.
  • Australian Sparklers: Our favorite is Yellow Tail Bubbles in regular and rosé, $10.
  • Cava from Spain: For $8, look for Cristalino Brut and Cristalino Brut Rosé; Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut is $12 and Freixenet Cava Carta Nevada Semi Dry (sweeter) is $9.
  • Crémant from France: Numerous labels of this Loire Valley sparkler sell for $12-$15.
  • Prosecco from Italy: Good sparklers are available for $9-$10.
  • Banfi Rosa Regale Brachetto d’Acqui from Italy
  • California Sparklers: In the lower ranges, look for Robert Mondavi’s Woodbridge Brut, $10 and Moet et Chandon’s Chandon Brut, $17.
  • Other American Sparklers:: Domaine Ste Michelle Brut from Oregon ($10) and others from New York to Texas.

    Crisp and refreshing, this cooler is just as enjoyable in the air conditioning or on the patio.

    Ingredients For 8 Servings

  • 2 cups fresh pineapple chunks, plus more for garnish
  • 8 small sprigs rosemary, plus more for garnish
  • 1 bottle (750 ml) sparkling wine, chilled
  • 2 cans (2-ounces each) ginger ale, chilled
  • Ice
  • Optional: straws

    Pineapple Rosemary Cooler Recipe
    [1] A crisp wine cooler for hot summer days (photo courtesy Whole Foods Market).

    Fresh Pineapple
    [2] The difference is fresh, not canned, pineapple cubes (photo courtesy Del Monte).

    Fresh Rosemary
    [3] Fresh rosemary adds flavor and fragrance (photo courtesy Burpee).


    1. MUDDLE 2 chunks of pineapple with one sprig of rosemary in the bottom of a each cocktail glass, until juicy and fragrant. Fill with ice, and then pour in 1/3 cup of sparkling wine and top off with ginger ale.

    2. GARNISH each with a sprig of rosemary, gently crushed in your palm to release its fragrance. Serve immediately.


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