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GIFT OF THE DAY: Gourmet Dinners From Babeth’s Feast

Babeth's Feast Dinner

One of the many dinner combinations you can order from Babeth’s Feast.

 

What to get for the fine food lover who doesn’t cook?

As long as someone has an oven and knows how to turn it on, we suggest a gift of Babeth’s Feast.

There are more than 300 dishes, flash frozen, that heat up as if they were just prepared fresh. People in France regularly entertain this way: buy the main meal and make a salad. That’s why Babeth, who had moved to New York, brought the concept to the U.S.

Foods can be sent anywhere. There are options for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and everything from haute cuisine to burgers and simpler meals.

But what we love is the opportunity to have an elegant dinner at home, as is Babeth’s custom. Buy the main dinner—fine hors d’oeuvres and a four-course dinner—soup, fish course, meat course with sides and dessert.

All you do is make a fresh salad and provide the wine and after-dinner coffee.

The entire NIBBLE team was treated to a dinner this past summer, and we still haven’t stopped talking about it.

 
Here’s our original review when Babeth’s Feast was the Top Pick Of The Week.

Here’s the company website where you get the party started.

 
  

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FOOD FUN: Poinsettia Hors d’Oeuvre

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Turn spinach dip into poinsettia hors d’oeuvre.

The ones in the top photo, from Mackenzie Limited.

They have a base of focaccia bread topped with creamy spinach dip with a hint of truffle oil. The flower is made from piped goat cheese flower.

We created our own version of the canapés, which pair well with beer, wine or a savory Martini.

They are best assembled as close as possible to serving time, although you can prepare the spread and other ingredients in advance.

RECIPE: POINSETTIA CANAPÉS

Ingredients

  • Base of choice: bread or toast rounds or squares
  • Spinach spread of choice (or other green spread)
  • Cheese of choice: cream cheese spread, goat cheese spread or other pipeable cheese
  • Flower center: piece of peppadew, pimento or sundried tomato
  • Piping bag (or substitute) and tip
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    Preparation

    1. CUT the bread into rounds with a 1-1/2″ cookie cutter and top with some of the spread. Place on a serving tray.

    2. PIPE five petals on top of each and add the red center.
     
    WHAT’S A CANAPÉ?

    A canapé (can-uh-PAY) is a type of hors d’oeuvre: a small, savory bite on a base of bread, pastry, toast or a cracker. It is cocktail party fare, a finger food eaten in one or two bites.

       

    spinach-goat-cheese-focaccia-mackenzieltd-230r

    Poinsettia Hors d'Oeuvre

    [1] White poinsettia goat cheese blossoms atop a spinach and foccaccia base (photo courtesy Mackenzie Ltd.). [2] This version uses roasted red peppers to create the flower and fresh thyme leaves and flowers for the center (photo courtesy Tara’s Table caterers).

     
    Canapé is the French word for sofa. The idea is that the toppings sit on a “sofa” of bread or pastry. In the hands of a good caterer or chef, they can be beautifully decorated works of edible art.

    The translation of “hors d’oeuvre” means “[dishes] outside the work” i.e., outside the main meal. Technically, the term “hors d’oeuvre” refers to small, individual food items that have been prepared by a cook.

    Beyond canapés, hors d’oeuvre include everything from deviled eggs and crab puffs to mini-quiches to rumaki (bacon-wrapped dates). There are scores of options in French cuisine alone.

     

    Poinsettia Plant

    A poinsettia plant (photo courtesy 1-800-Flowers).

     

    ABOUT THE POINSETTIA PLANT

    Native to southern Mexico, what we call the poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) was used for dye and decorative purposes by the Aztecs. The milky white sap, today called latex, was made into a preparation to treat fevers.

    Cuetlaxochitl, the Aztec name for the plant, is actually a small tree. It was bred down to a tabletop plant, although you may still come across a lovely small tree at better florists.

    In Mexico, it blooms naturally in Mexico around Christmastime. The poinsettia achieved fame in the U.S. thanks to Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico (1825-1829), who had been a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

    An amateur botanist, he sent spectacular plant to botanist colleagues in the U.S. for breeding. It became known as the poinsettia (try pronouncing cuetlaxochitl). Its vibrant red color made it a natural for holiday decorations, and it was subsequently bred into pink and white varieties as well.

     
    Ambassador Poinsett later served as Secretary of War under Martin Van Buren, and was a co-founder of the National Institute for the Promotion of Science and the Useful Arts, a predecessor of the Smithsonian Institution).

    Note that his name is Poinsett, not Pointsett; there is no “pointsettia” plant.

    Congress honored Joel Poinsett by declaring December 12th as National Poinsettia Day.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Create Ice Cube Art (Designer Ice Cubes)

    We have long made “designer ice cubes” for cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks by:

  • Adding fruit to the ice cube for sweet drinks.
  • Adding herbs to the ice cubes for savory drinks.
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    You simply fill the ice cube tray with water and drop a piece of fruit or an herb into each compartment. Here’s our original article.

    We also use two techniques that don’t dilute the drink:

  • Freeze juice or other liquid into ice cubes; for example, tomato juice or bouillon for a Bloody Mary, pineapple juice for a Piña Colada, coffee ice cubes for a Black Russian or Irish Coffee.
  • Use frozen fruits or vegetables. You can buy them or make them.
  • For sweet drinks, whole strawberries or melon balls are our go-to fruits.
  • For savory drinks, use larger vegetables like broccoli or cauliflower florets instead of frozen carrots and peas or corn, which are small and will defrost quickly. You can also freeze thick cucumber and zucchini slices.
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    WHAT’S NEXT?

    The artiest ice cubes yet, from Let’s Mingle Blog. We just love the look, and have so much fun mixing and matching the ingredients.

    Ingredients

  • Fruits, vegetables, herbs and whole spices of choice
  • Liquid of choice: water, flavored water, coffee, tea, juice or soft drink*
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    Preparation

    1. FILL the ice cube compartments one-third or halfway with your liquid of choice: coffee or tea, juice, water, etc. Place the trays in the freezer until the ice is partially frozen (fully frozen is OK, too).

    2. ADD the fruits, herbs, spices, whatever, and return to the freezer for 20 minutes or more, so the fruit will stick and not float to the top.

    3. TOP with the final layer of liquid, and freeze fully.

    Here’s the entire article from Let’s Mingle Blog, with many more design ideas.

     

    Designer Ice Cubes

    Fruit In Ice Cubes

    The best-looking ice cubes we’ve seen, from Let’s Mingle Blog. Read the full article.

     
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    *For example, cola ice cubes for a Rum & Coke.

      

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    HOLIDAY COCKTAIL: Christmas Martini Recipe

    Christmas Martini

    Christmas Martini

    Pickled Cauliflower

    Castelvetrano Olives

    Fresh Dill

    [1] [2] It’s a Christmas Martini (photos courtesy World Market). [3] You can find actual rose and purple cauliflower heads at farmers markets, but at this time of year, you may have to color your own with beet juice. Here’s a recipe for pickled cauliflower and beets from The Galanter’s Kitchen. [4] Castelvetrano olives are the greenest, for Christmas garnishing. [5] Fresh dill, along with rosemary, are the two most Christmasy herbs: They look like evergreens (photo courtesy Burpee).

     

    Is there such a thing as a Christmas Martini?

    According to us: Yes!

    We’re not talking a peppermint “Martini” garnished with candy canes, but a real, savory vodka/gin-and-vermouth cocktail as its creators intended it to be (here’s the history of the Martini).

    We adapted this Dill Martini recipe from WorldMarket.com and gave it more holiday spirit.

    If you switch the evergreen-like dill to chive or other herb and perhaps make all the pickles red or pink, you can serve this as a Valentine Martini as well.
     
    RECIPE: CHRISTMAS MARTINI

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 1/2 ounce pickle brine*
  • Splash of dry vermouth
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • Large sprig of fresh dill
  • Beet juice
  • Ice
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    For The Garnish

  • Cauliflower floret pickled in brine and beet juice†
  • Fresh grape tomato
  • Baby radish, pickled or not
  • Pimento-stuffed green olive or pitted Castelventrano olive (it’s bright green)
  • Whole baby beet (from can or jar, regular or pickled)
  • Cocktail pick
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    *If you make pickled vegetables, you can use your homemade brine.

    *If you aren’t using beets, you can buy a bottle of beet juice (delicious!) at a natural- or health-food store.
    ________________
     
    Preparation

    1. PICKLE the vegetables as desired and make the cocktail pick.

    2. COMBINE the vodka, pickle brine, vermouth mustard seeds, and fresh dill in a cocktail shaker. Shake and pour into a glass.

    2. ADD enough beet juice until you get the color you want (an assertive blush as in the photo is a good start).

    3. ADD ice to the shaker along with the contents of the glass. Shake well, strain into a coupe or Martini glass and garnish with the vegetable pick.
     
    HOW TO MAKE PICKLED VEGETABLES

    It couldn’t be easier to make “quick pickles”: just the vegetables, vinegar, spices and two hours to marinate.

    You can pickle just about any vegetable, and you can also pickle fruits: from grapes to sliced fruits.

  • Use your favorite spices in the brine. Look at your spices for inspiration: allspice, bay leaf, crushed red peppers, dill seed, juniper berries, mace, mustard seed, and peppercorns are all contenders. Pickled vegetables never met a spice they didn’t like. We often add a touch of nutmeg.
  • For the brine, use cider vinegar or other vinegar (you can use half vinegar and half salted water if you like). To color white veggies like cauliflower red, add beet to the brine. Be sure the brine covers the tops of the vegetables.
  • You can add sugar and or salt to the brine; but make a batch without them first. It’s healthier, and it will let the flavor of the spices shine through.
  • Pickles will be ready in just two hours; although you can keep them in the fridge for a few weeks (trust us, they will eaten quickly).
  •  
    Since these pickled vegetables aren’t sterilized in a water bath, they need to be kept in the fridge. Eat them within two weeks (more likely, they’ll be gone in two days).

    If you’re excited about pickling, pick up a book on the topic. The Joy Of Pickling, first published in 1999, is now in its second edition.

    You may find yourself making classic bread-and-butter and dill pickles, pickled beets and kimchi.

  • Check out our Pickle Glossary for the different types of pickles.
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    GIFT OF THE DAY: Bacon Curing Kit

    What can you get for the bacon lover?

    There’s the Bacon Of The Month Club, but that’s $400.

    There’s always an assortment of the finest artisanal bacon brands from small producers who craft premium bacon the old-fashioned way: hand-rubbed spices, slow curing methods and real wood smoke.

    They can be double or triple the price of supermarket bacon, so it’s a gift most people wouldn’t buy for themselves. Check out some of the best brands, below.

    But this year, we’re recommending a DIY Bacon Curing Kit from Urban Accents. Just add a pork belly from the nearest butcher shop, and the recipient can have homemade bacon in just seven days. This DIY kit has everything you need!

    Just pick up a five-pound pork belly from your favorite meat counter and put the meat, curing salt, maple sage seasoning (if you like) into the curing bag. Refrigerate for seven days and you’ll be cooking up your own homemade bacon.

    The kit is $17.15 at Urban Accents.

    A five-pound pork belly is needed to make the bacon. Depending on your area, you can pay about $3.00 to $6.00 a pound. Heritage breeds are pricier.

    WHAT ARE THE BEST BACON BRANDS?

    According to a review in Food & Wine, you should try, in this order:

  • Vande Rose Farms Artisan Dry Cured Applewood Smoked: well-marbled heritage breed from the Duroc pig.
  • Trader Joe’s Uncured Apple Smoked Bacon.
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    Bacon Making Kit

    Raw Pork Belly

    [1] Make five pounds of bacon with this DIY kit (photo courtesy Urban Accents). [2] Pork belly not included (photo courtesy Slap Yo Daddy BBQ).

  • D’Artagnan Uncured Applewood Smoked Bacon. The company uses heritage breeds, such as Berkshire, Duroc, Hampshire, Landrace and Tamworth.
  • Tender Belly Dry Cured Maple Bacon: Made with Hampshire pork belly, known for its ideal meat-to-fat ratio, slow-smoked over cherrywood.
  • Applegate Farms Hickory Smoked Uncured Sunday Bacon: nitrate- and nitrite-free.
  •  
    Read the full review for more recommendations.

      

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