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Archive for Valentine’s Day



The classic moka pot dons a red coat.
Photo courtesy IMUSA USA.


Here’s a no-calorie Valentine gift for someone who loves strong coffee: a red moka pot.

You can purchase the six-cup version at Macy’s for $14.99; it also is available in pumpkin orange and cobalt blue. A three-cup version is available at Kohl’s.

Bialetti, originators of the moka pot, make six-cup versions in solid red, orange, blue and violet.

Up until few decades ago, before the introduction of electric-powered espresso machines for the home, people with money made espresso in a moka pot, a manual Italian espresso maker. People without money, space or a frequent need for an electric espresso machine still do.


A moka pot is a stove top coffee pot that makes strong coffee. Instead of the more recent drip coffeemakers, where water drips down through ground coffee into a carafe below, the moka pot holds the water in its bottom half. When heated on the stove, the steam pushes boiling water up through the grounds into a top chamber, from which it is poured.



The aluminum Moka Express, with its octagonal body, was patented in 1933 by the Italian inventor Luigi De Ponti and acquired by Alfonso Bialetti. It enabled Bialetti, a metals engineer, to transform his company into a leading Italian coffee machine designer and manufacturer.

Before the moka pot, only people of means could brew café-quality coffee at home, using large and expensive commercial machines that required training. Most people drank their coffee at a café or coffee bar.

The creation of the small, efficient, user-friendly and affordable Moka Express allowed anyone to quickly brew at home the bold, robust-tasting coffee beloved by Italians. It replaced the more primitive coffee-makers developed in the late 19th century such as the Napoletana.

Although today there are electric moka pots, it the original survives in its original form—a feat for a kitchen appliance designed more than 80 years ago. The major change has been a move to stainless steel by some the versions, as well as novelty designs like the one above and Bialetti’s cappuccino moka pot with a fun cow-pattern enamel coating (there’s also a plain, elegant cappuccino pot).



The Red Sea port city of Mocha in Yemen was the major marketplace for coffee—grown in Africa—from the 15th century through the 17th century. The principal port for Yemen’s capital city, Sana’a, it was later eclipsed by the ports of Aden and Hodeida.

Because the name is transliterated from Arabic letters, there are a variety of spellings: Mocha, Mocca, Moka, Mokha, etc.

Even after other sources of coffee were developed, Mocha beans (also called Sanani or Mocha Sanani beans, meaning “from Sana’a”) continued to be prized for their distinctive flavor—and remain so today.



Be my Valentine—have an espresso. Photo courtesy IMUSA USA.


Remember that a “four cup pot” means four wee espresso cups. If you like a double espresso—or a standard coffee cup full—buy the largest pot you can find—typically nine cups. Bialetti’s largest makes 12 cups.

If you have the option, stainless steel will look better over time than aluminum.

Typically, Italian roast coffee is used in a moka pot; but you can use whatever you have.


What if you have two moka pots? Use one for tea. See our moka pot tip from ten days ago.



VALENTINE GIFT: A Different Take On Chocolate Kisses

Chef François Payard is making it easier to send kisses this Valentines Day. Check out his Dark Chocolate Raspberry Lips.

Packaged in a red clutch-shaped box, the chocolate lips are filled with chocolate ganache that has a hint of ginger, and are packaged with with a white chocolate raspberry lipstick—a real lipstick that is both edible and tastes like chocolate.

Each box of chocolates comes with 18 lips and one lipstick for $55: a gift that’s sure to be remembered.

Get yours at

Want something more conventional? While you’re on the website, take a look at the:



Chocolate raspberry kisses with an edible raspberry-white chocolate lipstick. Photo courtesy Payard.


  • Champagne Truffles, Champagne-infused balls of chocolate ganache, lightly dusted with cocoa powder
  • Valentine’s Day Chocolate Collection, 70% dark chocolate squares, beautifully decorated and filled with salted caramel, raspberry and fresh ginger
  • Valentine’s Day Macarons In A Heart Box: caramel coriander, strawberry basil, lemon thyme and mint chocolate


    CHINESE NEW YEAR: Godiva Chocolate For The Year Of The Horse

    Lady Godiva rides in for the Lunar New Year.
    The image is larger than the actual
    chocolates. Photo courtesy Godiva.


    Some foodies end the Christmas-New Year holiday season in anticipation of Valentine’s Day. But don’t forget about Chinese New Year, celebrated by Chinese, Koreans and Vietnamese, who follow a different calendar than Western cultures. (There are actually a dozen different lunar holidays in Asia).

    Eating sweets symbolizes the beginning of a “sweet year.”

    The Year Of The Horse, begins on Friday, January 31st. If you were born in 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966, 1954, 1942, 1930 or 1918, this is your lunar year. If you follow astrology, you can check on what this means for your health, wealth, relationships and career.

    But regardless of whether your zodiac animal is a horse or one of the others (dog, dragon, monkey, ox, pig/boar, tiger, rabbit, rat, rooster, sheep, snake), you can treat yourself to a box of Godiva’s truly wonderful lunar year chocolates.

    This year’s selection from Godiva Chocolatier includes three spectacular pieces:

  • Dark Caramel Pear: crunchy caramel pear ganache with a touch of vanilla in a blend of milk and& dark chocolate, enrobed in dark chocolate.
  • Milk Cherry Almond: crunchy almond praliné, sour cherry and a hint of honey blended with milk chocolate, enrobed in milk chocolate.
  • White Pineapple Macadamia: nutty macadamia cream and sweet pineapple blended with white chocolate ganache, enrobed in white chocolate.
    Each offers a cascade of flavors and textures that are so much more glorious than the words used to describe them. They are exquisite chocolates, and we loved all three equally.

    The recipes were developed in Asia for the Asian consumer, and reflect those flavor preferences. The chocolates are less sweet than American-developed flavors—a boon for those domestic palates that have evolved to prefer a more moderate level of sweetness.
    Where To Purchase

    You can purchase the chocolates in Lunar New Year gift boxes, along with other Godiva pieces—20 pieces total for $50.00 and 32 pieces total for $120. They can be purchased in Godiva boutiques and online at

    But our recommendation is to head to a Godiva boutique for a hand-packed box of 100% Year Of The Horse Collection. Seriously, we couldn’t get enough of them. They’ll only be in stores through January 31st.

    On days when you’re not eating the chocolate, check out the Lunar New Year specials at your local Asian restaurants.



    Available only through Valentine’s Day (while supplies last) is another special treat: marvelous marzipan hearts, covered with your choice of dark or milk chocolate.

    Oh, how delicious! As with the Year Of The Horse collection, we couldn’t stop eating them.

    They’re available in Godiva boutiques only. Here’s a store locator: If you’re a marzipan lover, you’ll want more than a few.

    You may want to call first to make sure they haven’t run out; although there are plenty of other choices. But if your heart is set on marzipan hearts, you can always make your own with this recipe from


    Photo courtesy




    RECIPE: Cranberry Baked Brie

    Baked Brie in pastry with dried cranberries,
    honey and almonds. Photo and recipe


    Here’s a recipe to serve with your favorite bubbly. It’s a favorite of Olga Dominguez, cheese buyer at Zabar’s in New York City.

    For the holidays use dried cranberries; for Valentine’s Day substitute dried cherries or strawberries.

    This party-size recipe uses a standard 17-inch wheel of Brie. If your celebration will be more intimate buy a Baby Brie, which at 8.8 ounces, serves up to four. (In theory, with a portion size of one ounce, it should serve eight—but we don’t know eight people with that much restraint).

    Brie (typically a double-crème cheese, although some like the Rouge et Noir brand are even richer triple-crèmes) is one of America’s top-selling cheeses.

    Other best sellers include Cheddar, cream cheese, mozzarella and Parmigiano Reggiano.



  • 1 large wheel of double crème Brie, 2.2 pounds
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 pound dried cherries, cranberries or strawberries (or a mix)
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds plus extra for garnish
  • 1 package of ready-to-bake crescent rolls (or make your own pastry)
  • Crackers or bread (or a combination)

    Keep the Brie refrigerated and cold until ready to slice.

    1. PREHEAT oven to 350°F.

    2. CUT the Brie in half horizontally with a sharp knife, creating a top and a bottom.

    3. SPRINKLE the cranberries, half the honey and half of the almonds in the center of the bottom half of the cheese, to within two inches of the edge. Cover with the top half and press down the edges. (When you press down, the fillings will spread close to the edge.)

    4. OPEN the crescent roll container and prepare to wrap the Brie with the pastry. Lay the triangle crescent dough pieces on a work surface to form a sheet, overlapping the edges slightly. Press to bond together. Place the Brie in the center of the sheet and wrap the edges around the wheel until the entire surface is covered. Overlap and press the crescent dough close to the edges so that the Brie and fillings will not run out.

    5. PLACE on a nonstick cookie sheet with a lip (just in case the cheese does run). Pour the remaining honey in the top center of the wrapped Brie and sprinkle with the remaining almond slices.

    6. BAKE for 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbly. Serve immediately.

    Serving Suggestions

  • As a cocktail party food, provide bread or crackers and a spreader.
  • For a dinner party salad/cheese course, give each guest a plated wedge with some dressed mesclun or frisée salad greens. Pass bread or crackers in a basket for those who want it.


    TIP OF THE DAY: Double-Crème And Triplè-Creme Cheeses

    Serving bubbly for Christmas or New Year’s Eve? The perfect cheese to serve with Champagne or other sparklers is a double-crème or a triple-crème.

    Double- and triple-creme cheeses have a distinctive texture (very creamy) and flavor (buttery). Extra cream is added before the curd is formed, creating the heavenly richness.

    According to Cheese Primer by Steven Jenkins, the first double-crème cheese was made in Normandy in 1850 by a cheesemaker whose name has been lost to history. He was a short man of Swiss extraction, and called his cheese Petit-Suisse (possibly his nickname!).

    By law, a French double-crème cheese has between 60% and 75% butterfat. Note that this is the percentage of fat in the dry matter of the cheese. Most double- and triple-crèmes have about 50% moisture, so a Brie that has 60% butterfat in the dry matter is actually 31% total fat.


    Decorate your Brie for a party. Photo courtesy

    As a point of reference, butter itself contains between 80% total fat (the legal minimum in the U.S) to 86% total fat.

    Double-crème examples include:

  • Boursault
  • Brie (a minority of Bries are triple-crèmes)
  • Fromage D’Affinois
  • Petit-Suisse
  • Domestic beauties: Bodacious from Bohemian Creamery in California, Cremont from Vermont Creamery and others (ask your cheesemonger)

    Like the first double-crème, the first triple-crème cheese was also made in Normandy (France’s dairy heartland), 75 years after Petit-Suisse was introduced. Called Le Magnum, it was made by the Dubuc family and was the ancestor of Brillat-Savarin*. By law, French triple-crème cheeses must have a butterfat content of 75% or more.


    Pick up this luscious Brillat-Savarin, a
    triple-crème cheese, at Whole Foods
    Markets. Photo courtesy Whole Foods.


    A Brillat-Savarin with 75% butterfat in the dry matter actually has 39% total fat.

  • Brillat-Savarin
  • Délice de Bourgogne
  • Explorateur
  • Gratte Paille
  • Pierre Robert
  • Domestic choices such as Kunik from Nettle Meadow in New York State, Mt. Tam and Red Hawk from Cowgirl Creamery in California, Triple Cream Disk, a chèvre from Coach Farms in New York State and other creamy delights (see what’s available from your cheesemonger)
    *The cheese was named for the French epicure (and also lawyer and politician) Brillat-Savarin, who famously said “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.”



    You can go from basic (fruit) to gourmet (truffles):

    Fresh Fruits

    Grapes, mango, raspberries or strawberries are the best matches.


  • Cut the cheese in half horizontally; spread the bottom cut side with truffle butter or shaved truffles, and replace the top half of the cheese (let it sit for 30 minutes to develop flavor).
  • Optional additions to the filling: toasted walnuts (toast then chop) or, with shaved truffles, a thin layer of mascarpone and/or a drizzle of honey.
    Bread or Crackers

    Choose among baguette slices, water biscuits, wheatmeal biscuits (slightly sweetened whole wheat crackers) or other favorites.


  • Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Thanksgiving Water

    Even a glass of water can be special on Thanksgiving.

    Here’s a tip inspired by Ceylon Vogue tea, a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week (and itself a great party favor or host/hostess gift). Depending on the size of your pitcher, multiply the quantity of the ingredients below.

    If you plan to bring the pitcher to the table, any extra cranberries tossed in will add festive color.



  • 12 ounces of water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 slice orange
  • 1/2 apple, sliced (a red skin is more colorful)
  • Optional: whole rosemary sprig
  • Optional: 3-4 cloves
  • Optional: whole raw cranberries

    It’s easy to make Thanksgiving-flavored water. Photo courtesy Cinnamon Vogue.



    1. BOIL water and add to a pitcher with cinnamon and orange. Let cool. Add optional cranberries.

    2. REFRIGERATE until ready to serve.

    Cinnamon boosts your metabolism, among many health benefits.



    RECIPE: Strawberry Basil Gimlet

    Finish summer in style with a Strawberry
    Basil Gimlet. Photo courtesy Ruth’s Chris
    Steak House.


    Here‘s a “berry” summery drink: a Strawberry Basil Gimlet.

    We were inspired by this photo from Ruth’s Chris Steak House to make a batch yesterday.


    Ingredients Per Cocktail

  • 2 parts gin*
  • 1/2 part fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon simple syrup (recipe)
  • 4 basil leaves
  • 2 large strawberries
  • Ice cubes
  • Garnish: notched strawberry and basil leaf
    *If you’re not a gin fan, you can substitute tequila or vodka; or use a sparkling wine like Prosecco. It just won’t be an official gimlet.


    1. MUDDLE the strawberry and basil leaves in a cocktail shaker with simple syrup. If you’re making multiple cocktails, it’s easier to purée.

    2. ADD gin, lemon juice and ice, and shake well.

    3. STRAIN into a rocks glass with ice. Garnish with a basil leaf and large berry, notched onto the rim.


    A gimlet is a tool for drilling small holes; the name was also used figuratively to describe something as sharp or piercing.

    The word “gimlet” for a cocktail was first used around 1928—perhaps for its effects on the drinker. According to Wikipedia, another theory is that the drink was named after British Royal Navy Surgeon Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Gimlette KCB (who served 1879 to 1913).

    Gimlette allegedly introduced the drink as a means of inducing his messmates to drink lime juice as an anti-scurvy medication. (Limes and other citrus fruit have been used by the Royal Navy for the prevention of scurvy since the mid-18th century.)

    A 1928 description of the drink was “gin, a spot of lime, and soda.” In his 1953 novel. “The Long Goodbye,” Raymond Chandler wrote that “a real gimlet is half gin and half Rose’s lime juice and nothing else.”

    Forget that, Chandler: You may be a great fiction writer but nothing is better in a gimlet than fresh lime juice. If you want to use a lime juice cordial like Rose’s, here’s a homemade lime juice cordial recipe and the reason why you should make your own.
    Find more of our favorite cocktail recipes.



    JULY 4th: Red Velvet Cupcakes Recipe In Red, White & Blue

    Red velvet, white frosting, blue berries.
    Photo courtesy Wholesome Sweeteners.


    These festive July 4th cupcakes combine popular red velvet cake with red and blue berries and white frosting (cream cheese!) Thanks to Wholesome Sweeteners, purveyors of organic and Fair Trade sugar, for the recipe. It makes 24 cupcakes.



  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 2-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk*
  • 1 to 1½ tablespoons red food coloring (depending on how vivid
    you prefer your red)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Cream cheese frosting (recipe)
  • Berries or chocolate morsels for topping

    *You can make your own buttermilk by adding a tablespoon of lemon juice or distilled white vinegar to milk and letting it stand for about 10 minutes. If you buy a quart, check the bottom of this article for other ways to use buttermilk.


    1. PREHEAT. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cream the sugar and butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl frequently throughout this recipe’s preparation.

    2. COMBINE. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until each is fully incorporated. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure even mixing. In a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Resift twice, making sure that the dry ingredients are well blended.

    3. BLEND. In another bowl whisk together the buttermilk, red food coloring and vanilla extract. Add ¼ of the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and beat on low until just blended; then add a third of the buttermilk mix. Being careful not to overmix. Add another ¼ of the dry mix, then 1/3 of the wet mix, until all are incorporated.

    3. BAKE. Place cupcake papers into a cupcake/muffin tin and fill each about 1/2 to 3/4 full with the batter. Bake for 15 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake for another 3-7 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

    4. COOL. Allow to cool for a minute or two in the pan, then transfer the cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.

    5. FROST. Frost with cream cheese frosting. Sprinkle with fresh red and blue berries for July 4th. For Valentine’s Day, dust with cocoa powder or top with a chocolate kiss or other chocolate garnish.

    Makes about 2½ dozen cupcakes–depending on the size of the cupcakes, of course.

    Use a heart-shaped muffin pan.

    Recioe © 2011 Wholesome Sweeteners.



    RECIPE: Chocolate Peppermint Kiss Cocktail

    February 11th was National Peppermint Pattie Day and we forgot to publish this delicious cocktail recipe from Partida Tequila.

    But it tastes just as good as a Valentine treat (or a Christmas treat or a “because it’s Thursday” treat).


    Ingredients Per Cocktail

  • 3/4 ounce blanco/silver tequila
  • 1 ounce peppermint schnapps
  • 3/4 ounce Godiva Liqueur
  • 1-1/2 ounce cream
  • Chocolate syrup
  • Crushed peppermint candies
  • Ice

    A “candy cocktail.” Photo courtesy Partida Tequila.



    1. RIM a Martini glass with chocolate syrup and crushed candy canes.

    2. COMBINE ingredients in a shaker with ice; shake and strain into glass.

    4. SERVE with a kiss!



    VALENTINE’S DAY: Last Minute Cupcake Ideas

    A tiny heart turns a simple cupcake into a
    Valentine celebration. Photo courtesy


    Just one little candy heart turns seemingly plain cupcakes into a perfect Valentine’s Day treat.

    The flower design was added inspiration, but we actually prefer the minimalist approach—heart only—for its elegant simplicity.

    Head to the bakery and buy some cupcakes. Head to the candy store and grab some themed candy. If you only have a supermarket at hand, decorate with red or pink sprinkles and top the sprinkles with a chocolate kiss.

    You might not have time to bake these double lemon cupcakes today, but they are simply splendid: a lemon cupcake topped with lemon cream cheese frosting. Get the lemon cupcake recipe from, and put it on your “To Bake” list.

    Because we’re crazy for lemon curd (and all things lemon), we turned the recipe into Triple Lemon Cupcakes:


  • When the cupcakes are cool, take a melon baller and scoop into the center.
  • Fill the cavity with lemon curd and replace the top part of the cake you’re removed as a cap.
  • You’ll have to trim off everything but the very top to accommodate the lemon curd.


    And now for that all-American favorite, red velvet cupcakes.

    Bella Baker herself, Lauryn Cohen, makes them as they should be: with beets, not red food color.

    We find that most red velvet cake is bland: all color, no flavor. If you, too, don’t understand what all the fuss is about, bake a recipe that uses beets.

    Here’s Bella Baker’s red velvet cupcake recipe.

    THE NIBBLE wishes you a Valentine’s Day filled with love—and some great things to eat.


    Turn red velvet cupcakes into Valentine cupcakes with a sprinkle of tiny hearts. Photo courtesy




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