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Archive for Chanukah

RECIPE: Chicken Liver Crostini…Or Maybe Foie Gras

Chicken Liver Crostini

Chicken Livers On Baguette Toast

Torchon With Toasted Baguette

Dartagnan Foie Gras Torchon

[1] This recipe from Emiko Davies at Honest Cooking is popular in Tuscany (it also contains mushrooms). [2] Food Network adds a garnish of chopped hard-boiled egg and sliced radishes (recipe). Other colored vegetables also work, from asparagus and coronations to grape tomatoes. [3] A torchon of foie gras with toasted baguette (photo courtesy Elle France). [4] You can purchase a ready-to-eat torchon from D’Artagnan.


Crostini and bruschetta have entered the American mainstream over the past 20 years (here’s the difference).

At better restaurants, a bowl of soup is often served with a side or floating garnish of crostini, which can be simple toasted baguette slices (or other bread) and a side of butter or other spread; or topped with anything from cheese (blue, brie, feta, goat) to mashed avocado and bean purée.

As millions of Americans get ready to enjoy the customary chopped liver Rosh Hashanah dinner, take a detour from the customary on saltines, rye or pumpernickel. Make chicken liver crostini.

You can make them with store-bought chopped chicken liver or mousse, but we always keep the tradition going with our Nana’s recipe.

Nana served her chopped liver with Nabisco saltines or Stoned Wheat Thins. When we were young, Mom had moved beyond those to party pumpernickel and [homemade] rye toasts.

Other families prefer triangles of white toast or rye bread. We like baguette crostini or (for a chopped liver sandwich) rye bread.

At Passover, chopped liver is served with matzoh.

Crostini is the Italian name for croutons—not American salad croutons, but small size pieces of toast like a sliced, toasted baguette or a similar Italian loaf. They’re splendid with chopped liver, and are commonplace in Italy as a base for chopped liver.

European chopped chicken liver dates back perhaps 3,000 years. The chicken, which originated in [take your pick—the jury is still out] Africa, China or the Middle East, didn’t get to Western Europe until about 1000 B.C.E.

You can bet that every part of the bird was used, including the innards. We’ve seen some European recipes that of the chopped the liver liver together with the heart and gizzard, no doubt as their ancestors did.

Many Americans think of chopped chicken liver as Jewish cooking, served at holidays and special events. But it’s also served by European Christians.

In Tuscany, Crostini di Fegatini (chicken liver crostini) is on every Christmas table—made by nonna (grandma), or with her recipe, and spread on crostini. As in Jewish households, its served for every birthday dinner or special occasion meal, and can be found on “the menu of literally every trattoria in Tuscany,” per Emiko Davies, a food writer and photographer specializing in Italian cuisine.

Here’s her recipe, adapted from one of those Tuscan trattorias.

On the opposite side of the country, in Venice, the recipes use butter and calves liver. In France, heavy cream and cognac (no surprise there!).

As much as we love Nana’s chicken liver, for us the ultimate chicken liver crostini is not chicken liver at all, but a slice of a duck liver torchon or terrine (a.k.a. foie gras) on toasted brioche.

The liver comes fully prepared, with nothing to do except slice it and make the crostini.

If you’re used to spending on good steaks, you can afford it. A 5-ounce torchon (good for 10 or more slices) is $39.99 and a 1-pound torch is $99.99, at

It makes a lovely gift for a foie-gras (or chopped liver) lover.

In addition to room temperature chopped liver on crostini, you can also serve crostini topped with warm sautéed chicken livers and onions. Just slice the livers into pieces after sautéing.

For some food fun, serve a duo of chicken liver crostini as an appetizer: one with chopped liver, one with sautéed liver.

What’s the difference between an appetizer and an hors d’oeuvre? See below.


This recipe calls for schmaltz, rendered chicken fat. Some European cultures use butter, cream or olive oil. Just keep to these fats.

We once were served chopped chicken liver at a Passover seder, made with mayonnaise! The guest who brought it must not have been able to find or make schmaltz. We will never forget that taste (think of pastrami or corned beef with mayonnaise). Oy.

Prep time is 20 minutes, cook time is 10 minutes, plus optional chilling time. Nana insisted on making the liver at least a half-day in advance, to allow the flavors to meld in the fridge.

Chopped Liver Consistency

Depending on the preferences of the cook, chopped liver can be coarse, medium, or blended into a mousse-type consistency with some extra fat.

Our preference is medium-to-mousse, but cooks with less time can go rustic. It’s just as tasty; we just a finer texture on the palate.


  • 2 pounds fresh chicken livers, rinsed and patted try
  • 1 cup rendered chicken fat (schmaltz—recipe below)
  • 2 cups yellow onions, medium to fine dice
  • 4 extra-large eggs, hard-cooked and finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • Optional: 1/2 to 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary or thyme leaves (or more parsley
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

    1. CHECK the livers and remove any fat or membrane. Heat a large sauté or fry pan to medium heat. Add 3 tablespoons of rendered chicken fat and add the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden but not brown—about 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer the onions to a large plate and wipe out the pan.

    2. COOK the livers 1 pound at a time. Place the livers in the same pan in a single layer, and season them with salt and pepper. Add three more tablespoons of fat and turn the heat to high. When the fat begins to shimmer, place the livers in the pan in a single layer. Cook the livers for 2 to 2-1/2 minutes per side until browned, turning once. You want to to get the insides just pink. Never overcook liver!

    3. TRANSFER the livers to the plate with the onions and repeat with the second pound of livers and 3 more tablespoons of fat. Let the cooked livers to cool on a platter.

    4. CHOP the livers and onions to your desired consistency. If you don’t have great knife skills, the time-honored Jewish technique is to use a mezzaluna and a wooden chopping bowl. You can buy them as a set, but it’s much easier—and less expensive—to use a double-blade mezzaluna and purchase a separate 12″ wood bowl. You can use the mezzaluna to chop vegetables or anything else; and the wood bowl doubles as a salad bowl, chip bowl, etc.

    Don’t plus in a food processor without experimenting to see if you can get the consistency you want (it could end up like mousse). If you do use a processor, pulse in small batches so the bottom won’t liquefy before the top ingredients are well chopped.

    5. ADD the chopped eggs, herbs, seasonings and the remaining chicken fat to the bowl. Toss to combine. If you want a finer consistency, continue chopping. Refrigerate until ready to use.
    *You can substitute turkey livers. Here’s a party-size recipe from the New York Times.



    If you love chopped liver as much as we do, play around with the recipe and see which suits you. Some people like less hard-boiled egg mixed in; others leave it out of the liver and use it as a garnish on top. Some people like more herbs and onions, some people prefer less.

    Some people like the Italian custom of adding wine or fortified wine, the addition of fresh sage and garlic, and shallots instead of yellow onions.

    Our favorite chopped liver appetizer preparation is our own Four-Onion Chopped Liver Crostini: chopped liver and onions (the basic recipe above), with a garnish of caramelized onions, some pickled onions on the side (red onions or cocktail onions), and a plate garnish of minced chives. Wowsa!
    Optional Mix-Ins

    Don’t use them all at once to find your ideal chopped liver recipe. Test small batches to see what you prefer.

    After you cook one or two pounds of livers, divide the batch and add the additional flavors you want to try.

    Some of the following are Italian touches; others were incorporated to Jewish-style chopped liver we’ve had along the way. If add adding wine or spirits, add them the last few minutes of cooking the livers.

  • 1/4 cup reconstituted dried mushrooms or sautéed fresh mushrooms, both finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons pancetta, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves minced sautéed garlic
  • Heat: a pinch cayenne or chipotle powder, splash of hot sauce, etc.
  • Wine or spirits: 2 tablespoons dry white wine, port, madeira, marsala, sherry, vin santo; or 1 tablespoon brandy or 80-proof spirit
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or lemon juice
  • Crunch: ½ stalk celery or 1/2 large carrot, finely chopped
    Optional Garnishes

  • Apple or fig slicet
  • Baby arugula
  • Caramelilzed onions (delish!)
  • Chutney, fig or sour cherry jam, etc.
  • Coarse sea salt, plain or flavored
  • Cornichons, halved
  • Cress, microgreens or sprouts
  • Fresh herbs: parsley, sage, thyme
  • Hard-boiled eggs or yolks only (for more color), chopped
    †Aside from a garnish, you can create bottom layer of sliced apple or fig, with the chicken liver on top.


    Plan ahead: Save the uncooked chicken fat and skin you trim from chicken instead of throwing them away. Freeze them, and when you have enough, defrost and you’re ready to render.

  • You can also get chicken fat—often free—from butchers, who throw it away (except kosher butchers, who know their customers will buy it). Ask at your butcher shop or supermarket meat department.
  • You can also collect the fat from homemade chicken soup. Refrigerate it and skim the solid fat that rises to the top. It won’t be a whole lot, but every few tablespoons count.
  • You can see the entire process in photos from Tori Avey (who uses a slightly different recipe than we have here).
    Get Ready To Enjoy Gribenes

    The by-product of rendering the skin for fat are cracklings: crispy pieces of chicken skin. In Yiddish they’re called gribenes (grih-beh-NESS) or grieven (GREE-vin), which means “scraps” in Hebrew.

    They’re a prized treat to eat on potatoes or anything else. When a whole chicken is being used for soup and the skin isn’t needed (it just adds fat that needs to be skimmed off later), it can be cut into strips for gribenes. Cooked with sliced onions, the result is memorable.

    Ready to render?
    Ingredients For 1/2 Cup Or More‡

  • 8 ounces chicken fat and/or raw skin, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
    ‡Rendering fat only produces more schmaltz than rendering fat with skin.



    Chopped Liver With Caramelized Onions

    Chopped Chicken Livers

    Chicken Liver Crostini With Chutney

    Chicken Liver Mousse

    Chicken Liver Mousse

    [5] This double garnish from is a dynamite combination of caramelized onions and fresh sage. [6] Arugula garnish (photo courtesy [7] Kings uses a garnish of baby sage and cranberry sauce or chutney (the recipe). [8] Chef Craig Wallen whips the livers into mousse consistency and garnishes the crostini with coarse sea salt (the recipe; photo by Stephanie Bourgeois). [9] Alton Brown serves DIY crostini, with individual ramekins of chicken liver mousse and a side of toasts. His recipe uses cream and cognac (photo courtesy Food Network).

    1. COMBINE the chicken fat and any skin in a small saucepan, along with the thyme, garlic and water. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-low heat.

    2. COOK until the fat has rendered (liquefied) and the skin pieces are crispy, about 35 to 45 minutes. As liquid fat fills the pan, drain it into a measuring cup or other vessel; the gribenes will take longer to get crisp.

    3. EAT the gribenes as soon as possible after they come out of the pan. Don’t refrigerate; they’ll go limp. These delicious cracklings can be eaten with potatoes, garnish a salad or chicken/turkey sandwich, grits or polenta, etc. Both Nana and Mom ate them straight from the pan.

    4. COOL the chicken fat slightly, then strain it into a lidded jar. It will keep for up to one week, maybe longer.

    The terms are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference:

    Hors d’oeuvre (there’s no extra “s” in French: it’s the same spelling singular or plural), pronounced or-DERV, refers to finger food, such as canapés, served with drinks prior to the meal. The name means “outside the work,” i.e., not part of the main meal.

    French hors d’oeuvre were traditionally one-bite items, artistically constructed. Today, the category of has expanded to mini quiches, skewers, tarts; baby lamb chops; stuffed mushrooms, etc.

    An appetizer is a first course, served at the table and in larger portions. While you can plate multiple hors d’oeuvres as an appetizer,

    What about crackers and cheese, crudités and dips, salsa and chips, and other popular American foods served with pre-dinner drinks? Since they are finger foods, you can call them hors d’oeuvre. American hors d’oeuvre.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Christmas Tree & Star Of David Napkin Folds

    Star Fold Christmas Napkin

    Star Of David Napkin Fold

    TOP PHOTO: Dress your holiday table with a Christmas tree napkin fold. Photo courtesy BOTTOM PHOTO: A Star Of David napkin fold for Chanukah. Photo courtesy Expert Village.


    Some people go all out decorating the holiday table: bowls of ornaments, candelabra, flowers, holly, miniature rosemary trees, pine boughs, pine cones, pomanders, reindeer, ribbons, the works.

    We always have so much food on the table that we need to keep things simple. We do it with a special tablecloth and napkins.

    And napkin folds.

    Last year we folded the dinner napkins in the shape of a traditional Christmas tree. This year, it’s a more abstract tree with a star.

    We found the top napkin fold on, the website of Better Homes & Gardens.

    BHG has topped it with a star-shaped napkin ring. We don’t have star-shaped rings, but have jeweled gold-tone rings that will do the trick…unless we can pick up star rings on sale a day or two before Christmas.

    See how to fold the napkin, including a video, at

    If you don’t want a tree, has collected 20 different holiday folds.

    Chinet has a nice collection, including a poinsettia and a double star. There are also year-round designs.

    We like how folds napkins into festive bows.

    Elf hats, anyone? Here’s a video from Good Housekeeping.

    Celebrating Chanukah? Here’s a Star of David. Star of David napkin fold (photo above).

    If you think you can do it, try this Star Of David, based on origami techniques.



    The art of napkin folding is called napery. The word comes from the Old French naperie, tablecloth.

    Not surprisingly, it started with royalty. According to one source, the art dates back to the around 1400, a time when warm napkins or even perfumed napkins graced the tables of the elite. Another source credits the reign of Louis XIV, 1643-1715.

    The craft trickled down to the homes of the wealthy and almost-wealthy (the upper middle class). At fine tables in the 19th century, starched napkins were artfully folded nightly.
    What About The Napkin Ring?

    The use of napkin rings began in Europe during the Napoleonic era, 1799 to 1815. They were developed not for royalty, but for the bourgeoisie (middle class).

    The wealthy could afford freshly-laundered napkins at every meal; but the bourgeoisie lacked the servant bandwidth to make that happen. As a result, one cloth napkin would be used for all the meals in one day, or even for an entire week. Monogrammed napkin rings identified whom each napkin belonged to.

    In modern times, napkin rings have become decorative, and using them is much quicker than napery.

    Interested in the craft? Get a book on napkin folding and go to town! Gearing up for Valentine’s Day, the cover photo of the linked book is a pink napkin in a heart-shape fold.


    TIP OF THE DAY: Holiday Drinks Menu

    What’s on the cocktail menu for the holidays? Egg nog and sparkling wine are perennial favorites.

    But offer guests holiday drink menu. Here are some of the beverages we serve, all with a holiday theme.



  • Instead of white wine, make a Cranberry Kir: white wine with a splash of cranberry liqueur. It’s our own adaptation of the popular French drink, Kir (white wine plus blackcurrant liqueur).
  • Instead of plain red wine, make mulled wine with holiday spices. You can serve it warm or chilled.
    Seasonal Beer

    Turn to craft breweries for seasonal beers and ales. Many craft beers are only distributed regionally, but here are some we’ve found in wider distributions (check your local shelves for options):

  • Christmas ale: Anchor Brewing, Great Lakes, Rogue
  • Chanukah beer: He’Brew Chanukah Beer
  • Pumpkin ale: Buffalo Bill’s, Shipyard and all of these
  • Winter ale: Blue Point, Blue Moon, Samuel Adams
    Cranberry Cocktails

  • Cranberry Martini
  • Cranberry Mojito
  • Cranberry Tequila Comfort
    Eggnog Cocktails

    In addition to all kinds of variations on traditional eggnog recipes, there are also eggnog cocktails which have fewer calories than straight eggnog (which is perhaps the most caloric beverage on earth).

  • Eggnog White Russian
  • Eggnog Martini
    Ginger Cocktails

  • Ginger Martini
  • Ginger Joy (with pear liqueur)

    Cranberry Cocktail Garnish

    Egg Nog Cocktail

    TOP PHOTO: A cranberry and mint leaf garnish works for any cocktail. Photo courtesy Sarah’s Joy. BOTTOM PHOTO: Egg nog is less caloric in an eggnog cocktail. Photo courtesy Selvarey Rum.



    Cranberry Kir

    Cranberry liqueur plus white wine makes a
    Cranberry Kir. Use sparkling wine and it’s a
    Cranberry Kir Royale. Photo courtesy Drink


    Chanukah Cocktails

  • Blue Chanukah Cocktail (think of it as a vodka Margarita; you can substitute tequila)
  • Chocolate Gelt Cocktail (chocolate vodka plus Goldschlager)
    Warm Drinks

  • Hot Buttered Rum (Rum Toddy)
  • Glogg
  • Mulled Wine
    Non-Alcoholic Drinks

  • Cranberry seltzer: Canada Dry, Polar Ocean Spray Sparkling Cranberry
  • Cranberry soda: Cape Cod, Sierra Mist (Regular and Diet), Sprite Cranberry (Regular and Diet)
  • Cranberry tea: Bigelow, Republic of Tea, Stash (caffeinated and herbal are available; serve hot or iced)
  • Mulled cider (make it without alcohol, stir in the spirits for those who want them)

    Serve responsibly! Always have attractive non-alcholic options for guests who should be cut off.



    GIFTS: Stocking Stuffers, Part 1

    For stocking stuffers, we look for special items around $10 (or less). Here’s the first bunch of gourmet foods we’d like to find in our stocking.


    In polka dot gift bags of 20 caramels, Annie B’s caramels are sure to please. The Signature Mix includes Butter Rum, Chocolate, Sea Salt and Original (vanilla) caramels. The Holiday Mix has Chocolate Raspberry, Peppermint and Pumpkin Spice caramels. The Chocolate Lovers Mix has Chocolate, Chocolate Sea Salt and Chocolate Raspberry.

    Each bag is $8. There are larger gift boxes and keepsake metal tins, $24. Get them at

    These sweet Italian Christmas breads now come in 3.5-ounce mini sizes—the equivalent of a breakfast pastry or a croissant. But what a pleasure biting into the little domed yeasty raisin bread (panettone) or sponge cake (pandoro)—we prefer the panettone. They’re $2.99 each at

    If you want to give a full-size version, no one will be disappointed. It just won’t fit in the stocking. See the whole line at The line is certified kosher by Star-D.

    Chocolate bars from two prestige producers are just right for stocking stuffers.

  • Cailler (kai-YAY) from Switzerland is very smooth and creamy milk chocolate. The Swiss invented milk chocolate, so you know it’s special. Choices include plain Rich and Creamy, plus Hazelnut, Almond Hazelnut and Cranberry and Almond Hazelnut and Raisin. Each bar is packaged in charming box-like wrapper.
    There are also dark chocolate bars and boxes of bonbons. Three individual bars are $13.50 at Amazon. For more information visit
  • Chuao Chocolatier (chew-WOW) in California makes two holiday chocolate bars we love: Hope, Joy & Gingerbread in milk chocolate, and Peace, Love & Peppermint in dark chocolate. The 2.8-ounce bars are $6 at We’ve got to stock up on enough Gingerbread to get us through until next year’s Christmas chocolate is produced.

    There’s lots of hand-crafted fudge around, but The Mill Fudge Factory gets it right: just sweet enough, not cloying. It’s melt-in-your-mouth moist, hand-cut and hand-dated for freshness.

    The company makes classic and inventive flavors. Choose from Belgian Chocolate, Chocolate Coconut, Chocolate Salted Caramel, Chocolate Raspberry, Chocolate Walnut, Natural Peanut Butter, Penuche and Pure New Hampshire Maple. Seasonal flavors include Cranberry Maple Nut, Eggnog, Holiday Mint and Pumpkin Pie.

    Want a hint of spirits? Scottish Whiskey fudge is made with with Johnny Walker Red. Cabin Fever Maple Whiskey Fudge is made with the whiskey declared the best flavored whiskey on the market. And Bailey’s Irish Cream Fudge is a perennial favorte.

    We loved every bite we tried of the regular fudge flavors. The sugar-free fudge was OK, but we could taste the erythriytol—we hope the company will consider re-formulating with maltitol (see the different types of non-nutritive sweeteners).


    Annie B's Caramels

    Bauli Mini Panettone

    Gingerbread Chocolate Bar

    Fudge With Whiskey

    TOP PHOTO: Annie B’s gift bag of caramels. SECOND PHOTO: A mini panettone from Bauli. THIRD PHOTO: Holiday chocolate bars from Chuao Chocolatier. BOTTOM PHOTO: The Mill Fudge Factory has conventional and “spirited” fudge.

    All confections are available in sampler gift boxes; half-pound portions are $10, one-pound is $18.00. There are more elaborate gift baskets, a four pound Fudge Sampler for $60 and a Fudge of the Month Club 3, 6 and 12 months, $14.99 or less per month. There’s free shipping on orders of $35 or more.

    Go for it at


    Quin Coffee Marshmallows

    Snowman Marshmallows

    Superseedz Pouches

    Topperfino Chocolate Mug Toppers

    TOP PHOTO: A foot of marshmallows from
    Quin Candy. SECOND PHOTO: A marsh-
    mallow snowman topper for hot chocolate or
    coffee, from Sur La Table. THIRD PHOTO:
    Three of the nine flavors of Superseedz.
    BOTTOM PHOTO: Topperfino chocolate mug



    Quin’s melt-in-your-mouth marshmallows are different from any others. They’re made in foot-long lengths, then cut into thirds to fit into a stocking-worthy packet. In Coffee, Root Beer or Vanilla, they’re delicious, fun and $4 per bag (2.9 ounces) at


    These adorable vanilla marshmallow discs with a snowman face are new and nifty. Individually wrapped in a perky square box, Frosty’s marshmallow face peers through a cut-out.

    Place one atop a cup of hot chocolate and it will melt into something even more delicious than it looks. The marshmallows work with coffee, too—especially flavored coffees like hazelnut and vanilla, or with a spritz of pumpkin spice syrup. We’ve used them to top chocolate teas, too.

    They’re $9.95 per box at

    SuperSeedz was a Top Pick Of The Week in 2007, and we’ve been superfanz ever since. Pumpkin seeds are a gift for anyone: vegan and cholesterol-free with 7g of complete, plant-based protein per serving. That means they contain the nine essential amino acids (more than peanuts, pistachios, almonds and chia seeds).

    They’re allergen friendly: dairy-free, egg-free, fish-free, peanut-free, shellfish-free, soy-free, tree nut-free and made with gluten-free ingredients. And they’re shell-free! SuperSeedz are dry-roasted in small batches, using a proprietary pan-roasting technique that bakes the seasoning right into each seed.
    Superseedz are currently available in nine flavors: Cinnamon & Sugar, Coco Joe, Curious Curry, Really Naked, Maple Sugar & Sea Salt, Sea Salt, Somewhat Spicy, Super Spicy and Tomato Italiano. Find them at food retailers across the U.S., including Safeway, Sprouts and Whole Foods Markets.

    They can also be purchased online at Two 1-ounce individual serving pouches are $3.99; a 5-ounce pouch is $4.99.

    Our Top Pick Of The Week, Topperfino chocolate discs sit atop your hot chocolate or coffee, providing marvelous aroma before melting in to add Belgian chocolate to the cup.

    There are so many beautiful designs, in both dark and milk chocolate, that your biggest challenge will be deciding which design is perfect for which giftee. A box of 10 individually-wrapped discs is $13.99 at




    HOLIDAY GIFTS: Gourmet Chocolate

    Edible Chocolate Box - Charles Chocolates

    Kakawa Cocoa Beans

    John & Kira's Winter Bonbons

    Chocolate & Whiskey Figs John & Kira's

    TOP PHOTO: Edible chocolate box with bonbons from Charles Chocolates. SECOND PHOTO: Coco Puro’s chocolate-coated cacao beans. THIRD PHOTO: Ganache-filled bonbons from John & Kira’s. BOTTOM PHOTO: Calabacita figs filled with chocolate whiskey ganache from John & Kira’s.


    We love putting together holiday gift lists, sharing our must-have favorites. The chocolate items here begin at $12. Items under $10 are on our Stocking Stuffers list, out later this week.

    If you’re looking for kosher gifts, check out Li-Lac Chocolates, below.


    Our favorite chocolate-covered nuts are from Charles Chocolates: Triple Chocolate Almonds, premium California almonds that are fresh-roasted, then coated in bittersweet and milk chocolates and dusted with cocoa powder. They’re also available in Mint Chocolate Almond and Triple Chocolate Hazelnut, 6.5 ounces for $12. Toffee Chocolate Macadamias are $15 for 6.3 ounces. An assortment of all four varieties is $46.

    A memorable treat is the Edible Chocolate Box (top photo), filled with fleur de sel caramels, milk chocolate caramels and bittersweet peanut praliné butterflies. Seventeen ounces of chocolate, including the box, are $46.00.

    Get yours at

    Kakawa Cocoa Beans (second photo) are a unique gift for the chocolate connoisseur: chocolate-covered cacao beans—the whole bean, not the nibs, which are the “seeds” of the bean.

    The finest beans are roasted until crunchy, like coffee beans; then hand-enrobed in layers of white, milk and dark chocolate and dusted with cocoa powder. That’s five expressions of chocolate in one bite!

    Kakawa is the Olmec word for cacao. The Olmecs were the first people to cultivate the cacao plant in Mesoamerica.

    A 12-ounce bag is $28 at

    Of all the wonderful choices at John & Kira’s, two are our favorites for holiday gifting:

    The Winter Forest Collection (third photo) comprises three seasonal designs and bonbon flavors, all enrobed in a 62% Valrhona dark chocolate shell.

    Snowcapped peak bonbons contain a crunchy hazelnut-almond praline center, crystalline snowflakes are filled with white chocolate mint ganache, and a starry night envelops vanilla-accented dark chocolate ganache.

    Nine pieces in a handsome reusable box are $29.95 at

    Our perennial favorite are the Chocolate-Filled Figs With A Touch Of Whiskey (fourth photo). It’s become our annual treat to ourself, and truth be told, we buy two boxes (and have to restrain ourself from buying double that, and don’t share a single piece).

    A treat for the refined palate, organic dried Calabacita figs are filled with a whiskey-infused Valrhona dark chocolate ganache; then hand-dipped in 62% dark chocolate and nestled in a handsome gift box.

    Each bite becomes a treasured memory; and if you think we’re getting flowery here, just taste them! Get yours at Twelve pieces are $38.50.




    This French chocolate gift assortment contains a luscious mix of milk and dark chocolate squares filled with soft centers: caramels, chocolate fudge, French creams, hazelnut truffle squares, mocha, mousse, marzipan, and rum ganache. Inspired by European-style chocolates from the 1920s, we said “yum” out loud with every bite.

    Twenty pieces in a handsome repurposable box, 8.5 ounces of chocolate are $28. Larger boxes—one pound, two pounds and three pounds—are also available. The line is certified kosher (dairy) by OU. Get them at

    The venerable Parisian chocolatier, with outposts in New York City, has created something truly special: the Sweet and Savoury Collection. For the connoisseur, these surprising pairings of chocolate and vegetables are quite wonderful (but do not count toward your daily portions of veggies).

    The flavors include: dark ganache with Guérande sea salt, dark ganache with hot red pepper, ganache with balsamic caramelized onions, hazelnut praliné with porcini mushrooms and praliné with black olives and olive oil. These combinations may sound strange to most people; but for the true connoisseur, they are treasures.


    Li-Lac French Chocolates

    Maison Du Chocolat Savoury Collection

    TOP PHOTO: Wonderful French-style chocolates from Li-Lac. BOTTOM PHOTO: Savoury chocolates from Maison du Chocolat.


    The Savoury Chocolate Collection can be enjoyed at any time of the day or night, but Master Chef Nicolas Cloiseau, who created the collection, enjoys it between the last course of dinner and dessert. Get yours at There are two sizes, $24 and $36.
    Almost all of these chocolatiers sell a variety of chocolates; so if you haven’t found what you’re looking for yet, browse their websites.



    TIP: Gourmet Grocery Store Gift Card

    If you can’t think of a gift for people who like good food—because you don’t know exactly what they’d like—consider a gift card.

    A gift card to a premium market enables recipients to try new things or buy luxury items like artisan cheeses.

    Many of us our space-challenged at home, cramming those gift sweaters and bath products into already crammed drawers and closets. Unlike most gifts, which require space to store, a gift card can be spent and consumed in the same day.

    You can purchase gift cards in-store, of course. Some retailers, like Whole Foods, let you buy the cards online as well, with the option to send them digitally with a personalized holiday message.

    The photo is actually the 2014 limited edition holiday gift card from Whole Foods.

    Solved: what to get your favorite cook or foodie.



    The limited edition 2014 holiday gift card from Whole Foods Market. Photo courtesy Whole Foods.




    FOOD FUN: Beer Menorah

    For 18 years, the Shmaltz Brewing Company has been handcrafting HE’BREW, classic beers with culturally-relevant names (certified kosher, of course, by KSA).

    Chanukah begins tonight, so take a look!


    The brewery currently makes:

  • Barrel Aged Funky Jewbellation
  • Bittersweet Lenny’s R.I.P.A.
  • Chanukah Beer
  • David’s Slingshot
  • Death Of A Contract Brewer
  • Genesis Dry Hopped Session Ale
  • Hop Manna IPA
  • Jewbelation 18 (18 malts, 18 hops)
  • Messiah Nut Brown Ale
  • Origin Pomegranate Ale
  • Rejewvenator Dubbel Doppel
  • Reunion Ale 2014
  • St. Lenny’s Belgian Rye Double IPA


    Chanukah beer. Photo courtesy Schmaltz Brewing Company.


    There’s a He’Brew Gift pack of eight different styles that includes a custom glass an Chanukah candles to build your own beer menorah, and possibly enter it in the annual contest.

    This is non-denominational enjoyment: Feel free to participate no matter what your religious beliefs.

    To find a retailer in your area, contact your local distributor.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Chanukah Cocktail

    Toast to Chanukah or winter. Photo courtesy
    SKYY Spirits.


    Spell it Chanukah or Hanukkah: The word for the Jewish Festival Of Lights was translitrated from the Hebrew alphabet. The name derives from the Hebrew verb for “to dedicate.”

    This year, Chanukah begins at sundown on December 16th and ends at sunset on Wednesday, December 24th.. The date is based on the Hebrew calendar months*, which are of different lengths than our Gregorian calendar months.

    Chanukah commemorates an event in the 2nd century B.C.E.: the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, that had been destroyed during Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire of Syria.

    According to the Talmud, for the rededication, unadulterated and undefiled pure olive oil with the seal of the high priest was needed to light the menorah (candelabra) in the Temple, which was required to burn throughout the night every night.

    However, only one flask of oil was found, with enough to burn for just one day. Yet, the oil burned for eight days, and during that time a fresh supply of kosher oil was prepared to continue.

    Based on this miracle, an eight-day festival was declared by the Jewish sages.

    Traditional Chanukah foods are fried in honor of the miracle oil: doughnuts, loukoumades (deep-fried puffs dipped in honey or sugar) and latkes (potato pancakes).

    But there is no official Chanukah beverage. So this year, for fun and festivity, we’re publishing a Chanukah cocktail recipe—colored ice blue, a color of the flag of Israel (which is blue and white). The recipe is from SKYY Spirits.

    You don’t have to officially celebrate Chanukah in order to whip up a batch. Several years ago, we received the very same recipe called the Winter Chill.

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1 ounce citrus vodka
  • 1 ounce blue Curaçao
  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 1 ounce triple sec
  • Ice
  • Optional rim garnish: blue or white sanding sugar (or a blend)

    1. COMBINE the ingredients with ice in a shaker.

    2. SHAKE vigorously and strain into a Martini glass.



    Curaçao (pronounced KOO-ruh-sow) is an orange-flavored liqueur made from the dried peel of a citrus fruit called the laraha, which is grown on the Caribbean island of Curaçao. The laraha was bred from the sweet Valencia orange that was planted by Spanish explorers.

    The orange did not grow well in the nutrient-poor soil and arid climate of Curaçao. It yielded small fruits with bitter, inedible flesh. However, the peels maintained much of the sweet, aromatic essence of the Valencia.

    Orange peel has utility and economic value, so the Valencia trees were eventually bred into the laraha species.

    To make the liqueur, the dried peels are soaked in a still with alcohol and water, and spices are added. The liqueur is naturally colorless like triple sec, another orange liqueur.

    But Curaçao is often colored, typically blue, which creates vibrant-colored, exotic-looking cocktails. The coloring in Blue Curaçao does not alter the taste.



    Blue Curaçao and the oranges from which it is made. Photo courtesy DeKuyper USA.

    *Chanukah begins on the 25th day of Kislev, which may occur at any time from late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar. More about the calendar.



    GIFT: Harney Tea In Holiday Flavors

    For Thanksgiving and Christmas gifts, there are seasonal flavors and boxed gift sets for the tea lover. Among the finest are these, from Harney & Sons, include:

  • Cranberry Autumn, flavored black tea is a full-bodied brew, sweet and tart with dried cranberries and orange peel.
  • Pomegranate Oolong, bright, floral. Just open the tin and the juicy aroma of pomegranate wafts up to you.
  • Pumpkin Spice, caffeine-free rooibos (red) tea, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and natural pumpkin flavor
    There’s also a Holiday Tea Blend, a black tea spiced with citrus, almond, clove and cinnamon. It’s available on tea bags and loose teas. A reusable gift tin of 20 silky tea sachets is $8.67 on Amazon.

    White Christmas Tea
    is a white tea with holiday aromas and flavors: nut aromas from almonds, spice from cardamom and sweet creaminess from vanilla.

    For Hanukkah, there’s a Celebration Tea gift set. The tea has traditional English flavors of fruits and nuts, and is packaged with caramels from Torn Ranch, mini Star Shortbreads from Walker’s, Chocolate Coins from Lake Champlain Chocolates and a Delphine Jacquard tea towel. All food products are certified kosher.



    Holiday tea gift box from Harney & Sons. Photo by Hannah Kaminsky | THE NIBBLE.

    Teas can be purchased in individual tins or in gift sets, with lovely packaging. Discover more holiday selections at

    For anyone who loves tea and wants to learn more about it, we recommend The Harney & Sons Guide To Tea. It’s informative, meant for consumers (as opposed to tea industry professionals), and is full of “Wow, I’m glad to know that” information.



    PRODUCT: Menorah Challah Bread

    There are different ways to braid a challah, but we’ve never seen one this clever.

    To celebrate Chanukah, Hanukkah or however you spell it, Manhattan specialty food purveyor Eli Zabar has created this whimsical challah menorah.

    It’s not kosher, but it is delicious. Order yours at

    At $45, it may be the costliest bread you’ve ever eaten; but the extra labor to create the menorah must be factored in.


    A menorah made from challah from


    Challah is a special braided bread consumed on the Jewish Sabbath and holidays.

    According to Jewish tradition, the three Sabbath meals (Friday dinner, Saturday lunch and Saturday dinner) and two meals for each holiday (dinner the evening of the holiday and lunch the following day) each begin with two complete loaves of challah. This two loaves commemorate the manna that fell from the heavens to feed the Israelites as they wandered in the desert after their exodus from Egypt.

    According to the legend, manna did not fall on Sabbath or holidays; instead, a double portion would fall the day before.

    By tradition, each single loaf loaf of challah is woven from six ropes of dough. The braided loaf is then brushed with an egg wash before baking, which adds a golden sheen. Together, both loaves have twelve strands, which represent the 12 tribes of Israel.

    Traditional challah is a sweet, eggy bread mixed from eggs (often five of them), fine white flour, water, sugar, yeast, and salt.

  • Honey or molasses can be substituted as a sweetener.
  • Some bakers add raisins to the dough, and/or sprinkle sesame or poppy seeds on top of the loaf for added flavor.
  • To accommodate contemporary dietary needs, modern recipes can be eggless or gluten free (made with oat flour), or can be made with whole wheat flour.
    Unlike brioche, another sweet, eggy bread, challah is usually parve, containing no butter or milk.


    It is not “hollah.” The “ch” at the beginning of the word is a gutteral sound most familiar as the German “ach,” or the American expression of disgust, “yech.”

    Here’s the actual pronunciation in an audio file (just click).



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