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Archive for November, 2010

GIFT OF THE DAY: Chanukah Gifts

These yummy personalized jumbo sugar
cookies from Harry & David make a perfect
small gift or party favor. Photo by
Katharine Pollak | The Nibble.

Chanukah/Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights, begins at sundown on Wednesday, December 1st. It continues through sundown on Thursday, December 9.

There’s a gift for everyone on our list of kosher Hanukkah gifts: cheese, chocolates, cookies, nuts, toffee and other delicious gifts.

Take a peek; then come back for a little Hanukkah history.

The holiday commemorates a battle that took place some 2,200 years ago. Judea, the land of the Jews (the southern part of what is now Israel), was under the rule of Greece.

A Greco-Syrian king forbade the Jewish people from observing their religion. They were prohibited from praying to their God, studying the Torah* and practicing their customs.

A small group of resistance fighters called the Maccabees waged war for three years to drive the very large Greco-Syrian army out of Judea. When they returned to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, they cleaned and rededicated their house of worship.


Here’s what most people remember about the Hanukkah story:

The Maccabees discovered that the enemy had defiled the oil which was used to light the temple’s menorah (lamp). Only enough purified oil remained to light the menorah for one day. It would take a week to make more purified oil. But a miracle occurred:

After the the menorah was lit, the flames burned for eight days—by which time new vats of purified oil were ready.

Thus, the Hanukkah Menorah holds eight candles plus a shamash† candle used to light the eight. And why Hanukkah lasts for eight days.

*Today the Torah comprises the five books of the Old Testament, which contain Judaism’s founding laws and ethical texts.

†The Hebrew word shamash means “the attendant.” The beadle (synagogue attendant) in a temple is also called a shamash.


THANKSGIVING: A Great Chocolate Gift

Say it with candy, the expression goes.

Check out this sweet selection of our favorite chocolate turkeys, decorated creme mints, caramel and a smashing “bridge mix” or chocolate-covered nuts, fruits and seeds.

These beautiful, chocolate- and toffee-covered almonds, pistachios, sunflower seeds, dried cherries and apricots are a delectable gift or candy-bowl-filler for the home. They’re packaged in an attractive plastic box, in a variety of sizes. Serve them or give them as party favors.

We serve the colorful mix with coffee or tea at the end of dinner instead of a heavier dessert (and we confess, we’ve mixed them into our breakfast yogurt as well). The chocolate and toffee-covered pistachios are especially awesome.


Enjoy a handful of these chocolate-covered
treats. Photo by Melody Lan | THE NIBBLE.

Our Thanksgiving chocolate and candy list includes kosher items.


TIP OF THE DAY: Secrets Of Salting

Kosher salt. We use this salt server in
THE NIBBLE test kitchen to add pinches
of salt as we cook.

Since cooking is chemistry, you have to combine ingredients in the right order to get the fluffiest cakes or soufflés, for example.

It’s the same with salt: Pay attention to the order in which you add salt. Here are tips from Chef Louis Eguaras:

  • Meats: Salt meat 1 to 4 hours before cooking. For the first half hour, salt will extract the moisture from the meat. Then, the protein fibers loosen up and absorb the salty juices.
  • General Cooking: Add salt in the middle of the cooking process, not just at the end. It gives you a better opportunity to taste and adjust the amount of salt.
  • Stocks: Don’t salt stocks. Subsequent reductions will intensify the saltiness. It’s the same with sauces that will be reduced. Instead, taste the stock or sauce when you are preparing the dish.
  • Deep-Frying: Don’t salt the food immediately before deep-frying it. Salt will alter the surface and make the food less crisp.
  • Blanching: Add salt to the liquid before adding the food.
  • Aluminum & Cast Iron Pots: Add salt after boiling begins but before adding food, to prevent pitting of the pot.


See the many different types of salt in our Salt Glossary.


THANKSGIVING: Pumpkin Mousse Recipe

Instead of a heavy pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving dinner, how about a pumpkin dessert that’s light as air: pumpkin mousse.

Some people have begged off mousse because the recipe requires raw eggs. But you can buy and enjoy raw eggs safely if you use pasteurized eggs.

Beyond mousse, use them in Caesar salad dressing, egg nog and steak tartare.

You’ll have room for pumpkin mousse at the
end of Thanksgiving dinner. Photo by
Kelly Cline | IST.


TIP OF THE DAY: Calibrate Your Kitchen Thermometer

CDM meat & poultry thermometer available

Many kitchen thermometers will be used on Thanksgiving to test the temperature of the turkey. Undercooked turkey means the possibility of salmonella; overcooked turkey most certainly means dry meat.

Given that 10 degrees can make the difference between good and dry, how accurate is your kitchen thermometer?

A chef will calibrate a new thermometer, then recalibrate once a week (or whenever it’s dropped), using the freezing or boiling method.

There is a calibration nut underneath the thermometers, at the top of the stem, right under the head. You’ll need a small wrench and some dexterity (or someone to help).

  • Ice Point Method: Pack a glass with crushed ice, add ice water and stir thoroughly. Wait four minutes and insert the stem of the thermometer. Hold it at least an inch from the sides and bottom of the glass. The pointer will stop moving in about 30 seconds. If the thermometer is not accurate within +/- 2°F of 32°F, adjust it. Keeping the thermometer stem in the ice, use the wrench to turn the calibration nut to turn the pointer to 32°F/0°C.
  • Boiling Point Method: Use boiling water and adjust the thermometer to the boiling temperature at your altitude—212°F/100°C at sea level. This may sound easier than the ice method, but the ice method is more accurate.


If your thermometer doesn’t have a calibration nut, contact the company’s customer service line for advice.

The harmful bacteria are killed at 150°F. The turkey should be removed from the oven when the thickest part of the thigh meat is 155°F but no more than 160° (be sure not to touch the bone).

That’s because food keeps cooking after it is removed from the oven. As the turkey stands to let the juices to settle for easier carving (15 to 20 minutes), the thigh meat will reach 165°F and the breast meat will probably be 10°F higher.



THANKSGIVING: Pumpkin Cheesecake

We don’t know what condition we’ll be in at the end of the main course on Thanksgiving. But if there’s no room for our pumpkin cheesecake, we’ll happily eat it over the weekend. (Sorry, NIBBLE colleagues, there won’t be any left to bring in on Monday.)

We’re trying a new recipe this year, but here are three pumpkin cheesecake recipes from prior years.


Or, buy (or send as a gift) this elegant pumpkin cheesecake from, one of our favorite French bakeries.

If you’d like something lighter than cheesecake, try our Pumpkin Mousse Recipe.

Ooh la la: a pumpkin cheesecake made
by a French baker. Photo courtesy
Financier Patisserie.


PRODUCT: Jet Bag Wine Carrier/Protecter

The best way to pack wine in luggage.
Photo courtesy

Are you leaving on a jet plane to celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas? Post-9/11 security regulations prohibiting liquids have certainly plagued wine lovers.

But some people care about bringing (or taking home) a special bottle of wine so much, they’ll actually check it in luggage.

“Oh, we just roll the bottles up in our clothing,” and place them in the suitcase, we’ve been told by more than a few friends. We shake our head, remembering a bubble-wrapped bottle of Sauternes that leaked through the cork and the foil and soaked everything in our luggage (and scented the inside of the suitcase for a year).

Among all the options we have now to prevent this from happening, the leakproof Jet Bag seems the most convenient.

A bio-degradable carrier with a reusable zip seal closure, the Jet Bag completely secures your liquids. The material pads & protects your bottle and if it cracks, a baby diaper-type absorbent lining wicks up the liquid.

It can also be used to protect olive oil, vinegar, perfume and other liquids.

Purchase online at Three Jet Bags are $15; larger quantities are available if you want to give them as stocking stuffers.



GIFT OF THE DAY: Truffle Popcorn Kit

Truffle popcorn kit. Photo courtesy

This is not your average popcorn gift. There’s no buttered, cheese-flavored and caramel corn in a gift tin. That’s kid stuff.

Here, the product is strictly for adults; specifically, adults who love truffles.

Truffles are one of the costliest foods in the world. While most truffle fans can’t afford frequent helpings of fresh truffle, they can get a hit of truffle aroma and flavor as often as they like with 479° Popcorn’s Pop It Yourself Truffle Popcorn Kit.

The kit includes a large jar of heirloom popcorn kernels, a can of La Tourangelle black truffle oil, black truffle sea salt, 10 glossy paper popcorn cones and recipe cards, packaged in a silver-colored box.

In addition to truffle, Pop It Yourself Kits are available in sweet/savory and Popcorn That Gives Back without special seasonings, but with a percentage of sales going to an urban student program to plant edible gardens. There’s also ready-to-eat popcorn in eight terrific flavors.



TIP OF THE DAY: Help With The Thanksgiving Turkey

Everyone knows about the Butterball Hotline—the number you call on Thanksgiving when you have a question about—or a problem with—your turkey and stuffing. Many of us have used it—even a fictional president of the United States.

The Butterball Hotline was featured in a memorable episode of “The West Wing,” when president Jed Bartlet called it (1.800.Butterball) on Thanksgiving with a question about stuffing and cooking the turkey. See the video and you’ll pick up a few tips.

Perhaps President Bartlet didn’t know that the USDA has its own Meat & Poultry Hotline. You can phone 1.888.674.6854, weekdays from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time (in English or Spanish), and on Thanksgiving Day from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

However, you’ve got a week before a problem or crisis potentially arrives. Do some advance study at and nip it in the drumstick.

And read our post on cooking turkey safely.

Can’t cook? Order a roast turkey and all
the trimmings from


THANKSGIVING: Send A Gorgeous Cake

Shown: 7-inch cake and individual size.
Photo courtesy Financier Pâtisserie.

Don’t like pumpkin pie? Find pecan pie too cloying?

Financier Pâtisserie will send a beautiful seasonal cake to you, your holiday host, or anyone you’d like to wish a Happy Thanksgiving.

Beautifully crafted in the French tradition, the cakes are available in 7-inch or 9-inch sizes for $22.50 and $32.50, respectively. Choose from:

  • Pumpkin Cheesecake with a cookie crust
  • Pecan Caramel Aux Poires, a pecan crust topped with crémeux caramel (similar to crème brûlée), poached pears, chocolate génoise, vanilla bavarian and a caramel glaze (shown in photo)
  • Chocolate Mousse Cake with Chai Crème Brûlée, a macaron crust topped with chocolate ganache, thin layers of chocolate cake, chai crème brûlée and a light chocolate mousseOrder online at

    See our Cake Glossary for more beautiful cakes.


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