By Lorrie Baumann
Just as California’s Silicon Valley has a justly deserved worldwide reputation as a center of excellence in computing and information technology, Italy has a “Food Valley” with an equally deserved worldwide reputation, according to Massimo Cannas.
Cannas is an Italian-American food importer and broker who’s a familiar figure in the exhibit halls of the Fancy Food Shows, particularly in the Italian food areas, as well as throughout the entire specialty food industry. He founded specialty food brokerage MAXCO International in 1995 and has clients across the country. Now, he’s expanding his enterprises with the founding of Cibo California, a new specialty food import business based in southern California. Federico Pavoncelli is the company’s Co-Founder and Executive Vice President. “I am so proud that he has joined the company and shares its vision,” Cannas says. “He is a great person that I respect very much.”
As President and CEO of Cibo California, Cannas plans to source a wide selection of authentic Italian food specialties and import them into the U.S. He and his partners, all first-generation Italian-Americans who speak Italian as their native language, will use their knowledge of Italian culinaria as well as their Italian language skills and their ability to navigate the culture to bring authentic Italian specialty food products to an American public that’s eager to taste them, Cannas says. “Thanks to my relationships with the food producers, I have had the opportunity to find products from suppliers who have opened every door to me,” he says. “My face is known there, and I have had the chance to explain what the company is about..
The Italian foods that most Americans are already familiar with are but a small sampling of the range of authentic and delicious products that are being produced for commercial sale in Italy today, according to Cannas. Over the past 30 years or so, the Italian specialty foods industry has developed from a few large companies that made products characteristic of the owners’ culinary traditions. For years, those companies dominated the export market to the U.S., leaving many Americans with the impression that once they’d tasted, and come to love, those products, they knew all there was to know about Italian food.
But Italy is a country, not with a few basic recipes for foods that the entire country has in common, but with a multitude of intensely local culinary traditions, Cannas says. As he speaks, the Italian-accented words begin to tumble over themselves as they rush to explain why this is important to American consumers. “When you drive for 10 miles in Italy, you find yourself every 10 miles in a new Italy. Nothing is similar to what you tasted 10 miles ago. In Italy, we have dialects. Every 10 miles, there is a different dialect. Everyone speaks Italian, but between neighbors, they speak local dialects. With that, the varieties of wine are different. The kind of bread is different. The pasta, the soup, the meat, the fish, the cured meats, the cheese, the extra virgin olive oil, the wine, the mineral water, the cookies, they’re all different. This is why Italy is so very interesting to the food lover. It’s always a discovery, day after day.”
“For an example, recently I found a producer who makes what I consider the very best hand-made breadsticks,” he continues. “We drove for six hours in the rain and wind to arrive for a visit with this artisan that produces these breadsticks, which are very unique. It’s a family-owned company, and after a couple of hours, they have granted us the exclusive right for distribution in the U.S. Now it’s up to us to translate this to the American consumers and to restaurants, but we are positive that we are going to be successful…. Americans today are excited to discover these new things coming from Italy. It’s no longer spaghetti and meatballs and pizza. There are specialty foods from every region to be discovered here. This is what we are trying to do. This is exactly why Cibo California is excited to discover for all of our customers and for everyone who loves food and who loves Italy.”
For more information, visit www.cibocalifornia.com or call Cibo California at 949.427.5555. To place orders, call 800.991.5199.
If there’s one “secret” ingredient that can enhance your favorite recipes, miso just might be it. It’s a soybean paste fermented with rice, barley or other grains. Miso adds umami or savory notes to food, and is a staple ingredient in Japan. In Japanese cooking, miso has long been prized for its salty, complex flavor as well as its nutrition benefits. Miso includes probiotics (naturally occurring live bacteria in cultured and fermented foods) that are good for the digestive system, and is a high-protein food (approximately 2 grams of protein per 1 tablespoon). It’s also versatile, not only because of the way it enhances other ingredients, but also because it comes in a variety of colors, flavors and textures, each with its own uses in cooking.
White (shiro) miso has the sweetest flavor of the miso types and is made with soybeans and rice. Of the three types, it is fermented for the shortest length of time. Despite its name, the color is actually pale yellow. The mild flavor makes it a natural choice for salad dressings, and it adds salty and savory notes to soup.
Yellow (shinshu) miso is darker than white miso, and is fermented longer. It is made by fermenting soybeans with barley and adds a nutty flavor to foods. It’s often used in soups, and works well for light marinades. Use instead of butter when mashing potatoes to achieve a richer flavor and to reduce the need for added salt. Whisk or blend yellow miso with sesame oil and mirin (rice wine) for an Asian-inspired tofu marinade.
Red (aka) miso, is the saltiest version, and has the most depth and boldness of flavor because it has been fermented the longest time. Its flavor complements meats and other robust foods.
Miso is made by combining cooked soybeans, sea salt, grains and a starter culture. It is fermented for a few months, or up to a few years. Depending on how long the soybeans are fermented and which grains are used, the flavor and color vary. In general, the darker the miso paste, the more intense the flavor. Here are some ways you can discover the magic of miso for yourself:
Mix miso with condiments such as butter or mayonnaise to add depth and dimension to the flavor of sandwiches and snacks. Enhance the flavor of soups (prepared or homemade) by adding a little white or yellow miso. Add a small dab of red miso to meat glazes. Experiment with desserts by stirring a teaspoon or two of miso into chocolate cake batter.
The Soyfoods Council offers recipes for salads, soups, and entrees that demonstrate the flavor range and versatility of miso. Entrée ideas include Miso-Marinated Salmon with Edamame Soy Stir Fry and Sirloin Steak with Black Soybean Salsa and Miso Orange Sauce. The orange sauce recipe combines raw sugar, rice vinegar, orange juice, white miso, mirin (rice wine), butter and achiote powder. The miso marinade for salmon features white miso, mirin, tamari (similar to soy sauce) and cayenne pepper. Other recipe suggestions include soups such as Creamy Kale Miso Soup, featuring yellow miso, tofu and low sodium vegetable broth, and Miso Chicken Soup with Snow Peas and Tofu with ginger and miso paste flavoring the stock.
Talenti Gelato is bringing back three seasonal favorites:
The flavors are available nationwide for a limited time only starting mid-October at a suggested retail price of $4.99-$5.99, so consumers can enjoy and indulge while supplies last.
Kontos Foods, Inc., a U.S.-based manufacturer and distributor of traditional Greek and Mediterranean foods, announced the launch of Kontos Rustics Collection™, Tandoori-style naan bread in original and garlic flavors.
“Kontos Rustics Collection Tandoori Naan breads are light and fluffy, providing a great accompaniment to virtually any meal,” said Steve Kontos, Vice President of Kontos Foods. “Restaurants and home cooks can use the Rustics Collection to create new and exciting fusion cuisine offerings. They offer all the goodness and functionality of breads and wraps, with great taste and authentic Tandoori taste and texture.”
The new oblong-shaped naan bread, targeted at retail outlets, restaurants and food service establishments, contains no added preservatives. The naan come two to a pack in a re-sealable bag with a zipper-style closure, in packaging that allows retailers to stack them on a shelf or hang them from a peg.
Within the coming months, Kontos Foods will be introducing two additional Rustics Collection flavors: Whole Wheat and Onion. The Rustics Collection extends Kontos’ current line of over 50 ethnic-style breads, including Massala Nan, Kulcha Nan, Roghani Nan, Missy Roti, and Pan Planos.
Naan bread, one of the world’s first flatbreads, originated around 2600 BC in Tandoor ovens in India. Naan became a staple of ancient India, evoking delicious flavor, versatility and portability – the world’s first flatbread. The word “naan” is derived from the Persian word “non” which refers to “bread.”
Kontos Rustics Collection Naan breads can be used for sandwiches, personal pizzas, toasted, or eaten right out of the package to accompany dips such as hummus, baba ghanoush, tzatziki sauce, salsas, onion, or vegetable dip. The breads are ideal paired with soups or stews, or as a base for Mexican dishes such as huevos rancheros. Served with a dipping dish of extra virgin olive oil, the Rustics Collection also works well in a breadbasket. The naan can even be used as satisfying breakfast bread, providing fiber in every serving.
“U.S. retail outlets are embracing the Kontos Rustics Collection because of their authentic flavor, texture, shape and versatility. We’re also receiving a very positive response from our retailers in Canada and the Caribbean, showing that this bread has widespread appeal,” said Warren Stoll, Marketing Director of Kontos Foods. “This naan bread is re-invigorating the Indian and South Asian bread category.”
Kontos sells its products to retailers and foodservice establishments across North America and globally. Find Kontos Foods on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Kontosfoods and follow the company on Twitter @KontosFoods.
By Richard Thompson
A southern California quinoa company is bringing about social reform in Bolivia as it works with the indigenous community to provide award-winning products to American tables. Andean Dream is a Fair Trade certified quinoa pasta, soup and cookie company that makes non-GMO, allergen-friendly products that range from Organic Fusilli and Organic Orzo to Coconut and Cocoa-Orange Cookies. The entire line is made from Royal Quinoa – the most nutrient-dense quinoa – and the products are free from hydrogenated oils and gluten along with being allergen-friendly, with no chance of cross contamination since they are made in a dedicated facility free of gluten, eggs, soy, corn and nuts. “Free-from was what everyone was talking about, and we were the first to really do it,” says Andean Dream Founder and President, Ingrid Hirstin-Lazcano.
The cookies, which launched in 2006, are offered in Chocolate Chip, Coconut, Cocoa-Orange and Cafe Mocha varieties. Each contains only 2.5 grams of sugar, says Hirstin-Lazcano. “My personal favorite goes between the Cafe Mocha and Coconut, but the best seller in the line is Chocolate Chip.”
The pasta line includes Organic Fusilli, Organic Macaroni, Organic Shells, Organic Orzo and Organic Spaghetti. Each is made gluten- and corn-free, is vegan friendly, organic- and kosher-certified, is non-GMO and is produced in an allergen-friendly facility. Each 8-ounce box of pasta contains 24 grams of protein. “Our Organic Vegetarian Quinoa Noodle Soup was originally seasonal, but we’re bringing it back to the marketplace,” says Hirstin-Lazcano.
Andean Dream started out as an ordinary cookie company in 2006 but quickly blossomed into a specialty food/social justice project under the leadership of Hirstin-Lazcano, who was inspired to practice conscientious capitalism to help bring jobs, medical benefits and retirement pensions to single mothers and disabled individuals throughout the poorest regions of Bolivia. “I wanted to create a value-added product that could aid indigenous farmers and workers in Bolivia,” she says. Already involved with the Bolivian community in Los Angeles, she learned of the circumstances regarding the poverty stricken regions in Bolivia from her husband, Fernando Lazcano Dunn, a 25-year diplomat who worked as Consul General of Bolivia in Los Angeles at the time, and sought out a solution that aligned with her personal convictions.“They are close to my heart and I wanted to see everyone have an equal opportunity,” says Hirstin-Lazcano, “I wanted to help raise their standard of living.”
According to 2015 Central Intelligence Agency World Fact Book, 45 percent of Bolivia’s population lives under the poverty line (based on the international standard of two dollars a day) with three out of four people in rural areas living in poverty. The Rural Poverty Portal, a forum that discusses the difficulties of rural life in Bolivian regions, notes that women and young people are particularly vulnerable to poverty and food insecurity.
“I wanted to bring attention to the situation over there and provide single mothers that don’t have jobs – or are working menial labor – and help give them a regular respectable job,” says Hirstin-Lazcano.
Hirstin-Lazcano spent two weeks traveling through Bolivia in 2006 to find the right co-packer that could provide large scale manufacturing at a local level, offer jobs and provide advancement to native farmers. Hirstin-Lazcano says that she was able to find a co-packer that would work with locals as well as provide benefits such as medical care and retirement pensions that they wouldn’t have ever gotten before. Currently, the co-packer that works with Andean Dream is employing between 20 to 25 indigenous people for Andean’ Dream’s manufacturing, many of whom have received promotions to higher management positions. “There are always new opportunities as we grow, and as we grow our facility for production, many others will be hired for satellite locations,” says Hirstin-Lazcano.
One particular story that stands out for Hirstin-Lazcano is that of a deaf and mute woman who had been resigned to harsh janitorial work and would have been stuck there had it not been for Andean Dream’s project. Edith was hired and was eventually promoted into a supervisor position. “She would’ve never been able to do that before,” says Hirstin-Lazcano, “Because of her employment, both of her sons are able to go to university. One is studying to be a dentist, and the other an architect.”
In addition to the company’s social activism in Bolivia, Andean Dream was the Official Cookie Sponsor in the Special Olympic World Games, providing 48,000 cookies to athletes as well as regularly giving away products to local charitable foundations, food-banks and organizations focused on inner-city kids with economic challenges.
When asked about how her work makes her feel, Hirstin-Lazcano isn’t shy about answering: “We’re socially minded … and helping to provide opportunities to individuals who need a better life is our Andean Dream.”
This story was originally published in the November 2015 issue of Gourmet News.
Italian Foods Corporation’s La Piana shelf stable gourmet stuffed pastas in new recyclable plastic packaging have now arrived in the U.S. for both the original three flavors and two additional flavors in an 8-ounce size.
The new 8-ounce package has a matte finish and elegant design of soft grey and yellow. A clear window allows consumers to view the pasta, said Francesca Lapiana-Krause, General Manager. The new packaging is a more minimalist design eliminating a box that previously held a clear cellophane bag of pasta. In addition to reducing the amount of packaging, it allows more efficient shipping, Lapiana-Krause said. The bags are designed with a squared bottom for a neat display on the shelf. They are available through Haddon House Food Products of Medford, New Jersey.
Flavors in the 8-ounce size include Tortellini with Cheese, Mezzaluna with Basil Pesto, Ravioli with Squash, and the two new flavors, Mezzaluna with Gorgonzola and Tortellini with Sundried Tomato and Oregano. The stuffed pastas are one of Italian Foods Corporation’s best sellers. They are imported from the Lombardy region and shelf stable for 15 months with a suggested retail price of $4.99. They also are packaged in 1-pound boxes, which have a suggested retail price of $6.19 to $7.19.
Litehouse® Foods is expanding its top-selling Opadipity Greek Yogurt Dip line with three new flavor-packed options. Spicy Asiago Artichoke, Greek Olive and Cinnamon Swirl flavors give consumers even more ways to make the holidays stress-free and tasty by serving the low-calorie creaminess of Greek yogurt.
Since launching Opadipity in 2014, the dip quickly became a category leader. The Litehouse brand is responsible for fueling 56 percent of the veggie dip category growth in the U.S. in just the last few weeks.
“The retail and consumer response to Opadipity has been amazing, and we are proud to continue to innovate with these latest flavor offerings,” said Camille Balfanz, Brand Manager, Litehouse Foods. “These new dips continue to deliver on the promise of extraordinary everyday fun, giving consumers more better-for-you snack options that are not only convenient, but can be used in so many inspirational and delicious ways.”
The new Opadipity Greek Yogurt dip flavors provide a thick, creamy consistency that fans love with fewer calories than traditional dips. They are also gluten-free with no preservatives or MSG. The three new flavors each stand on their own as instant crowd pleasers:
The three new Opadipty Greek Yogurt Dips are available at retail locations nationwide starting in October with a suggested retail price of $3.99 for a 12-ounce tub.
By Micah Cheek
If you haven’t tried sumac before, the flavor can be hard to pin down. The dried and crushed fruit of the sumac plant is described as tart but not sour, and a combination of lemon, tart cherry, and earthy flavors. “We have people that come in saying ‘Oh I just tried this food, it was sour and so good, it was lemony and complicated…’ and we just stand there until they finish and say, ‘Yeah, that was sumac in there,’” says Anne Milneck, Owner of Red Stick Spice Company in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Sumac is a top seller at Red Stick Spice Company partly because Lebanese and Greek restaurants are popular elements of Baton Rouge’s culinary scene, says Milneck, who has begun seeing more interest in sumac as more Middle Eastern and Mediterranean restaurants open and customers try to replicate dishes at home.
Traditionally, sumac has been used in a wide variety of Middle Eastern dishes. Salads, roasted meats, bread and rice can all be liberally sprinkled with sumac for an acidic tang. “You can use it with any platter. [It has] a delicious taste, at the same time it’s appealing to the eye,” says Safa Najjar Merheb, author of “The Pure Taste of Lebanon From Safa’s Kitchen.”
A classic pairing is sumac with lamb. The gamey richness of lamb is cut by sumac’s tartness. Milneck notes that the spice will perform the same on any gamey meats, such as duck or venison. Sumac can also be used with flavors that traditionally play nicely with lemon, as reflected in a Turkish fish stew with sumac. The spice can be used as a dry rub on chicken.
Sumac is also a popular addition to mild sides. “I’ve also heard about sumac on more bland vegetables like cauliflower,” says Milneck. “Some people are doing cauliflower rice and then using sumac in there, which is not so off the wall, because sumac is also used on rice pilaf.” Merheb suggests mixing the spice into stuffing for grape leaves, eggplant and squash.
Dukkah, an Egyptian condiment that includes crushed nuts, coriander and cumin, and the spice blend za’atar both depend on sumac. Za’atar is a popular condiment in Arabic cuisine, with wildly varying recipes that all contain sumac, thyme, and sesame seeds. Manakeesh, a traditional Lebanese snack, is made by spreading a paste of za’atar and olive oil onto pita dough before baking.
The wholegrain kamut, farro and Matt 100 percent organic pastas from Pastificio Felicetti embody the terroir of the Felicetti pasta company, located high in the Dolomite Mountains of Italy. The secret to Felicetti pasta’s unique flavor is thanks to the extraordinary raw materials it is made of: prized varieties of durum wheat, crystal clear spring water and air from the Dolomites, which contributes a balance to the grain and water that makes pasta toothsome, firm, and delicious.
By Micah Cheek
Miso, the salty, umami-rich soybean paste, is getting attention as an ingredient in premade sauces. Yurika Masukawa, Vice President of Hikari Miso, suggests that miso sauces are gaining popularity in the American market due to America’s renewed interest in fermented foods. “The American market has had kind of a boom in fermented products,” she adds. Miso, made by inoculating ground soybeans and grains with microbial cultures, can be aged for years before use, yielding a fermented funk and umami meatiness. These flavors make miso a complex addition to sauces. Mary O’Donnell, owner of Terrapin Ridge Farms, who makes Ginger Miso and Honey Dressing, says, “The miso adds a nice richness to the flavor profile. It’s really well balanced.”
In its pure state, miso is a probiotic food, but it should be noted that while premade miso sauces carry the flavor and enzymes of the fermentation process, many are pasteurized for shelf stability and do not contain active cultures. One exception to this is So Good Food’s Miso Mayo, which still contains living cultures. Due to the active fermentation process, Miso Mayo can be left at room temperature for up to a week without spoiling.
The rising attention on miso has been apparent at Hikari Miso, where business has been increasing. Masukawa attributes this to the greater interest in the United States and Europe. This growing enthusiasm has made Ginger Miso and Honey Dressing one of Terrapin Ridge’s best sellers. O’Donnell has seen more miso sauces like hers appearing on store shelves recently as well. Smith has noticed that her Miso Mayo has better sales in stores where miso products are already sold. “If you’re someone who regularly eats natural food, or you’re a gourmand, you already know what miso is.” Smith adds that customer awareness is still an issue when selling miso products. “I’d say only right now the public is catching up with it.”
Many miso sauces come with long lists of suggested uses. ”You can dip it, toss it, drizzle it, anything you might use a spread, dip or marinade for. This is a great flavor enhancer,” says Janet Smith, founder of So Good Foods, about Miso Mayo. Meat marinades are a commonly suggested use. The salty and savory elements of miso sauces give a boost of flavor to chicken and fish, and vegetables can be tossed in it to create a light glaze. O’Donnell suggests Ginger Miso and Honey Dressing as a finishing sauce for steamed vegetables like green beans. “It also is terrific if you want to do an Asian slaw,” she adds. Miso also mixes well with spicy flavors. The blend of miso with roasted jalapenos and ginger earned So Good Foods’ Spicy Red Pepper Miso Mayo second place in the Hot Pepper Awards’ Mayo category in 2014.