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Global Cuisine

Sumac: An Essential Arabic Spice

 

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.

 

Terroir Contributes to Pure Pasta from Felicetti

 

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.

 

Miso Making Strides in Sauces

 

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.

 

Kroger Introduces HemisFares

The Kroger Co. is introducing a new line of corporate brand products, imported directly from the most food-rich regions of the world. HemisFares™ is a guided tour of the best-of-the-best tastes the planet has to offer – found exclusively at the Kroger family of stores.

Kroger introduced the brand with 27 authentic Italian products currently on shelves, and plans to add more products and countries soon.

“Just like American barbeque can mean many different flavors: spicy, smoky, more of a vinegar base, Italian food changes considerably as you travel across the country,” said Gil Phipps, Kroger Vice President of Corporate Brands. “Imagine landing in Italy and getting an in-depth, guided tour from village to village, experiencing the single best example of the most beloved foods from each region. Our goal with HemisFares is to bring only the best food finds to our customers.”

Kroger is working side-by-side with the best food connoisseurs, some with decades of experience, to identify the most delectable, regional culinary treasures from around the world. Kroger’s Corporate Brands team travels to those regions, diving into what makes each edible treasure and locality unique. Gelato, for example, originated in Sicily. HemisFares Sicilian Gelato is made from grass-fed cows who roam the Sicilian countryside. These cows are milked daily and provide the fresh cream used to make the rich and creamy HemisFares Sicilian Gelato that is sold on Kroger shelves.

The packaging on each product is also unique, as it tells the story of the food find. It takes customers on a journey, explaining precisely where it came from and what makes that product the best-of-the-best. Each HemisFares item has a “find number” on the packaging to direct customers to other similar products in the HemisFares brand that they may enjoy.

Customers can expect additional HemisFares products over the next year, from regions including SpainJapan and others.

“Whether you’re epi-curious or just like eating and sharing incredibly tasty food, when you see our HemisFares brand, you can trust the product within is the best this planet has to offer – bar none,” said Phipps.

The Italian Sauces for Consumers Who Don’t Trust Processed Foods

 

By Lorrie Baumann

The federal Food and Drug Administration has announced that it proposes to require that nutrition fact labels on packaged foods include a declaration of added sugars “to provide consumers with information that is necessary to meet the dietary recommendation to reduce caloric intake from solid fats and added sugars,” according to the agency’s announcement published in the Federal Register in March, 2014. If and when that proposal becomes a federal requirement, the labels on Uncle Steve’s Italian sauces will report that the sauces contain the same amount of added sugars they always have – zero.

The recipes for the sauces came from Steve Schirrippa, actor, author and creator of the sauces, who’s better known as his character, Bobby Baccalieri on the hit television show “The Sopranos.” He got the recipe from his mother, who has since passed away, Scarpinito says. “Steve wanted to pay a tribute to his mother. Abundant home cooked Sunday family meals were very important to her. Steve honored her by producing products he got from her recipes to keep the Sunday tradition alive.”

None of the three varieties of Uncle Steve’s sauces: Marinara, Tomato with Basil and Arrabiata, contain any added sugar, a common ingredient in other prepared pasta sauces. They also contain no GMOs or gluten, and they’re organic. That’s at the insistence of Schirripa’s wife Laura, who’s a marathon runner conscious of healthy eating and who told her husband that if he wanted to make and sell tomato sauce, he needed to be sure that it would be good for people as well as enjoyable, says Uncle Steve’s Italian Specialties Chief Operating Officer Joseph Scarpinito, Jr.:“If you were to line up all of the popular tomato sauces and then remove the ones with pesticides, tomato paste, puree, and added sweetener, you’d be left with only one—Uncle Steve’s.”

Uncle Steve’s is simmered on our stove for six hours. The only sugar in our sauce comes from organic tomatoes imported from Italy and organic onions. Quality is of the utmost important to us,” he added.

The sauces were launched just last year on the company’s website and quickly picked up by Whole Foods Northeast. Other markets along the East Coast followed.

This year, Scarpinito is concentrating on expanding distribution of the sauces to the Southeast, Southwest and West Coast. “That expansion has already started – the sauce has been picked up by the Albertson’s Boise division and by Gelson’s in Los Angeles,” he said. “The sauce is also available from several distributors servicing large independent retailers.”

New products are also under development, including olive oil, pasta and other flavored pasta sauces. Scarpinito is naturally a little coy about pinning them down with any more detail than that, but he did offer a hint: we can expect to see an Uncle Steve’s vodka sauce early next year.

Once the FDA’s proposal is finalized, the FDA wants to give the food industry two years to switch to the new labels. In addition to requiring a declaration for added sugars, the FDA is also proposing a new format for the label that would make calories, serving sizes, and percent daily value figures more prominent. Serving sizes would be changed to reflect the amounts reasonably consumed in one eating occasion. “People are generally eating more today than 20 years ago, so some of the current serving sizes, and the amount of calories and nutrients that go with them, are out of date,” according to the FDA.

This story was originally published in the August 2015 issue of Gourmet News, a publication of Oser Communications Group.

 

The Italian Sauces for Consumers Who Don’t Trust Processed Foods

 

By Lorrie Baumann

The federal Food and Drug Administration has announced that it proposes to require that nutrition fact labels on packaged foods include a declaration of added sugars “to provide consumers with information that is necessary to meet the dietary recommendation to reduce caloric intake from solid fats and added sugars,” according to the agency’s announcement published in the Federal Register in March, 2014. If and when that proposal becomes a federal requirement, the labels on Uncle Steve’s Italian sauces will report that the sauces contain the same amount of added sugars they always have – zero.

The recipes for the sauces came from Steve Schirrippa, actor, author and creator of the sauces, who’s better known as his character, Bobby Baccalieri on the hit television show “The Sopranos.” He got the recipe from his mother, who has since passed away, Scarpinito says. “Steve wanted to pay a tribute to his mother. Abundant home cooked Sunday family meals were very important to her. Steve honored her by producing products he got from her recipes to keep the Sunday tradition alive.”

None of the three varieties of Uncle Steve’s sauces: Marinara, Tomato with Basil and Arrabiata, contain any added sugar, a common ingredient in other prepared pasta sauces. They also contain no GMOs or gluten, and they’re organic. That’s at the insistence of Schirripa’s wife Laura, who’s a marathon runner conscious of healthy eating and who told her husband that if he wanted to make and sell tomato sauce, he needed to be sure that it would be good for people as well as enjoyable, says Uncle Steve’s Italian Specialties Chief Operating Officer Joseph Scarpinito, Jr.:“If you were to line up all of the popular tomato sauces and then remove the ones with pesticides, tomato paste, puree, and added sweetener, you’d be left with only one—Uncle Steve’s.”

Uncle Steve’s is simmered on our stove for six hours. The only sugar in our sauce comes from organic tomatoes imported from Italy and organic onions. Quality is of the utmost important to us,” he added.

The sauces were launched just last year on the company’s website and quickly picked up by Whole Foods Northeast. Other markets along the East Coast followed.

This year, Scarpinito is concentrating on expanding distribution of the sauces to the Southeast, Southwest and West Coast. “That expansion has already started – the sauce has been picked up by the Albertson’s Boise division and by Gelson’s in Los Angeles,” he said. “The sauce is also available from several distributors servicing large independent retailers.”

New products are also under development, including olive oil, pasta and other flavored pasta sauces. Scarpinito is naturally a little coy about pinning them down with any more detail than that, but he did offer a hint: we can expect to see an Uncle Steve’s vodka sauce early next year.

Once the FDA’s proposal is finalized, the FDA wants to give the food industry two years to switch to the new labels. In addition to requiring a declaration for added sugars, the FDA is also proposing a new format for the label that would make calories, serving sizes, and percent daily value figures more prominent. Serving sizes would be changed to reflect the amounts reasonably consumed in one eating occasion. “People are generally eating more today than 20 years ago, so some of the current serving sizes, and the amount of calories and nutrients that go with them, are out of date,” according to the FDA.

 

McCormick Enters Agreement to Acquire Stubb’s

McCormick & Company, Incorporated has signed an agreement to acquire 100 percent of the shares of One World Foods, Inc., seller of Stubb’s barbecue sauces, a privately held company located in Austin, Texas.

  • Stubb’s is the leading premium barbecue sauce brand in the U.S.  In addition to sauces, Stubb’s products include marinades, rubs and skillet sauces.  Annual sales of the business are projected to be $30 million in 2015 and are expected to grow at a double-digit rate annually for the next several years.
  • Stubb’s products complement McCormick’s range of grilling items with the addition of authentic, craft barbecue sauces.  McCormick plans to drive sales of the Stubb’s brand through expanded distribution, increased household penetration and innovative flavors.
  • McCormick has agreed to acquire the business for approximately $100 million in cash.
  • Acquisitions are an important avenue of growth for McCormick.  Stubb’s is McCormick’s third acquisition agreement announced in 2015.

Alan Wilson, Chairman & CEO of McCormick stated, “We are pleased to announce this agreement to acquire Stubb’s.  Based in Texas, Stubb’s is an authentic, craft brand with an enthusiastic and loyal consumer base.  Through marketing and innovation, we intend to build this base, increase household penetration and expand retail distribution in the U.S. and internationally.  The Stubb’s products round out the range of grilling products currently marketed by McCormick under the Grill Mates, Lawry’s and McCormick brands.  We look forward to working with the Stubb’s employees to drive increased sales and profit for this business.”

After opening his first Stubb’s Legendary Bar-B-Q restaurant in 1968, C.B. Stubblefield began selling his popular sauces to retail grocers in 1992.  These products feature bold flavors made of high quality ingredients.  McCormick intends to maintain the headquarters of this business in Texas.  With newly expanded distribution and product offerings, annual sales growth exceeded 20 percent in both 2013 and 2014.  Annual sales of the business are projected to reach $30 million in 2015.

The acquisition should be completed by the end of July 2015, subject to regulatory approval.  The purchase price for Stubb’s is approximately $100 million subject to certain closing adjustments.  Due to the estimated impact of transaction, integration and financing costs, McCormick expects no earnings per share impact in 2015 from this acquisition.  However, with plans to achieve strong growth and significant cost synergies McCormick expects incremental EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) of at least $10 million by 2017.

Sangria and Gazpacho from Bodega Barcelona

Sangria and gazpacho are two traditional staples of Mediterranean culture that have been exported around the world. Bodega Barcelona celebrates this cherished heritage with their refreshing products Sangria LOLEA and Mucho Gazpacho.

Bodega Barcelona sangriaSangria Lolea, combines tradition and culture to make the perfect combination of wine and fruit, with a frizzante touch. LOLEA is made with all-natural ingredients designed from the best grape varietals. Sangria LOLEA is produced and bottled in Aragon (Northeast of Spain) – the wine region of Calatayud – and its preparation involves more than 25 processes while keeping an artisanal touch intact.

In addition to its fine taste, LOLEA adds a sophisticated flare of style to any brunch, dinner or celebration. LOLEA’s unique presentation projects the outgoing Mediterranean attitude. LOLEA’s packaging has been widely applauded and collected several accolades: honing in on every detail regarding all aspects of design, including the vessel shape, its eye-catching sleeve label, and a consumer friendly swing top cap, in addition to all of its sharp branding and communication tools.

Sangria LOLEA is present in 30 countries on five continents and sold mainly in gourmet departments and specialty stores as well as bars, restaurants and upscale grocery stores. Lolea No.1 Red and No.2 Clarea (White) are both sold in standard 750 ml bottles and new 8-ounce  single-serve mini-bottles for convenience, perfect for picnic baskets and coolers.

Bodega Barcelona gazpachoMucho Gazpacho, an amazing blend of all natural vegetables, presents a traditional recipe in a ready to drink form. Perfect for warm-summer days, this refreshing beverage, will not only quench the thirst of consumers, but also provides nutritious benefits. Blended with, tomatoes, cucumbers, red bell peppers and other great fresh ingredients from the local orchards Mucho Gazpacho is prepared and bottled in Spain, in a region where the best tomatoes are grown.

Mucho Gazpacho is available in 8-ounce glass bottles that can be merchandised in the refrigerated deli section of gourmet and specialty stores, as it’s better served chilled.

Bodega Barcelona will be in the North Hall at the Summer Fancy Food Show.

Olive Oil Supply Plagued by Olive Quick Decline Syndrome

By Richard Thompson

Retailers looking for any supply increases or price stabilization for Italian olive oil are most likely not going to find it this year. The dismal 2014 harvest of Italian olive oil lowered levels of production and increased costs to retailers and consumers from a combination of conditions that have no immediate solutions and probably won’t be resolved in the near future.

David Neuman, CEO of Gaea, North America, LLC and who has worked previously with Lucini Italia has seen problems with Italian oil harvests for years and sees the industry working on borrowed time. “Every single year there’s a problem,” Neuman said, “Every year there are good harvests and bad harvests, but southern Italy is getting pummeled [by Olive Quick Decline Syndrome], and the last harvest was like a perfect storm. Too many combinations that came together.”

So what is plaguing Italian farmers and oil producers on such a dismal scale? Basically, everything that could harm production is happening all at once.
Italy had a terrible rainy season last year and olive flies had infested compromised crops, but the Olive Quick Decline Syndrome (OQDS), a bacterial infection that withers and desiccates the tree shoots, is now spreading across the province of Lecce, leaving Italian officials unsure on how to resolve the problem.

First reported at the end of September 2013 by the Italian government’s Plant Health Directorate in Malta, OQDS was already considered an epidemic in the Italian province of Lecce, with more than 8000 hectares of olive orchards affected, but a declaration that OQDS was responsible for olive tree deaths was deferred pending further study.

The Italian Trade Commissioner agrees with this non-committal stance, even while acknowledging the growing blight caused by OQDS. “We feel the authorities have to further investigate the bacteria and its effects that are a cause for concern” said Pier Paolo Celeste, Italian Trade Commissioner and Executive Director for the NY offices in the US, “It is not entirely proven yet.”

The ITC believes that the Xylella fastidiosa bacterium – the cause for OQDS – may not be what is making the olive trees sick. Instead, they believe that it is only a component that must be activated by right conditions to harm the trees, leaving the olive fruit still safe for consumption. “We know for sure that the quality of the fruit is intact,” Celeste said, “It attacks the tree itself, but does not affect the quality of the olive oil produced. It is absolutely safe.”
Some Italian non-government organizations, such as Peacelink, are pushing to save the trees infected by OQDS. The organization has requested the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), an independent organization that advises the European Union, to confirm that the bacterium is not the cause of olive tree death. Peacelink points to trees that have survived and rebounded after the orchards have been treated, but hasn’t been able to provide enough proof to be sure.

The EFSA is saying that X. fastidiosa is a new problem for Italian olive trees and doesn’t seem to need specific conditions in order to spread, so there’s no concrete plan that is sure to succeed that will stop the spread. Since X. fastidiosa has such as wide range of hosts, it can persist even with insecticide treatments on specific host crops – such as olive trees.

On top of that, there is no record of successful eradication of X. fastidiosa once it finds a home outdoors. The destruction of olive trees that have been infected is one of the only ways to contain the spread of the blight, an action the Italian government is reluctant to approve and Peacelink outright opposes.
Despite their qualms, the Italian government has already culled an estimated 700,000 olive trees, with some reports indicating the number closer to 1 million or more. Some of these trees were between 150 and 200 years old.

The acreage that was culled was immediately replanted with new precautions in place to prevent further spread. This new crop of olive trees is hoped to be back in production in about three to four years.

“We are actively seeking out viable solutions,” Celeste said, “It is something that is being vigorously studied by our authorities; as it represents a unique challenge.”

The production will certainly not be back to normal in 2015. Neither will prices.

The Italian Trade Commission Office confirms that 2014’s limited production did affect prices. A recent report by the International Olive Council (IOC), an independent organization that reports on the olive industry annually, stated that Italian production actually declined 55 percent and prices climbed by as much as 37 percent from 2013. The IOC is currently projecting that Italy’s 2015 olive oil production will be larger than 2014’s, but still significantly below normal.

Specialities, Inc. to Introduce French Bayonne Ham at Summer Fancy Food Show

Specialities, Inc. will be introducing France’s legendary all natural Bayonne Ham at the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City to complete the “trilogy” of the finest cured meats in the United States. The Bayonne Ham is crafted to the highest standards using a unique process handed down by centuries of meticulous care, time and knowledge. Bayonne Hams are the standard by which all other French hams are judged. Specalities, Inc. will be showcasing both the traditional tasting Bayonne Ham and a flavor of Bayonne Ham that has been cured and coated using France’s world famous AOC (Appellation d’Origine Controlee) Espelette Red Peppers.

A ham can only become a Bayonne Ham if it’s produced in the very specific, clearly defined areas of the Adour basin in the heart of French Basque for salting and the south of France for rearing. All Bayonne Hams are assured by the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) since October 7, 1998 and protected under the European Union PGI label. The PGI label informs consumers about the specific characteristics of products and protects their geographical names from imitation and usurpation. Bayonne hams have only four ingredients; specially-bred and fed French pigs (corn and cereals), salt from the natural springs deep beneath the Pyrenees Mountains, air and the most important ingredient, time.

Bayonne Hams are air-dried, dark in color, with a very tender mild flavor with only a hint of saltiness. All Bayonne Hams have stringent levels of production requirements (breeding, slaughter and butchering, salting and distribution) all approved by officers from the Consortium du Jambon de Bayonne.

Specialities, Inc. was awarded the prized cured ham from France last July by the Delpeyrat Bayonne Ham Company based upon their expertise and experience to source, distribute and create sell-through of “Best of Class” specialty brands in the United States. After a two year approval process, the U.S. Department of Agriculture put its stamp of approval to begin importing the Bayonne Ham with the first shipments arriving in August of this year.

“We are honored to have been selected as the exclusive purveyor of the Bayonne Ham in the United States,” said Richard Kessler of Specialities, Inc. “We can’t wait for show attendees to experience the exceptional taste and smooth texture of this legendary ham.

All Bayonne Hams are cured by rubbing with 100 percent all-natural Adour basin salt and then covered with a thick layer of salt and placed in the salting room. The hams are suspended in a room where they are dried at a low temperature in artificially created winter conditions. Then the hams are hung in drying rooms where the long maturing process begins, gradually enhancing their flavor, aroma and tenderness. The next step is a process in which  a mixture of pork fat and flour is applied on the muscular parts of the ham, making for a gentler drying process during the long maturing period. In the last step, the ham acquires all of its qualities and revels its personality: a mild flavor, balanced saltiness and delicate aroma. Then the hams are tested by experts who define the hams’ taste qualities and are approved to wear the Bayonne branded tattoo. On average, it takes nine to 12 months to make a Bayonne Ham.

Specialities, Inc. will also be showcasing  other “Best of Class” specialty brands Le Bistro French Recipe Ham, Noel Spanish Serrano, Solera Spanish Cheeses and Meats, Bellentani Deli Meats, LactAcores Portuguese cheeses and Ermitage French cheeses at its Summer Fancy Food Show booth.

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