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Archive for Christmas

TIP OF THE DAY: Beautiful Squash For Beautiful Recipes

Stuffed Acorn Squash

Stuffed Acorn Squash

Acorn Squash Rings

Kabocha Squash Bowl

Butternut Squash

[1] A conventional stuffed squash recipe: half a squash, stuffed to the brim. [2] Adding a rim of vegetables (photos #1 and #2 courtesy Chef Eric Levine). [3] Don’t want to serve large portions? Cut the squash into rings with this recipe from [4] Turn the entire kabocha squash into a filled “squash bowl.” Here’s the recipe from Sunset magazine. [5] Butternut squash (photo courtesy


Certainly, a half of baked squash is attractive, not to mention delicious and good for you.

But you can elevate baked squash to a work of art.

The standard winter squashes in supermarkets are the acorn and the butternut. They have similar flavor, but the acorn is round while the butternut is boat-shaped.

While the butternut can be cut into rings or halved into a “boat,” the round, ridged squash have a natural beauty benefit.

Numerous types of winter squash are available in the U.S., in natural food stores and at farmers markets. But some species are particularly beautiful: acorn, blue hubbard, carnival, kabocha (buttercup), lumina (white with white flesh), pattypan, sweet dumpling and others (see more types of squash).

Combine your palate and your personality into your stuffing.

  • Fruits: apples, dried fruits (apricots, cherries, cranberries, raisins), pears, pomegranate arils, quince
  • Grains: barley, breadcrumbs, croutons, quinoa, rice and wild rice, etc.
  • Herbs: parsley, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme
  • Nuts: halved, sliced or chopped as garnish
  • Proteins: bacon, mozzarella, tofu
  • Seasonings: cayenne, chipotle, coriander, cumin, flavored salt, nutmeg, pepper, ras-el-hanout, smoked paprika, zatar
  • Vegetables: brussels sprouts, celery, carrots and other root vegetables, mushrooms
  • Binders: broth, butter, nut oil, olive oil
  • Garnishes: dried cranberries, fresh herbs, shredded cheese (cheddar, gruyère, parmesan)
    Here’s a basic recipe that you can customize as you like.

    Squash is indigenous to Central and South America. It was introduced to the Spanish conquistadors in Mexico, spread via indigenous migration throughout North America, and was introduced by Native American populations to the English setters in Virginia and Massachusetts.

    Squash was easy to grow and hardy enough to store for months, providing a nutritious dietary staple throughout the winter (hence the name, winter squash). While there are many heirloom varieties, today the most commonly found in supermarkets are acorn and butternut squashes.
    Acorn Squash Vs. Butternut Squash

    Acorn squash (Curcubita pepo, var. turbinata) is so called because its shape resembles an acorn. The most common variety is dark green in color, often with a splotch of orange on the side or top.

    Some varieties are variegated (multi-color) and newer varieties include the yellow Golden Acorn squash and white-skinned varieties.

    Like the other popular winter squash, butternut squash (Cucurbita moschata), the skin of an acorn squash is thick and hard, and it is an effort to peel it. But either squash is easily cut in half with a large, sharp knife. It can then be baked, plain or stuffed with grain, meat or vegetable mixtures.

    Acorn squash are smaller than butternut squash (an acorn is one to two pounds, four to seven inches long), and half of an acorn makes a convenient individual portion. It is similar in flavor to butternut.

    Winter squash needs to be cooked.

    All winter squash can be baked, microwaved, sautéed or steamed.

    Don’t hesitate to add the cooked flesh to green salads, mixed vegetables, grains, omelets, and anyplace you’d like another level of flavor and color.

  • The seeds of the squash are toasted and eaten. Initially, the seeds were eaten instead of the flesh until plumper-fleshed varieties were bred.
  • The yellow trumpet flowers that are produced before the squash is fully developed are also edible. They are stuffed and considered a delicacy.
  • The green tops, about three inches’ worth from the end of freshly-harvested squash, are also edible (but not the prickly stem). The squash greens are a popular vegetable in the Philippines. Unless you grow your own or your local farmer doesn’t remove them, you aren’t likely to see them for sale in the U.S.
    Winter squash is a good source of dietary fiber and potassium, with smaller amounts of vitamins C and B, magnesium, and manganese. Surprisingly, because of the color of the flesh, it is not a good source of beta-carotene.

    There are three species of squash, all native to the Americas.

  • Curcubita pepo includes acorn, butternut, pumpkin, summer squashes and others.
  • Curcubita moschata, represented by the Cushaw, Japanese Pie, Large Cheese Pumpkins and Winter Crookneck squashes, arose, like Curcubita pepo, in Mexico and Central America. Both were and are important food, ranking next to maize and beans.
  • Curcubita maxima includes Boston Marrow, Delicious, Hubbard, Marblehead and Turks Turban, and apparently originated near the Andes, or in Andean valleys.

  • The word “squash” comes from the Wampanoag Native American word, askutasquash, meaning “eaten raw or uncooked.” This may refer to the summer squash varieties, yellow squash and zucchini, which can be enjoyed raw.
  • Summer squash, which belong to the same genus and species as most winter squash, are small, quick-growing varieties that are eaten before the rinds and seeds begin to harden.
  • Before the arrival of Europeans, Curcubita pepo and Curcubita moschata had been carried to all parts of North America that were conducive to growth.
  • Many Native American tribes, particularly in the West, still grow a diversity of hardy squashes and pumpkins not to be found in mainstream markets.
  • Squash was unknown in the Old World until the 16th century, brought back by the returning conquistadors. The oldest known prin record of it is dated 1591.
  • Much of canned pumpkin consists of Curcubita moschata squash, not from the jack-o-lantern variety of pumpkin. The best commercially canned varieties are Boston Marrow and Delicious varieties.The flesh of these varieties is much richer and more nutritious than that of pumpkin.


    TIP OF THE DAY: It’s Easy To Bake A Caribbean Rum Bundt Cake

    Caribbean Rum Cake

    Caribbean Rum Cake

    Caribbean Rum Cake

    Butter Rum Flavor Lorann

    [1] A rum cake bundt, heavy on the rum (photo courtesy King Arthur Flour). [2] The rum is poured onto the cake and sits overnight to sink in. This recipe adds cinnamon to the rum syrup (photo courtesy [3] Lots of rum syrup make this cake very moist (photo courtesy [4] This butter-rum oil (not rum extract) adds another layer of deliciousness (photo courtesy Lorann Oils).


    Rum cake is a year-round treat, but we tend to make them in the fall. They go well with a hot cup of tea, and are welcome gifts.

    In the Caribbean, rum cakes are a traditional holiday dessert, descendants of figgy pudding and other Christmas puddings*.

    Rum cakes are descended from British holiday puddings, such as figgy pudding (plum pudding) and fruit cake. Traditionally, dried fruit is soaked in rum for months; but in modern recipes, just an overnight soak suffices.

    “If you’ve ever traveled to the Caribbean,” says King Arthur Flour, the premium baking ingredients company that sent us this recipe, “chances are you’ve had the amazing rum cakes that the islands are famous for. Sadly, these cakes are not often found in northern latitudes but this recipe is the closest we’ve ever had to the ‘real’ thing.

    “Yes, there is a lot of rum in this cake, definitely not for the faint of heart; but the texture and flavor are unbeatable—moist, rich and deeply satisfying. Whisk yourself away to white sandy beaches with this incredible cake.”

    Yes, this is definitely a potent cake (all real rum, no “rum flavor”), very moist and fragrant.

    If you have half an hour, whip one up. Prep time is 30 minutes to 40 minutes, bake time is 50 minutes to 55 minutes.

    In fact, make two: This cake freezes beautifully.


    Ingredients For 1 Large Bundt Cake
    For The Rum Cake Base

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup pastry cream filling mix or instant vanilla pudding mix, dry
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup white or golden rum
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • Optional: 1/4 teaspoon butter rum flavor (recommended—this is not extract but oil)
  • 1/4 cup pecan or almond flour, for dusting baking pan

  • Cooking spray
  • Almond flour to coat pan
    For The Rum Soaking Syrup

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup white or golden rum
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
    Optional For Serving

  • Crème fraîche
  • Mascarpone
  • Vanilla ice cream
  • Whipped cream (we use half the sugar)

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 325°F. Spray a 10 to 12 cup bundt pan with cooking spray. Sprinkle in the almond flour and turn the pan to coat evenly. Set aside.

    2. PLACE all of the cake ingredients except the rum, vanilla and butter rum flavoring in the bowl of a stand mixer. Blend on medium speed for 2 minutes scraping down the bowl after one minute.

    3. ADD the rum, vanilla and butter rum flavor to the batter and blend for another minute. Pour the batter into the prepared bundt pan and spread level with a spatula.

    4. BAKE the cake for 50 to 55 minutes. You may smell the nut flour toasting at first, especially that which is not covered by the cake batter. When done, the cake will test clean on a cake tester. Bundt cakes, much deeper than layer cakes, are difficult to test properly with a short toothpick. If you don’t have a 7-inch cake tester (or longer), try a piece of dry, uncooked spaghetti or linguine. Let the cake rest in the pan to cool slightly while you prepare the soaking syrup.

    5. COMBINE the syrup ingredients, except the vanilla, in a medium-sized saucepan. Bring to a rapid boil; then reduce to a simmer and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, until the syrup thickens slightly. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

    6. POKE holes all over the cake with a skewer. Pour about 1/4 of the syrup over the cake while still in the pan. Allow the syrup to soak in, then repeat again and again until all the syrup is used. Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and allow the cake to sit out overnight to soak in the syrup. When ready to serve…

    7. LOOSEN the edges of the cake and invert it onto a serving plate.



    Most serious bakers use unbleached flour, which is aged. But why did manufacturers start bleaching flour in the first place?

    Freshly-milled flour isn’t yet ready for baking. It improves with some aging.

    During aging, oxygen in the air reacts with the glutenin proteins, which eventually form gluten, to form even longer chains of gluten. These longer chains provide more elasticity and structure, the latter important for cakes.

    During this aging process—around four months—the fresh flour, which is slightly yellowish from carotenoid pigments in the endosperm, becomes paler as the pigments oxidize. This has no impact on the flavor or performance of the flour.

    Around the beginning of the 20th century, it became common for mills to use chemicals to speed up the aging process, producing more flour and requiring less storage space. Potassium bromate was commonly used, followed by bleaches like benzoil peroxide and chlorine dioxide, to approximate the whiteness of naturally aged flour.

    More recently, health concerns over the consumption of potassium bromate have led to its replacement with ascorbic acid.

    Here’s more about aged flour.


    Unbleached Flour

    [5] Bleached and unbleached flour can be used interchangeably in many recipes, but cakes and some breads require the springiness provided by the longer gluten chains in unbleached flour. Here’s a further explanation from Better Homes & Gardens.

    *Far from the creamy dessert puddings popular in the U.S., British puddings are cake-like, and can be baked, boiled or steamed. Savory puddings with meat were served as a main dish; sweet puddings evolved as desserts. In the 19th century, the boiled pudding evolved into today’s cake-like concept, such as the Christmas pudding that remains popular. While “pudding” is a generic term for dessert in the U.K., it has no relationship to the creamy milk-based American puddings. Here’s the difference.



    TIP OF THE DAY: French Toast With Pumpkin Swirl Bread

    One of our favorite comfort foods is French Toast. It’s easier to make and clean up after than pancakes and waffles, and we like the eggy factor. We can eat it for any meal of the day.

    Yesterday we made our first Pumpkin French Toast of the season, using Pepperidge Farm’s Pumpkin Swirl Bread, a seasonal limited edition.

    There are plenty of recipes for Pumpkin French Toast, You avoid time-consuming steps in from-scratch recipes: pumpkin puree, spices, raisins.

    There are even recipes to bake pumpkin swirl bread from scratch, as our friend Linda does (she also bakes her own cornbread for stuffing!).


    This aromatic, make-ahead French toast casserole combines cinnamon swirl bread and dried cranberries for a breakfast or brunch treat. You can reheat leftovers or serve them warm or chilled for dessert, with ice cream of whipped cream.

    Prep time is 15 minutes, chill time is 1 hour, bake time is 45 minutes. You can make most of it the day before and just bake it prior to serving.
    Ingredients For 8 Servings

  • 1 loaf (16 ounces) Pepperidge Farm Cinnamon Swirl Bread, cut into cubes
  • 3/4 cup sweetened dried cranberries or raisins
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 cups half and half or milk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon sugar or confectioners sugar
  • 2 tablespoon whipped butter
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup

    1. PLACE the bread cubes and cranberries/raisins into a lightly greased 3-quart shallow baking dish.

    2. BEAT the eggs, half-and-half and vanilla extract in a medium bowl with a fork or whisk. Pour the egg mixture over the bread cubes. Stir and press the bread cubes into the egg mixture to coat.

    3. REFRIGERATE for 1 hour or overnight. Preheat oven to 350°F and bake for 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar. Serve with the butter and syrup.


    No matter what bread you use, this is our quick technique on the stovetop.

    We use ReddiEgg, a liquid egg product that has removed all cholesterol. It saves the time of cracking and whisking the eggs with milk, with “cholesterol-free” as a bonus.

  • 1 loaf (16 ounces) Pepperidge Farm Cinnamon Swirl Bread
  • 1 small container egg substitute, e.g. ReddiEgg or Egg Beaters
  • Butter for pan
  • Pure maple syrup
  • Optional garnish: butter pats, raisins, sliced almonds

    1. HEAT a fry pan or griddle and melt the butter. While the pan is heating…

    2. POUR the liquid egg into shallow dish and soak the bread slices thoroughly on each side. (Note: We like very eggy French toast. If you prefer the drier, crisper variety, soak briefly).


    Pumpkin Swirl Bread Pepperidge Farm

    Baked French Toast

    Pumpkin French Toast

    ReddiEgg Carton

    [1] A seasonal favorite: Pumpkin Swirl Bread. [2] Got time? Make Baked French Toast, a rich breakfast casserole (photos #1 and #2 courtesy Pepperidge Farm). [3] Quick French Toast: Just dip and fry (photo courtesy [4] ReddiEggs are ready to pour and have no cholesterol (photo courtesy NuLaid).

    3. FRY until golden brown on each side, turning once. Garnish as desired and serve immediately with butter and syrup. If you like the artistic touch (photo #2), slice and stack the French toast triangles.

    Nope! Here’s the history of French Toast, and more French Toast recipes.



    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.



    RECIPE: Tricolor Jello Fingers For St. Pat’s, July 4th, Halloween, Christmas & More

    Green Jello Squares

    Jell-O Treats

    Tricolor Jello Mold

    Top: St. Patrick’s Day themed Jell-O from used food color to create the darkest green layer. Center: The recipe for this Halloween Jell-O from Bottom: Christmas Jell-O from Due Forni | Las Vegas.


    You’re never to old to enjoy a fancy Jell-O dish. Call it retro, call it Jell-O art; just call it to the table.

    Multi-layer jello finger food (no fork or spoon required), called finger Jell-O, ribbon Jell-O or Jell-O squares, is the type of food fun that the family can look forward to with each holiday. Simply match the colors to the occasion.

    You can make as many layers, and as many colors, as you like. The Pioneer Woman makes an even snazzier version. So does the Brown-Eyed Baker.

    You can slice this into what is known as “finger Jello,” because you can pick it up and eat it with your fingers. Extra gelatin is added to the Jell-O to create a firm texture.

    You can make it in any colors; for example:

  • Green and white for St. Patrick’s Day (one layer of Lime Jell-O, one layer of Melon Jell-O)
  • Red white and blue for Memorial Day and Independence Day
  • Blue and white for Chanukah
  • Orange and Peach or Black Cherry for Halloween
  • Black Cherry red and Raspberry red for Valentine’s Day
  • Team colors for the Super Bowl (use food color to tint as needed)
    Check out the different flavors and colors of Jell-O.
    You can make a diet version with sugar-free Jell-O, and swap the sweetened condensed milk for evaporated milk that you sweeten with a non-caloric sweetener.


    In this recipe, adapted from Taste Of Home, the Jell-O is firmed into “finger Jell-O” or “Jell-O squares” with the addition of extra gelatin. Prep time is 30 minutes, plus 90 minutes chilling/firming time.

    Make the recipe on a day when you can let each mixture come to room temperature at its own pace, and firm up each layer in the fridge for more than 30 minutes. Don’t skimp on the cooling and firming times, or you won’t be pleased with the results.
    Ingredients For 32 Pieces

  • 1 box (6 ounces) Lime Jell-O
  • 1 box (6 ounces) Melon Fusion Jell-O
  • 4 envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • Boiling water, cold water
  • Preparation

    1. SPRAY a 9×13-inch baking pan (ideally Pyrex) with nonstick spray.

    2. MAKE the bottom layer: In a medium bowl, mix the green Jell-O with 1 envelope of the unflavored gelatin. Add 2 cups boiling water and stir to dissolve. Cool to room temperature and pour into the pan. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer, until firm.

    3. MAKE the center layer: In a clean bowl, mix the sweetened condensed milk with 1 cup boiling water. In a separate small bowl, sprinkle 2 envelopes of unflavored gelatin over ½ cup cold water. Let the gelatin stand for 4 minutes and then add ½ cup boiling water to dissolve it. Add to the condensed milk mixture and stir to combine. Cool to room temperature and pour over the bottom layer. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer, until firm.

    5. MAKE the top layer. In a medium bowl, mix the red Jell-O with 1 envelope of the unflavored gelatin. Add 2 cups boiling water and stir to dissolve. Cool to room temperature and pour over the middle layer. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer, until firm.

    6. SLICE into individual pieces, plate and serve.



    Gelatin (also spelled gelatine) has been made since ancient times by boiling animal and fish bones. Aspic, a savory, gelatin-like food made from meat or fish stock, was a French specialty centuries before the dawn of commercial gelatin. It was very difficult to prepare, relying only on the natural gelatin found in the meat to make the aspic set.

    Powdered gelatin was invented in 1682 by Denis Papin. But the concept of cooking it with sugar to make dessert dates to 1845 and an American inventor named Peter Cooper. Cooper patented a dessert product that was set with gelatin, but it didn’t take off.

    In 1897, Pearle Wait, a carpenter in Le Roy, New York (Genesee County), experimented with gelatin and developed a fruit flavored dessert which his wife May named Jell-O. The first four flavors were orange, lemon, strawberry and raspberry.

    Wait tried to market his product but lacked the capital and experience. In 1899 he sold his formula to a townsman and manufacturer of proprietary medicines, Orator Frank Woodward, for $450. The Jell-O itself was manufactured by Andrew Samuel Nico of Lyons, New York.

    Alas, sales were slow and one day, Wait sold Sam Nico the business for $35. In 1900, the Genesee Pure Food Company promoted Jell-O in a successful advertising campaign, and by 1902 sales were $250,000. In 1923 the owners created the Jell-O Company, Inc., which replaced the Genesee Pure Foods Company. The purpose was to protect the Jell-O trade name and to keep it from becoming a generic term.

    That same year, the Jell-O Company was sold to the Postum Cereal Company, the first subsidiary of a large merger that would eventually become General Foods Corporation. Lime Jell-O was introduced in 1930.


    Old Strawberry Jello Box

    Strawberry Jello Box

    Top: A box of strawberry Jell-O from the 1890s, courtesy Bottom: Strawberry Jell-O today. Photo courtesy Kraft Foods.


    Today Jell-O is manufactured by Kraft Foods, a subsidiary of Phillip Morris, which acquired both Kraft and General Foods in the 1980s and ultimately merged the two companies. There’s a Jell-O Gallery Museum in Le Roy, New York.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Know Your Eggnog!

    Eggnog or egg nog is a descendant of milk-and-wine punches that had long been part of European celebrations when colonists arrived in the Americas. Rum, a New World distillation, enabled a spirited substitution for the wine.

    Eggnog became a popular wintertime drink throughout Colonial America. Then as now, people loved the rich, spicy, alcoholic brew. President George Washington was quite a fan of eggnog. His own recipe, which included rye whiskey, rum and sherry, was reputed to be so stiff a drink that only the most courageous could down it.

    Brandy joined rum in the basic recipe much later—as part of a book promotion! In the 1820s, Pierce Egan wrote a book called “Life of London: or Days and Nights of Jerry Hawthorne, Esq. and His Elegant Friend Corinthina Tom.” You can pick up a copy on Amazon.

    Just as today’s mixologists and publicists know how to generate buzz with a new cocktail, Egan created a variation of eggnog he called the “Tom and Jerry.” The half ounce of brandy he added to the basic recipe furthered egg nog’s popularity—and fortunately, the original name prevailed.

    The research site notes that “Egg nog, in the 1800s, was nearly always made in large quantities and nearly always used as a social drink. It was commonly served at holiday parties and it was noted by an English visitor in 1866, [that] ‘Christmas is not properly observed unless you brew egg nogg for all comers; everybody calls on everybody else; and each call is celebrated by a solemn egg-nogging…It is made cold and is drunk cold and is to be commended.’”

    Baltimore initiated a tradition where young men made the rounds of their friends on New Year’s Day, enjoying a bracing cup of eggnog at each home. The more homes one visited, the more “braced” one became. It was considered a feat to actually finish one’s rounds. How times change! Aside from today’s attitudes toward moderation, would anyone give up football to continue the tradition?


    Cup Of Eggnog

    Glass Of Eggnog

    TOP PHOTO: Eggnog served old-school, in a fancy punch cup. Photo courtesy BOTTOM PHOTO: No punch bowl? Serve eggnog in a juice glass, rocks glass, Martini glass or whatever you have.


    As with most things in the murky past, there are different stories on the origins of eggnog. The “egg” part is easy: There are eggs in the recipe (along with sugar, rum, milk, whiskey/bourbon/rum/brandy, heavy cream, vanilla and ground nutmeg).

    The two contenders for the “nog” portion:

  • In England and Colonial America, grog* was slang for rum. Thus the description of the beverage, “egg-and-grog,” could be corrupted to egg‘n’grog and then to egg nog and its more modern spelling, eggnog.
  • A nog is a small mug or cup. It was used to serve drinks at table in taverns (while drinks beside the fire were served in tankards). It is much easier to see how an egg-based drink in a noggin would become egg nog.
    Regardless, the unusual charm of the name only enhances the rich charm of the beverage. Now if we only could do something about those calories!

    *The term grog is named after Old Grog, the nickname of Edward Vernon (1684-1757), a British admiral who ordered that diluted rum be served to his sailors. The nickname is derived from grogram, after his habit of wearing a grogram cloak—a coarse fabric made of silk, mohair, wool, or a blend of them. Isn’t etymology fascinating?


    Egg Nog & Cookies

    A glass of eggnog served with eggnog wreath
    . Photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk
    Marketing Board.



    Conventional eggnog recipes vary by type of spirits used, or how elaborate they get, from topping with simple whipped cream to ice cream and chocolate shavings. If you don’t have a family eggnog recipe, ask your friends. Or take a look at these:

  • Classic Rum Eggnog Recipe
  • Chocolate Eggnog Recipe
  • Coconut Eggnog Recipe
  • Diet Eggnog Recipe
    If you don’t want classic eggnog, how about an eggnog cocktail? Here are two:

  • Eggnog Martini Recipe
  • Eggnog White Russian Recipe

  • Eggnog French Toast Recipe #1
  • Eggnog French Toast Recipe #2

    For the holidays, serve one or more eggnog desserts. Start with eggnog ice cream from your grocer, and continue on to:

  • Eggnog Crumble Bars Recipe
  • Eggnog Mini Bundts Recipe
  • Eggnog Mini Cheesecakes Recipe
  • Eggnog Panna Cotta Recipe Recipe
  • Eggnog Pound Cake Recipe
  • Eggnog Truffles Recipe
  • Eggnog Whipped Cream Recipe
  • Eggnog Wreath Cookies Recipe
  • White Chocolate Eggnog Fudge Recipe
    If you have a favorite eggnog recipe, please share!




    RECIPE: Pandoro Tiramisu

    Pandoro Tiramisu

    Bauli Pandoro

    Use pandoro instead of ladyfingers or sponge
    cake to make tiramisu. Photos courtesy


    If you received a pandoro for Christmas, or see them marked down after Christmas, don’t let them sit: Turn them into dessert.

    Pandoro is a lighter version of sponge cake, sometimes accented with lemon zest. You slice it and eat it, warmed briefly in the microwave. You can toast slices and top them with ice cream and chocolate or caramel sauce.

    Or, you can turn the cake into a sophisticated tiramisu.

    Tiramisu is traditionally made with ladyfingers or sponge cake. In this recipe, Chef Fabio Viviani turns it into Tiramisu for Bauli.


    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 Pandoro di Verona (35.2 ounces_
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 2 containers (8-ounces each) mascarpone*
  • 4 oz. sugar, divided
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1-1/4 cups brewed espresso, cooled
  • 1/4 cup Marsala wine†
  • 3 each Pandoro, cut into medium size sticks
  • 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Garnish: 1/3 cup grated dark chocolate
    *If you can’t buy mascarpone, use the recipe below for a substitute.

    †Marsala is a fortified wine, a category that also includes Madeira, Port and Sherry. It is produced in the region surrounding the Italian city of Marsala in Sicily, and has a D.O.C. (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) protected status. It is an ingredient in the desserts Tiramisu and Zabaglione, as well as Chicken Marsala and Veal Marsala. It is also enjoyed on the rocks. If you can’t get hold of it, you can substitute a sweet sherry.



    1. BEAT the egg yolks with 2 ounces of sugar until creamy. Place the mascarpone in a large bowl and using a wooden spoon, press out any lumps. Then add the egg mixture and mix until well combined.

    2. BEAT the egg whites, salt and the remaining sugar in a separate bowl, until fluffy and the egg whites hold their shape. Incorporate into the mascarpone mixture.

    3. MIX together the Marsala and the espresso. Dip the pandoro fingers briefly in the mixture, making sure to not let them soak for too long. Lay them flat into a 7″ by 11″ Pyrex baking dish. Once the first layer has been laid out, spread the mascarpone mixture on top. Dust with half of the cocoa powder. Repeat the same process again with remaining pandoro, cream and cocoa.



    If you can’t get mascarpone locally, you can make an easy approximation of it with readily-available dairy products.

    Ingredients For 1-1/2 Cups

  • 16 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

    1. BLEND all ingredients until smooth.

    Tiramisu means “pick me up,” a reference to the caffeine from the espresso liqueur and the energy from the eggs and sugar. While there are many variations of the recipe, tiramisu is typically composed of layers of sponge cake or ladyfingers, soaked in espresso liqueur, coffee syrup or marsala, and layered with a mascarpone cheese and custard mixture. It is dusted with cocoa or shaved chocolate.


    Mascarpone With Biscotti

    Mascarpone can also be served with biscotti. Photo courtesy Vermont Creamery.

    For what is a classic Italian dessert, tiramisu is a relatively recent creation. The origins of the dessert are highly contested, but a strong claim has been made that the recipe was invented in the 1960s at the restaurant Alle Beccherie in Treviso, Italy, by pastry chef Loly Linguanotto. The restaurant’s matriarch, Alba Campeol, got the idea for the dessert after the birth of one of her children.

    Weak in bed, she was brought a zabaglione spiked with coffee, to give her energy. When she returned to work, she and her pastry chef worked on the “pick me up” layered dessert.

    The original Becchiere recipe did not contain alcohol because it was served to children as well as adults. Today, a good tiramisu is redolent of espresso liqueur or Marsala. You can read the full story, plus competing claims to the invention by another Treviso restaurateur, Carminantonio Iannaccone, in this Washington Post article.





    Photo courtesy Zespri | Facebook.


    Merry Christmas
    Merry Whatever You

    From All Of Us At




    TIP OF THE DAY: Cranberry Mimosa Cocktail

    Cranberry Mimosa Cocktail

    Make Cranberry Mimosa cocktails or mocktails. Photo courtesy Ocean Spray.


    There’s still time to create a signature drink for Christmas: a Cranberry Mimosa cocktail or mocktail. It combines cranberry juice with sparkling wine (or ginger ale), instead of the orange juice of a traditional Mimosa.

    Or use cranberry liqueur for a Cranberry Kir Royale, a.k.a. Kir Royale à la Canneberge (if you haven’t guessed, canneberge [can-BERZH] is French for cranberry). Note that using liqueur instead of juice creates a stronger drink.

    You can also serve a Mimosa mocktail with cranberry juice and ginger ale, and a diet version with diet cranberry juice and diet ginger ale.


    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2 ounces cranberry juice or cranberry liqueur
  • 4 ounces sparkling wine*, regular or rosé, chilled
  • Optional garnish: lemon curl, strawberry

    1. COMBINE the cranberry juice/liqueur and the sparkling wine in a Champagne flute or wine glass. Add the juice first. If you need to stir, do so gently, once, so as not to collapse the bubbles.

    2. GARNISH as desired and serve.
    *Well-priced sparkling wines include Asti Spumante and Prosecco from Italy, Cava from Spain, Crémant from France and our Top Pick Of The Week, Yellow Tail Bubbly.


    The Mimosa, a cocktail composed of equal parts of orange juice and Champagne or other dry, white sparkling wine, was invented circa 1925 in the Hôtel Ritz in Paris, by bartender Frank Meier. Served in a Champagne flute, it is believed to be named after the the mimosa evergreen shrub (Acacia dealbata), which bears flowers of a similar color to the drink.

    The optional addition of a small amount of orange liqueur like Grand Marnier complements the juice and gives the drink more complexity.

    Because of the juice component, the Mimosa is often served at brunch. A Grapefruit Mimosa with grapefruit juice is a popular variation. A related drink, the Buck’s Fizz†, has two parts Champagne to one part juice—and sometimes a splash of grenadine. Created at London’s Buck’s Club by bartender Pat McGarryhe, the Buck’s Fizz predates the Mimosa by about four years.

    If you’re making Mimosas, fresh-squeezed orange juice makes a huge difference. One expert recommends trying different types of orange juice: The sweeter Navel juice vs. the more acidic Valencia, for example. Blood oranges, with their rosy color and raspberry notes, will provide a different experience entirely (and a wonderful one!).

    †Buck and mule are old names for mixed drinks made with ginger ale or ginger beer, plus citrus juice. They can be made with any base liquor. Why buck? Why mule? That answer is lost to history, but here’s a detailed discussion.


    RECIPE: Eggnog Martini

    For Christmas or New Year’s Eve, how about a fun and flavorful Eggnog Martini?

    You can buy eggnog in the supermarket and mix multiple portions in a pitcher.


    Ingredients For 1 Drink

  • 3-1/2 ounces eggnog
  • 1-1/2 ounces vanilla vodka (make it or buy it)
  • Splash of cinnamon liqueur (see below)
  • Garnish: dash of nutmeg or rim of crushed graham crackers
  • Ice cubes

    1. FILL a 5-ounce Martini glass with ice to chill it.

    2. COMBINE the eggnog, vanilla vodka and cinnamon liqueur in a shaker with ice, and shake to blend.

    3. DISCARD the ice in the glass and strain the cocktail into it.

    4. GARNISH as desired and serve.


    Eggnog Martini

    An Eggnog Martini with a rim of crushed graham crackers. Photo courtesy Cedar Mill Liquor.


    Goldschlager Cinnamon Liqueur

    Dramatic and delicious: Goldschläger
    cinnamon schnaps with gold flakes. Photo
    courtesy Global Brands.



    Infusion method: Add a vanilla bean to a bottle of decent vodka. Cap tightly and let the vanilla infuse for 1-2 weeks in a cool, dark place. Gently shake the bottle every other day.

    Quick solution: Add vanilla extract to vodka, 1/4 teaspoon per two ounces. For a 750 ml bottle of vodka, that’s 3 teaspoons. Shake well to blend.


    Cinnamon liqueur can be added to coffee and tea (hot or cold), made into adult hot chocolate, sipped on the rocks, drunk as shooters and mixed into cocktails. If you buy a bottle for this recipe, you’ll find numerous opportunities to use it

    Some brands are meant to burn like Red Hots candy. You want something more elegant. Our favorite is Goldschläger cinnamon schnaps with gold flakes. It looks magical in shots and clear cocktails.

    So what’s the difference between cordial, eau de vie, liqueur and schnapps?

    While many people use these terms interchangeably, and they are all flavored spirits, there are differences in terms of sweetness and color.

  • Liqueur (lih-CUR, the French pronunciation) is made by steeping fruits in alcohol after the fruit has been fermented; the result is then distilled. Liqueurs are typically sweeter and more syrupy than schnapps.
  • Schnapps (SHNOPS) is made by fermenting the fruit, herb or spice along with a base spirit, usually brandy; the product is then distilled. This process creates a stronger, often clear, distilled spirit similar to a lightly flavored vodka. “Schnapps” is German for “snap,” and in this context denotes both a clear brandy distilled from fermented fruits, plus a shot of that spirit. Classic schnapps have no added sugar, and are thus less sweet than liqueur. But note that some manufacturers add sugar to please the palates of American customers.
  • Eau de vie (oh-duh-VEE), French for “water of life,” this is unsweetened fruit brandy—i.e.,schnapps.
  • Cordial has a different meaning in the U.S. than in the U.K., where it is a non-alcoholic, sweet, syrupy drink. In the U.S, a cordial is a sweet, syrupy, alcoholic beverage: liqueur.
    In sum: If you want a less sweet, clear spirit, choose schnapps/eau de vie over liqueur. For something sweet and syrupy, go for liqueur/cordial.
    What about fruit-flavored brandy?

  • Liqueur is sweeter, and made from a grain-based alcohol.
  • Fruit-flavored brandy is made from a grape-based alcohol. Be sure to buy one that is all natural, i.e., made with real fruit instead of flavored syrup. With a quality brand, the fruit is macerated in the alcohol, then filtered out prior to bottling.
    FOOD 101




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