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Archive for Valentine’s Day

FOOD FUN: Berry Croissants


Berry croissants: a yummy idea. Photo courtesy Castello Cheese.


For Sunday brunch or afternoon tea*, here’s a fun alternative to a chocolate croissant that provides another reason to enjoy seasonal berries.



  • Croissants
  • Berries: blackberries, raspberries, strawberries or a mix
  • Mascarpone, fresh chèvre (goat cheese—look especially for the honey chèvre at Trader Joe’s), cream cheese or other spreadable cheese

    1. SPLIT the croissant and spread the bottom half with cheese.

    2. ADD the berries, whole or sliced, depending on size.

    Thanks to Castello USA for the idea (they used blue cheese).

    *Who has afternoon tea, you say? Well, THE NIBBLE is a far cry from Downtown Abbey, but we serve afternoon tea daily. Not everyone drinks tea, but it’s our chance to sample some of the many foods that arrive at our doorstep—baked goods, candy, jam, crackers, cheese, pâté and so forth—including coffee, tea and other beverages. If you want to serve a proper afternoon tea, here’s how.



    RECIPE: Oysters & Pearls

    The great chef Thomas Keller, inventor of “Oysters and Pearls,” created a splendid first course with fresh-shucked oysters in a pearl tapioca sabayon, garnished with osetra caviar (today it’s domestic white sturgeon caviar, due to import restrictions).

    Here’s a video, here’s the recipe).

    Keller’s inspiration was a box on tapioca pearls he noticed on a shelf. He turned the tapioca into something savory instead of the conventional sweet pudding, thinking “Where do pearls come from? Oysters.”

    The iconic dish came together just like that.

    While we can’t get enough of Oysters and Pearls, here’s an easier take on the dish that you can make for Mother’s Day or other special occasion.



    An easy version of “Oysters and Pearls.” Photo courtesy Chalk Point Kitchen | NYC.

    You can serve as many oysters on a plate as you like: a minimum three, up to a dozen oysters on the half shell if your guests are like Diamond Jim Brady.

    Serve this course with a dry white wine or saké.


  • Oysters on the half shell
  • Seaweed or microgreens
  • Salmon caviar (vegan option finger lime pearls)
  • Yuzu or rice wine vinaigrette
  • Optional: halved cherry or grape tomatoes, lime wedges

    1. DRESS the seaweed with some yuzu or rice wine vinaigrette so it can be eaten as a salad.

    2. CREATE a seaweed bed on each serving plate, topped with the oysters.

    3. TOP each oyster with pearls of caviar. Decorate the plate with the cherry tomatoes and lime wedge.



    RECIPE: Cherry Cheesecake With Chocolate Glaze


    Cherry cheesecake with chocolate accents.
    Photo and recipe courtesy Betty Crocker.


    Next in our choice of cherry recipes for Washington’s Birthday (February 22nd) is a cherry cheesecake with a twist: a chocolate crust and chocolate glaze.

    Prep time for this Betty Crocker recipe is just 35 minutes, plus another 5 hours and 50 minutes for baking and chilling.

    You can make this recipe ahead of time and freeze it. To do so, first bake the cheesecake; cool and glaze. Freeze it until the glaze is set. Then wrap it tightly and freeze it for up to 1 month. Before serving, unwrap and thaw the cheesecake in the fridge for 4 to 6 hours.

    Make it again on April 23rd, National Cherry Cheesecake Day.


    Ingredients For 16 Servings

    Ingredients For The Crust

  • 2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
    For The Filling

  • 4 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1 can or jar (21 ounces) cherry pie filling—or make your own with the recipe below
    For The Glaze

  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 325°F. In medium bowl, combine the crust ingredients; mix well. Press into the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of an ungreased 10-inch springform pan.

    2. BEAT the cream cheese in large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add 1 egg at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the sugar and almond extract until smooth. Add 1/2 cup whipping cream; blend well.

    3. SPOON 3-1/2 cups of the cream cheese mixture into crust-lined pan, spreading evenly. Carefully spoon 1 cup of the pie filling evenly overthe cream cheese layer (reserve remaining pie filling for the topping). Spoon the remaining cream cheese mixture evenly over the pie filling.

    4. BAKE for 1 hour 5 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes or until the center is set. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 1 hour.

    5. MAKE the glaze: In 1-quart saucepan, heat 1/2 cup whipping cream to boiling over medium-high heat. Remove from heat. Stir in the chocolate chips until melted.

    6. LINE a cookie sheet with waxed paper. Remove the side of the springform pan. Place the cheesecake on the paper-lined cookie sheet. Spread the glaze over the cooled cheesecake, allowing some to flow down the side.

    7. REFRIGERATE at least 3 hours or overnight. Serve topped with the remaining pie filling.



    Some brands of pie filling are distinctly better than others. A safe bet is to pick up an organic brand. The extra cost is worth it.

    For a luxury experience, we use a jar of sour cherry pie filling from Chukar Cherries (it’s $14.95).

    But if your discriminating palate doesn’t like any canned cherry filling, it’s easy to make your own with just 20 minutes of prep time, and 1 hour 10 minutes of cook time.


    Ingredients For An 8-Inch Pie

  • 4 cups fresh or frozen tart (Montmorency) cherries; or canned cherries in water (see photo at right)
  • 1 to 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/8 tablespoon almond extract (optional)


    Make your own cherry filling with fresh or frozen cherries, or canned cherries in water. Photo courtesy Oregon Specialty Fruit.


    1. PLACE the cherries in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cover and simmer. After the cherries lose considerable juice (several minutes—stir occasionally), remove from the heat.

    2. COMBINE in a small bowl the sugar and cornstarch. Pour into the hot cherries and combine thoroughly. Add the almond extract and stir. Return the mixture to the stove and cook over low heat until thickened, stirring frequently.

    3. REMOVE from the heat and let cool. If the filling is too thick, add a little water. It it’s too thin, add a bit more cornstarch.



    VALENTINE’S DAY: Drink Pink


    Chandon California Rosé is a sparkling rosé wine that’s less than half the price ($24) of a French rosé Champagne. The company also makes Sparkling Red from Zinfandel ($30), Reserve Pinot Noir Rosé ($35) and Etoile Rosé ($50). Photo courtesy Chandon.


    Heading out to the liquor store to pick up a bottle for Valentine’s Day? Here are some tips:

    Don’t purchase a vintage year Champagne. Vintage champagnes typically need to be laid down for 10 or 15 years to reveal their glorious nuances. Knowledgeable people who buy them don’t plan to drink them anytime soon. Instead, you’ll save money and have a better taste experience with nonvintage Champagne.

    Do look for rosé Champagne, as “real” pink-hued Champagne is called. Fuller in body with a deeper flavor, it’s our personal favorite. (It’s also pricier due to the extra steps required to extract the pink color. Taittinger Brut Prestige Rosé is a beauty, with the greater roundness that rosé Champagnes have. It’s priced in between the nonvintage and vintage Taittingers, around $65.00.

    Don’t buy anything called “Pink Champagne.” It is not French but inexpensive wine, carbonated and colored pink. Authentic rosé Champagne (and other natural rosé wines) get their color by extracting it from the grape skins into the white juice.

    Do look for non-Champagne rose sparklers. Two of our favorites: [yellow tail] Bubbles Rosé from Australia (yes, it’s spelled lower case and in brackets) and Martini Sparkling Rosé Wine from Italy. Both are not much more than $10 a bottle, but don’t let the price fool you. They’re delicious! Another favorite, Chandon Rosé, from California is about $22.00.

    If you want Champagne with dessert, look for a sec- or demi-sec Champagne*. These are vinified for sweeter foods (i.e., extra dosage is added for sweetness). Brut Champagnes are not vinified to pair with desserts, and will seem too astringent if you drink them with sweeter foods. Sec Champagnes also go well with foods that typically pair with sweeter wines, such as foie gras, lobster and double-creme/triple creme cheeses (our idea of a perfect meal).

    If you don’t want sparkling wine, buy rosé, a pink still wine.


    Here are some of our favorite Valentine wines.

    More of our favorite rosé Champagnes.

    Whatever is in your glass, have a delicious Valentine’s Day.

    *While sec means “dry” in French and demi-sec means “half dry,” as the terms refer to Champagne, they indicates sweetness.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Easy Valentine Cake

    If time has gotten away from you and you haven’t picked up a special treat for the family, here’s a trick from one of our favorite New York bakeries, BakedNYC.

    Buy a plain, iced store-bought cake and add your own decorating touch. It combines store-bought with “homemade.”

    While you can buy a Valentine cake at any supermarket, most have tacky plastic decorations. You can do a much nicer job by adding your own delicious decorations to a plain frosted cake.

  • Sprinkles. Your supermarket may have Valentine sprinkles (a mix of red, pink and white) or heart-shaped sprinkle decorations. If not, get bottles of plain red and white sprinkles.
  • Candies. Or, head to the candy section for chocolate foil hearts, Conversation Hearts, pink and red jelly beans, Hershey’s kisses, red hots or anything else that fits in with the theme.
  • Fresh fruit. How about chocolate-dipped strawberries or raspberries? Here’s how to dip your own. Otherwise, add them plain. If you have enough, dot them around the rim. Otherwise, you can place them in the center.


    Add your own decorating touch to a plain iced cake. Photo courtesy BakedNYC.

  • Rim garnish. At a minimum, add a rim of garnish to the top of the cake. Sprinkles or Red Hots work well.
  • Base garnish. To go all-out, place Hershey’s Kisses (you can leave the festive foil on), conversation hearts or chocolate foil hearts around the base, instead of the piped frosting shown in the photo.


    If you want to bake, you don’t need to make layers. Buy a box of cake mix (chocolate, red velvet, white or yellow) and toss a bundt cake, loaf cake or single-layer mini sheet cake into the oven.

    About the icing:

    The bakery section of your supermarket may sell tubs of buttercream (CK Products makes it). It’s not as good as homemade, but it’s far better than canned frosting.

    Or, take 10 minutes to make real buttercream. All you need is a stick of butter, a cup of confectioners’ sugar, 1/4 cup whole milk and the flavoring of your choice: 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 4 ounces chocolate or 1 teaspoon instant coffee. Just blend them together and ice away!

    Here’s the recipe.



    VALENTINE RECIPE: Chocolate Raspberry Bundt Cake


    Chocolate and raspberries are a match made
    in heaven. Photo courtesy Annalise | Completely Celicious.


    Here’s another delicious Valentine recipe from Annalise of Completely Delicious, sent to us via

    Everyone thinks they’re getting a conventional chocolate cake, until slicing it reveals the raspberry surprise. This combination of chocolate and fresh raspberries in a buttery Bundt cake is a match made in heaven (just like you and your Valentine?).

    The raspberries blend into the cake as it bakes, creating little bursts of bright flavor to contrast with the rich chocolate.


    Ingredients For A 9-Inch Cake

  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1-1/4 cups unsalted butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1-1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • Garnish: powdered sugar
  • Optional garnish: whipped cream*
  • Optional garnish: fresh raspberries
  • Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 9-inch bundt pan.

    2. COMBINE the flour, cocoa, salt and baking soda in medium bowl. In the bowl of stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, mixing after each, and stir in the vanilla. Add the dry ingredients in 3 batches, alternating with the buttermilk, scraping down bowl as needed.

    3. SPOON the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the raspberries on top (they will sink as the cake bakes). Bake 45-60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out with a few moist crumbs.

    4. LET the cake cool completely in the pan, then turn out onto a plate or cake stand. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and garnish with whipped cream and additional raspberries.

    *For more raspberry flavor, add a tablespoon of Chambord or other raspberry liqueur into the whipped cream.



    RECIPE: Ravioli With Pan Roasted Tomatoes

    This recipe from is easy and inviting for Valentine’s Day. It’s from blogger Annalise of Completely Delicious, via

    Prep time is 10 minutes, cook time is 20 minutes.


    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 pound fresh or frozen cheese ravioli
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded



    An easy Valentine dinner. Photo courtesy Go Bold With Butter.

    1. BRING a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the ravioli according to package instructions. Drain.

    2. MELT the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat, while the ravioli are cooking. Add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Cook the tomatoes until their skins split, about 4-6 minutes, shaking the pan every few minutes to rotate tomatoes.

    3. ADD the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add the drained ravioli and toss with the tomatoes until combined.

    4. GARNISH with basil and serve immediately with Parmesan cheese.



    RECIPE: Dark Cherry Fizz With Sparkling Wine

    The Dark Cherry Fizz in a coupe glass. Photo courtesy Chandon.


    For Valentine’s Day, here’s a charming cocktail from Chandon, one of our favorite affordable sparkling wine makers. It uses cherry purée and crème de mûre, blackcurrant (not blackberry!) liqueur.

    It may sound fusty in the U.S., but in France, where we first discovered it, crème de mûre is a popular fruit liqueur. The flavor is heavenly, drunk straight as a yummy after-dinner drink or used instead of framboise (raspberry liqueur) in a variation of a Kir Royale.

    Crème de mûre (pronounced pronounce: krem duh MYUR) is one of the family of crème liqueurs (crème de cacao, crème de menthe and crème de cassis, for example).

    Not to be confused with cream liqueur, in which dairy cream is added, crème liqueur is sweetened to a near-syrup consistency. In this case, “crème” refers to that consistency.

    Consider a bottle of crème de mûre as a Valentine gift; and if you’re feeling flush, add a bottle of Champagne or other sparkling wine.

    If you want to make this recipe without buying a new bottle of liqueur, you can substitute creme de cassis (currant liqueur) or framboise (Chambord is a brand of framboise).


    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 3 ounces Chandon Blanc de Noirs* or substitute sparkling wine
  • 1/3 ounce crème de mûre
  • 1/2 ounce cherry purée (make it from frozen cherries)

    1. PURÉE the cherries. No sweetener is necessary, as the liqueur is quite sweet.

    2. COMBINE the liqueur and cherry purée in a shaker; shake and double strain into a coupe glass. (If you don’t have a shaker, you can blend the ingredients in whatever is convenient. If you don’t have a coupe glass, use what you have.)

    3. TOP with the sparkling wine.

    *Blanc de Noirs means “white from black,” referring to the white wine that is produced from black (dark) Pinot Noir grapes. Its counterpart is Blanc de Blancs, a white wine produced from white (Chardonnay) grapes. Blanc de Noirs is richer and fuller-bodied.


    TIP OF THE DAY: Valentine Toast

    Get out your heart-shaped cookie cutter and think about your menu for tomorrow.

    You can start Valentine’s Day with with heart-shaped toast and red fruit jam.

    Then, make extra toast hearts:

  • For lunch with soup, spread with herb butter
  • For lunch or dinner as croutons with a salad, spread with goat cheese
  • For cocktails (make it Champagne!), spread with sour cream or crème fraîche and topped with salmon caviar
  • For dinner as garlic toasts, spread with garlic butter; or plain with a cheese course

    Cut them into a small dice and store in an airtight container. The next day, use them:

  • As salad croutons
  • As omelet filling
  • As soup garnish
  • In a hash or skillet stuffing
  • Mixed into custard or pudding—a kind of reverse bread pudding


    Love toast for Valentine’s Day. Photo courtesy Nar Gourmet.

    You can first pop the croutons into a hot skillet with a bit of butter or oil to crisp them.

    Other ideas? Let us know!



    RECIPE: Beet Tarte Tatin

    Beet Tarte Tatin. Photo and recipe courtesy


    If you love the combination of beets and goat cheese, try this recipe for Beet Tarte Tatin. We adapted it from one by Katrina Woodman, originally published in the October 2012 of Australian Good Taste.

    The Tatin sisters, Caroline and Stéphanie, ran the Hotel Tatin in Lamotte-Beuvron, southwest of Paris in the Loire Valley, not far from the town of Chambord. Tarte Tatin is a one-crust fruit pie invented by accident in France in the early 1880s. It is served upside-down; the fruit (initially, it was apples) are on the bottom with the crust on top.

    As the story goes, Stéphanie, preparing an apple tart, erroneously put the apples in the pan without the crust underneath. The apples caramelized, the customers loved it and the Tarte Tatin was born.

    It can be made with sweet vegetables as well: beets and carrots are delicious prospects.

    This vegetable Tatin, cooked in a skillet, serves four as an appetizer or as part of a light lunch, with a salad.


    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 8 small beets, peeled and halved
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (removed from stalks)
  • 1 sheet frozen butter puff pastry, thawed
  • 2 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled
  • Optional garnish: fresh thyme sprigs


    1. PREHEAT oven to 390°F.

    2. MELT the butter in a ovenproof non-stick 7″ or 8″ frying pan over medium-high heat. Stir in the beets and cook for 2 minutes. Add the sugar, vinegar and thyme. Season. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until mixture thickens.

    3. COVER with foil and bake for 20 minutes or until the beetroot is just tender. Set aside for 5 minutes to cool. Increase oven heat to 430°F.

    4. TRIM the pastry into a 9″ to 10″ disc, depending on size of pan. Arrange the beets evenly over the base of the pan. Top with pastry. Fold in excess. Bake for 20 minutes or until puffed and golden. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes.

    5. PLACE a plate turned upside down over the frying pan (it should be bigger than the pan). Holding the two together, flip the entire pastry over. Top with goat cheese and herbs and serve warm.


    ebkids two types of roots jangios167j4 23rd of February, 2006 cmmccabe

    A taproot system versus conventional fibrous roots. Here’s more about it from


    Beetroot (Beta vulgaris) evolved from the wild seabeet, a leafy plant that grows at coastlines around the world. It was first domesticated in the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East, although it was only the leaves that were eaten back then. (The wild seabeet is also the common ancestor of spinach and chard.)

    The Romans began to cultivate beets in earnest, cooking them with honey and wine. Recipes in oldest surviving cookbook De Re Coquinaria by Apicius’s, included beetroot in broths and salads, the latter with a very modern-sounding vinaigrette of mustard, oil and vinegar.

    The beet is a plant with a taproot system. The taproot is a large, central, dominant root, typically straight and very thick, tapering downward (see image above). For most of its life, beetroot was long and thin like a carrot or parsnip—both taproots, along with burdock, radish and turnip, among others. The familiar round shape was developed in the 16th century.

    Beetroot continued to grow in popularity in Victorian times, favored for its dramatic color in salads and soups. It was also used as a sweet ingredient in cakes and puddings. Beet sugar, used more widely around the world than cane sugar, was made by boiling all the sugar out of the beets, then cooking down that sugary water into dry crystals.

    Today, as a result of mutation and selective breeding, beets are available in numerous shapes and sizes, including orange, yellow, white and candy-striped (with red and white concentric circles).


    The term beetroot is used in the U.K., France and elsewhere. It is known by its shorter name, beet, in North America.

  • The table beet is a vegetable grown for human consumption.
  • The sugar beet has been bred for higher sugar content, from which granulated sugar and molasses can be made.
    You can eat a sugar beet as a vegetable, but can’t make sugar and molasses from a table beet.



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