THE NIBBLE BLOG: Products, Recipes & Trends In Specialty Foods
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FOOD FUN: A Beautiful Bagel

Few people would call a bagel beautiful, but Baldor Specialty Foods has overturned that notion.

On top of an everything bagel with cream cheese, they have arranged:

  • Capers
  • Edible flowers
  • Chives
  • Mini cucumbers
  • Pickled red onions
  • Salmon Caviar
  • Smoked Salmon
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    You can substitute goat cheese for the cream cheese.

    If your Mother’s Day breakfast includes bagels, invite everyone to create their own bagel art.

     

    Bagel Toppings

    Our entry into the Most Beautiful Bagel competition (photo courtesy Baldor Specialty Foods).

     

      

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    FOOD 101: Empanadas

    Empanadas
    [1] Latin American empanadas are made in individual portions (photo courtesy Fairway | NYC).

    Chicken Empanadas
    [2] Chicken empanadas (photo courtesy Good Eggs).

    Empanada Gallega
    [3] Galician and Portuguese empanadas are made as a whole pie and served in slices (photo courtesy Maria Lunarillos)

     

    May 8th is National Empanada Day.

    Most Americans know empanadas as fried Latin American fare. They are savory turnovers: pastry dough that is filled, folded, baked or fried.

    The concept came to Latin America with Spanish immigrants. The pies originated in Galicia, the northwest corner of Spain, and across the border in Portugal.

  • Latin American empanadas are typically made in individual half-moon-shapes (photo #1) filled with minced meat (photo #2), cheese or vegetables.
  • In Galicia and Portugal they are typically prepared as a large pie which is cut into slices (photo #3). The wedges are a portable yet hearty meal for working people.
  • Galician and Portuguese empanadas fillings include chorizo, codfish, pork, sardines or tuna, often in a tomato, garlic and onion sauce.
  • A specialty of Galicia is the empanada gallega, filled with pork and bell peppers.
  • Empanadas are found in cuisines worldwide. In Indonesia, they are known as panada or pastel filled with spicy tuna and chiles.
  • Italian calzones are close relatives of empanadas, but are seen as “folded pizza,” with ingredients such as mozzarella, ricotta, parmesan, meats (ham, salami) and other pizza toppings. They are baked rather than fried.
  • Empanadas have become popular food truck fare.
  • Some Mexican restaurants serve dessert empanadas, and “gourmet” empanadas are created by fine chefs.
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    EMPANADA HISTORY

    Empanadas first appear in Medieval Iberia during the time of the Moorish invasions, which began in 711 C.E. A cookbook published in Catalonia in 1520 has recipes for empanadas filled with seafood.

    According to Majuraps, it is believed that empanadas and calzones evolved from the Arabic meat-filled pies, known as samosas sambusas, or samboksas.

    Yes, the crunchy fried food originated in Arabia before migrating to India. Indian cooks made it their own with fillings such as spiced potatoes, onions, peas, lentils, cheese and minced lamb.

    The Spanish name empanada comes from the verb empanar, meaning to wrap or coat in bread.

    The dish traveled to Latin America and the Philippines with Spanish colonists, becoming widespread fare.
     
     
    What’s for lunch? Empanadas!

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Brie For Dessert

    Here’s an idea for Mother’s Day for moms who don’t want cake or other sugary dessert: Brie.

    Brie and its cheese brothers are known as bloomy-rind, soft-ripened or surface-ripened (i.e., ripened from the outside) cheeses. These terms refer to their their downy, edible white rind.

    The cheesemaker creates the rind by adding a powdered form of mold (Penicillium candidum, Penicillium camemberti), yeast, and/or a yeast-like fungus, Geotrichum candidum.

    These microorganisms bloom on the exterior of the ripening cheeses, ultimately forming the rind. They break down the fats and proteins of a cheese, creating the creamy texture. The result: lush, creamy, unctuous cheese delight.

    The longer the cheese ages, the runnier it gets. Cheese Trivia: An older cheese will develop an extra creamy, custardy layer just under the rind, which is called the creamline. It’s an extra layer of texture and flavor.

    Can you eat the bloomy rind? Any serious cheese lover will: It’s delicious!
     
    BRIE, CAMEMBERT & THEIR RELATIVES

    It’s easy to confuse Brie and Camembert. They are similar recipes, made in different parts of France with different terroirs. They are different sizes. Here’s the difference.

    Some other bloomy rind cheeses found in the U.S., both domestic and French, include:

  • Brillat Savarin (France)
  • Chaource (France)
  • Cotton Bell (North Carolina)
  • Coulommiers (France)
  • Devil’s Gulch (California)
  • Fromager d’Affinois (France)
  • Humboldt Fog (California)
  • Moses Sleeper (Vermont)
  • Mt. Tam (California)
  • Pierre Robert (France)
  • St. Andre (France)
  • St. Agur (France)
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    However, the French cheeses are made in larger wheels and sold in wedges rather than in smaller rounds. Go for the American varieties; and if you need advice, don’t hesitate to ask your cheesemonger.

    To bake or not to bake? In the warm weather, there’s no reason to bake a Brie—especially when it’s going to be sliced for individual portions.
     
    CHEESE GARNISHES

    You can use all of these as a top garnish (photo #2), or serve some on the side (photo #1).

  • Caramel sauce or fruit purée
  • Chocolate bar or bark pieces (dark is better)
  • Honey or maple syrup
  • Berries
  • Figs
  • Nuts
  • Orange zest
  • Preserves (especially fig or quince) or chutney
  • Sweet herbs*
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    For a savory touch, add some olives. Red cerignola olives are especially nice for the occasion.
     
    BREADS & CRACKERS

    Instead of baguette slices and water biscuits, go for flavorful choices such as:

  • Artisan graham crackers
  • Fruit and/or nut crackers (see Raincoast Crisps)
  • Fruit and/or nut bread
  • Ginger snaps
  • La Panzanella Croccantini
  • Oatmeal or wheatmeal biscuits
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    Brie Cheese Board
    [1] You can top the cheese with one fruit and let guests select from other accompaniments (photo courtesy The Almond Eater).

    Brie Dessert
    [2] Bring the cheese to the table cut into slices, for easy serving (photo courtesy Baldor Specialty Foods).

    Cranberry Pecan Brie
    [3] For fall, consider chopped nuts and dried fruits. Orange zest is a nice added touch. You can also top the cheese with chunky cranberry sauce or chutney (photo courtesy Damn Delicious).

    Brie With Compote Topping
    [4] You can top the cheese with homemade compote. Here’s a ginger-pear compote recipe from Eat Wisconsin Cheese, and our guidelines for making fruit compote.

     
    WHAT ABOUT SALAD?

    Some people enjoy a cheese course instead of a sweet dessert; and some like it with a bit of salad.

    Mesclun (mixed baby greens) with a light toss of vinaigrette is the way to go here. To avoid an acid clash with the sweet complements to the cheese, we make a balsamic vinaigrette.
     
     
    WINE PAIRINGS WITH BLOOMY RIND CHEESES

    White wines and rosés pair better with bloomy rinds than red wines. Fruity whites are better than dry whites. We like a good Pinto Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc.

    Champagne or other dry sparkling wines (Cava, Crémant, Prosecco, etc.) add a festive flair, as do sweet sparklers such as Asti Spumanti, Brachetto d’Acqui (a rosé), or a dry Prosecco (in wine terminology, “dry” means sweeter).

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    *Sweet herbs include chamomile, lavender, lemon verbena, licorice, mint, rose geranium and tarragon.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Try A Feijoa

    Feijoa

    Feijoa, a native of South America now grown in other subtropical climates (photo courtesy Baldor Specialty Foods).

     

    The feijoa (FEE-joe-ah)is an egg-shaped fruit with a thin, lime-green skin.

    The fruit originated in the highlands of southern Brazil, parts of Colombia, Uruguay, Paraguay and northern Argentina. Today it is grown around the world in semi-tropical climates. New Zealand is a large grower.

    While not well known in the U.S., its flavor calls up better-known fruits.

    Feijoa is sometimes called the pineapple guava (guava is a brother*). Other nicknames include Brazilian guava, fig guava and guavasteen.

  • The juicy flesh inside is cream-colored and encases a jelly-like center.
  • It tastes like a combination guava and pineapple. Sometimes, you’ll get a hint of strawberry.
  • The texture is close to that of a pear.
  • The aroma is fragrant and complex: guava with notes of quince, pineapple, apple and mint.
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    Although the skin is edible, the fruit usually is eaten by cutting it in half, then scooping out the pulp with a spoon, like a kiwi. No spoon? Cut off an end with a knife, or take a bite to expose the flesh and squeeze the pulp into your mouth.

    In recipes beyond fruit salad and stewed fruit, feijoa is as versatile as most fruits. In New Zealand, they are:

  • Tossed into smoothies and made into fruit drinks.
  • Made into chutney and preserves.
  • Made into yogurt and ice cream.
  • Made into cider, wine and feijoa-infused vodka.
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    Since the fruit is the same shade of green when immature and ripe, you need to give it a soft squeeze. A ripe feijoa yields to pressure like a just-ripe banana.

    Fruits are at optimum maturity when the seed pulp has turned into a clear jelly, with no hint of browning. Once the seed pulp and surrounding flesh begin to brown, the fruit is overripe.

    Overripe fruit can of course be eaten, juiced, or turned into jam or compote [source].

    Have fun with it!
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    *Both feijoa and guava are members have the same phylogeny, all the way down to the Family level. The phylogeny is Kingdom Plantae, Clade Angiosperms, Clade Eudicots, Clade Rosids, Order Myrtales, Family Myrtaceae. They then split into different genuses. The genus and species for feijoa is Acca sellowiana. For guava, it is Psidium guajava.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Custard

    May 5th is Cinco de Mayo. This year, it’s also the Kentucky Derby and National Hoagie Day. What’s a holiday-focused food writer to do?

    We can recommend that you use the Holidays & Occasions pull-down menu at the right and peruse the content for both holidays. But we’re going to focus on custard.

    Why custard? Well, May 5th is National Chocolate Custard Day (photo #5).

    As we were served a panna cotta dessert (photo #1) yesterday, we thought of how it has replaced a richer custard, crème brûlée, on restaurant menus; and how decades earlier, crème brûlée replaced plain baked custard, scented with nutmeg or cinnamon.

    Every culinary student studies the three classic French baked custards: crème brûlée (photo #2), crème caramel (photo #3) and pot de crème. All three are made of eggs, milk and/or cream and sugar, in different proportions, along with a flavoring such as vanilla.

  • Crème brûlée is made of all heavy cream and egg yolks, and is topped with a brittle layer of caramelized sugar (brûlée is French for burnt, crème brûlée means “burnt custard”)
  • Crème caramel (called flan in Spanish) is the lightest of the three, made with whole eggs and a blend of milk and cream.
  • Pot de crème is made from equal parts of cream and milk and an extensive amount of egg yolks—e.g., 6 yolks per 2 cups of cream/milk, which make it a softer custard.
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    Our mother made that classic baked custard scented with nutmeg. It was so rich and eggy—even though she used milk instead of cream. We hesitate to bake it today because you can’t bake just one or two ramekins—and we have no restraint.
     
     
    TYPES OF CUSTARD

    There are more than 50 additional custard dishes and terms in our Custard Glossary, one of 100 NIBBLE glossaries that give you a great understanding of each categories of food.
     
     
    THE HISTORY OF CUSTARD

    Custard as we know it dates back to the Middle Ages, when it was used as a filling for a flan or a tart.

    The word custard is derived from “crustade,” a tart with a crust. A popular tart filling was what we came to call custard.

    After the 16th century, fruit creams became popular, and it was about this time that custards began to be made in individual dishes or bowls rather than as fillings for a crust.

    Yet, as things move full circle, today custard is used to fill tarts…and also Danish pastry, cream puffs and éclairs. It is mixed into trifles and turned into and savory sides, like mushroom custards.

    It is turned into desserts like Bavarian creams, bread puddings, charlottes and Floating Island.

    Mousse is a custard whipped into an airy froth.

    Custards are prepared in two ways: stirred or cooked on top of the stove, or baked in the oven.

    Stirred custards (also called crème anglaise, custard sauce and soft custard) are cooked over low heat or in a double boiler to a thickened yet fluid consistency.

    The custard is then refrigerated where it will continue to thicken. The repeated stirring prevents the custard from firming up. Instead, stirred custards are used as fillings, sauces or ice cream bases.
     
     
    THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CUSTARD & PUDDING

    What Americans call pudding is a creamy, sweetened milk mixture thickened with cornstarch, then cooked.

    These are found mostly in the form of chocolate pudding, vanilla pudding, butterscotch pudding and lemon pudding. They do double duty as pie fillings.

    When a recipe is exceptionally smooth and light, it is often called silk pudding.

    American puddings contain no eggs. In the U.K. and Europe, they are known as blancmange.

    In the U.K. “pudding” it refers to any dessert. It also refers to sweet, cake-like baked, steamed and boiled puddings, usually made in a mold.

    Savory puddings, such as corn pudding, are so-called because they contain milk and eggs, which thicken the mix; and savory “puddings” can be custards (we won’t go into the details at the moment).

    Other foods that are called pudding include black pudding or blood pudding (which is a sausage) and Yorkshire pudding (baked batter, served as a side).

    By the way, August 17th is National Vanilla Custard Day. June 26th is National Chocolate Pudding Day.

    Custard and pudding tips to follow!

     

    Panna Cotta
    [1] Panna cotta (photo courtesy Davio’s | Boston).

    Creme Brulee
    [2] Crème Brûlée (photo courtesy David Venable | QVC).

    Creme Caramel
    [3] Crème caramel (photo courtesy Suvir Saran).

    Raspberry Pot de Creme
    [4] Raspberry pot de crème (here’s the recipe from Driscoll’s).

    Chocolate Pot De Creme
    [5] For National Chocolate Custard Day, make this pot de crème. Here’s the recipe from Martha Stewart.

     

      

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