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THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on,
the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Tip Of The Day

TIP OF THE DAY: Plate Painting For Your Dessert

If you patronize fine restaurants and order dessert, you’ve probably noticed the “plate painting” that turns a piece of cake, tartlet or other pastry into a piece of art.

But it’s not just for baked goods: Custard, pudding, even fresh fruit can also benefit from an artistic touch.

In most cases, the plate is painted before the dessert is placed on top. With a sauce, for example panna cotta with creme anglaise, the dessert is placed atop the sauce and then the sauce is decorated.

The idea is not only to create art, but to add more flavors to the dessert. Everything you use should be a flavor match to the dessert, and should be consumable with a fork or spoon.

This article from Wilton shows all the easy ways to start.

The simplest thing is to use a sieve to cover the dessert plate with cocoa powder (shown in the Wilton article). But you should also try:


Fill a squeeze bottle with caramel sauce, chocolate sauce or other flavor, and squeeze out squiggles, loops, curls or zigzags. You can use two different sauces for contrast. This video shows you how.


Fruit coulis (coo-LEE, French for strained purée) in a squeeze bottle; parchment paper to make the piping cone. You won’t believe how easy it is to make flame and heart patterns on your plate.

This video shows how easy it is to make dots with fruit purées.

You can also use both of these techniques to decorate the frosting on top of cakes.


  • Go for a contrasting color. For example, a chocolate dessert is enlivened by raspberry coulis or caramel sauce—or both. As you get more comfortable, use two or three colors.
  • Add different textures. For example, berries, cookie crumbs, streusel, mini marshmallows and/or macarons or pomegranate arils, artfully placed on the plate, contribute both aesthetic and fun factor. One of our favorite ways to add color is to dice pâte de fruits (French-style fruit jellies—very upscale Chuckles) and scatter different flavors on the plate.
  • Don’t cramp the elements. Depending on how many components are on the plate, use a dinner plate or charger to spread them out.
  • Combine with other garnishes, like creme anglaise or whipped cream.
  • Don’t give up. If you want to decorate but don’t think that you have any ingredients on hand, look again. Jam can be diluted to approximate coulis; baking chips can be melted (they’ll harden on the plate, but that’s OK; or you can add vegetable oil to keep them fluid. And there’s always an apple or orange on hand to dice and scatter; or some candy that can be employed.




    Dessert Plate Painting With Chocolate

    FIRST PHOTO: A simple scroll design. Photo courtesy SECOND PHOTO: Anyone can make a simple zigzag with a squeeze bottle. Photo courtesy Wilton. THIRD PHOTO: You can turn dots into hearts with the nozzle tip. Photo courtesy Kuhn Rikon. FOURTH PHOTO: Pretty soon, you’ll be able to do this. Photo courtesy Harvest On Hudson.

    This video shows how to make a complex design, but also gives you all the technique for simple squiggles.

    Remember: Practice makes perfect. You don’t need a steady hand to start; but the more you try, the more you’ll be able to do. Practice on desserts for family dinners, or with snacks like brownies.

    And above all, have fun with it!



    TIP OF THE DAY: Thanksgiving Table Decorations

    Thanksgiving Table Decorations

    Use grocery store items to decorate your Thanksgiving table. Photo courtesy Foragers Market | Brooklyn.


    Some people like a flower centerpiece for their table. Others take out the silver candelabra.

    We’ve done both, but realized that they can interfere with sight lines across the table. They’re also very 20th (and 19th) century.

    So in recent years we’ve tried:

  • A glass vase or clear salad bowl filled with pomegranates, lady apples, clementines, fresh green leaves and metallic-sprayed pine cones.
  • A short glass vase layered with different whole nuts, with florists’ moss between the layers.
  • A stack of three flat winter squash—like flatter pumpkins— in different colors (look in farmers markets for the Bonbon Buttercup, Flat Boer Pumpkin, some Hubbard and Kabocha, and other heirloom varieties).

  • Flat winter squash covered with silver and gold metallic paints.
  • A three-pound chocolate turkey, which was hammered into pieces at the end, and the pieces sent home with guests as party favors.
  • Indian corn and autumn leaves, which lasts a long time as household decor.
    While the first idea is our favorite, our guests deserve variety from year to year.

    So this year, we’re adapting an idea from Foragers Market, to scatter the table with miniature pumpkins, decorative gourds and rosemary sprigs.

    After dinner, the gourds go into a glass bowl or basket to decorate the foyer; the rosemary sprigs go into the freezer to use again on the Christmas table or to garnish cocktails, mineral water or soft drinks; or in recipes.

    You can use the same concept for Halloween.

    Need more ideas?

    Here are 45 Thanksgiving centerpieces from HGTV.


    TIP OF THE DAY: Fiori di Sicilia, Fior Di Sicilia

    Fior di Sicilia, an Italian essence that translates to “flower of Sicily,” was used by our friend Ruth’s mother to flavor almost everything she baked. Biscotti, brioche and sweet breads, cookies, cheesecake, angel/pound/sponge cake, pie, macarons, meringues, yellow and white cakes got the fior di sicilia treatment, especially during the holidays.

    Ruth’s mom no doubt inherited the tradition from her mother and grandmother, who were born in the old country. Italians use it to add flavor and aroma to panettone, pandoro and ricotta cookies.

    The essence is a combination of floral, citrus and vanilla extracts, with a lovely floral aroma. Some Americans might identify the scent and taste as an elegant take on “Creamsicle.” Most will find it beguilingly mysterious, and will ask you what the taste is. (Note that essences from different manufacturers may vary. One friend notes flavors of lemon, lime and strawberry in her brand.)
    Is It Fiori Or Fior Di Sicilia?

    The terms are used interchangeably. We see bottles with both the singular, fior di sicilia, and the plural, fiori.


    Fiori Di Sicilia, Fior Di Sicilia

    Fiori di Sicilia adds floral and citrus “mystery” to baked goods. Photo courtesy King Arthur Flour.

    How To Use Fiori Di Sicilia

    We like to use it to add something special to holiday baking. Add a half teaspoon of fiori di sicilia to a basic cookie or cake recipe. If that isn’t enough for you, use more next time. If the half teaspoon seems meager, it’s because the essence is potent, and should be used with light touch.

    Other popular holiday uses:

  • Biscotti
  • Butter cookies and shortbread
  • Cream cheese and ricotta fillings
  • Hot tea, sparkling water
  • Pound cake and layer cake
  • Ricotta cookies
    We’ve been known to add it to a cup of warm milk (hot or warm milk is a better-for-you comfort food for us). You can add your sweetener of choice to create a cup of “hot fiori di sicilia.”

    In the summer, add it to iced tea and fruit soup.

    You can try it in a one-ounce size ($9.95) from King Arthur Flour; there’s also a 4-ounce size ($19.95). The smaller size is a nice stocking stuffer for people who bake.


    Christmas Butter Cookies

    Christmas butter cookies with fiori di sicilia. Here’s the recipe, from King Arthur Flour.



    Thanks to King Arthur for developing these delicious recipes:

  • Holiday Butter Cookies Recipe
  • Lemon Brioche Recipe
  • French Toast Recipe
  • Cranberry Nut Fruitcake Recipe
  • Lemon-Glazed Pound Cake Recipe
  • Meringues Recipe
  • Pandoro Recipe
  • Panettone Muffins Recipe
  • Panettone Recipe
  • Shimmer Cookies Recipe
  • Orange Shortbread Cookies Recipe
  • Springerle Cookies Recipe
  • Spritz Cookies Recipe

    There are 60 more fiori di Sicilia recipes at Enjoy the voyage of discovery.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Mulling Spice Sachets

    Mulling Spice Sachets


    TOP PHOTO: Individual sachets are best if only one or two people want a cup. Larger sachets are used to make a 6- or 8-cup pot. Photo courtesy McCormick. BOTTOM PHOTO:
    Empty tea bag “sachets,” used to fill with loose tea, are easier to make although less festive than muslin or netting. You can get them at specialty tea shops or online. Photo courtesy NiceShop. Put leftover mulled beverages in the fridge to enjoy chilled.


    In our last article, we suggested a cider party with a pumpkin layer cake. Here’s a related tip:

    Make mulling spice sachets for mulled cider or wine. They layer the flavors found in spiced tea on top of the base beverage, which is typically warmed cider or wine.

    Make them for family, guests and gifting. Individual sachets are better for gifting; large sachets are better for a pot of cider.

    For gifting and party favors, you can package the sachets in a holiday tin or a Mason jar with a red ribbon. Be sure to add the mulling instructions (below) on the gift tag or insert them into the package.

    To give two individual sachets as small party favors, find a small, colored cellophane bag, a clear or vellum envelope or other gift bag. Include the instructions.

    Prep time is 5 minutes to make an individual sachet, 15 minutes to steep the cider or wine. If you have nimble fingers and have organized your ingredients, you can make three individual sachets or two large ones in 5 minutes.

    Thanks to McCormick for the recipe.


    Ingredients For 1 Bag/2 Servings

  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 2 whole allspice
  • Optional: 2 cardamom pods
  • 2 cups apple cider, hard cider or wine
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Cheesecloth*, cut into 4″ squares
  • Kitchen string
    *The easiest option is to purchase drawstring filter bags, used for loose tea (photo at left). Another option: If you can find fine, flexible netting, it makes a prettier sachet but you need to wash it first, to soften it and eliminate any dust it’s picked up along the way.


    1. PLACE the spices in the center of a piece of cheesecloth. Tie tightly with long piece of string. Store in an airtight container. That’s it, until you’re ready to mull your beverage. Then…

    2. PLACE the spice sachet in small saucepan. Add the apple cider or wine. Simmer over medium heat 10 to 15 minutes or until fragrant.

    3. DISCARD the spice sachet. Stir in the vanilla. Serve warm or hot.

    Ingredients For A Party-Size Mulling Spice Sachet

    1. INCREASE the cinnamon sticks to 4, whole cloves to 2 teaspoons, whole allspice to 1 teaspoon and vanilla to 2 teaspoons.

    2. WRAP in cheesecloth and warm in a pot with 2 quarts (8 cups) of apple cider or wine. You can also use apple juice. The difference is that apple cider is a fresh-squeezed product that needs to be refrigerated; apple juice is processed and homogenized to be shelf stable (no refrigeration needed until after the package has been opened).



    TIP OF THE DAY: “Pumpkin Custard” & The First Thanksgiving

    We’ll soon celebrate Thanksgiving, a remembrance of a harvest feast that took place 394 years ago. Pumpkin may have been served at the Pilgrims’ first harvest feast, but it wasn’t pumpkin pie. The pumpkin pie we know and love first appears in cookbooks in the early 19th century.

    After a horrific first winter that saw their community reduced by half, the settlers had yet to construct ovens for baking. Even if there had been butter and shortening to spare, pie crusts wouldn’t have cooked evenly over an open fire.

    But there may have been a pumpkin custard, which could be cooked in its own vessel—the pumpkin shell. Our tip today is: See if you can fit it into your Thanksgiving menu; and if not, enjoy it in advance of the big day.

    Before we go on to the recipe, here are some tidbits from

    The website has a terrific account on the Pilgrims and the first “Thanksgiving” (it wasn’t called that until much later). It expands on snippets taught in school and follows the dual stories of both the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag natives who helped them. The re-enactment videos and photography bring the story to life in a fresh new way.

    If some family and guests have an hour to kill on Thanksgiving Day, send everyone to the site. It will make the feast so much more meaningful.


    The Pilgrims, 102 adults and children, set sail for Virginia on September 6, 1620. The Mayflower was thrown off course by storms, and landed at Cape Cod 56 days later, on November 11th. The party made their way to the settlement they called Plimouth as winter set in, arriving on Christmas Day. Already weakened by their travel voyage, half of the passengers failed to survive the first few months of a bitter winter.




    TOP PHOTO: Pumpkin custard baked in a pumpkin. Photo courtesy Souffle Bombay. BOTTOM PHOTO: A sugar pumpkin, the best size and shape for this recipe. Photo courtesy Art Of The Home.


    During those winter months, it was very difficult to find food and build shelter. Fortunately, the local native people, called Wampanoag, shared their knowledge and helped the colonists survive.

    Ten months after they arrived the settlers had constructed seven cottages, a common meeting house and three storehouses for the food from their first harvest. The Wampanoag Squanto taught the settlers how to plant native crops like corn and squash.

    Our national holiday commemorates the feast held in the autumn of 1621 to celebrate the colony’s first successful harvest. It was considered a harvest celebration, and was not called Thanksgiving. The “thanksgiving” concept was applied in the 19th century by scholars studying that period; and the Thanksgiving holiday, setting the last Thursday of November “as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise,” was proclaimed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863.

    What did they eat? There’s only one surviving written account of the feast, which mentions neither turkey nor pumpkin, although we know both were plentiful locally. There were no cranberries† and no potatoes, mashed or sweet. Here’s what we do know:

  • Waterfowl were plentiful in the Massachusetts Bay area. Men could go out and shoot as much duck and geese as they liked. The women would pluck them and roast them over the fireplaces in their cottages.
  • Children would grind corn into cornmeal which was then made into porridge called samp (think oatmeal made from corn).
  • For their first harvest feast, the Wampanoag leader, Massasoit, sent 5 warriors to hunt five deer as a gift to the colonists. Venison was a favorite Wampanoag food.
  • The duck and venison were likely accompanied by cabbage, corn, onions, squash (including pumpkin) and seafood. Mussels clung to the rocks along the shore—easy pickings.
  • The 1621 feast lasted about a week, spanning several meals and games for both children and adults. Sometimes the Wampanoag and Pilgrims dined together, sometimes apart.
    *The Native Americans probably couldn’t sweeten them enough to be tasty. Instead, they used cranberries for red dye.




    TOP PHOTO: A traditional pumpkin pie, made
    in a pie plate with a crust, didn’t appear until
    the early 19th century. TOP PHOTO: A
    traditional pumpkin pie decorated with small cookies in seasonal shapes. The cookie cutters are available at William-Sonoma.
    Photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma. BOTTOM
    PHOTO: You can also bake the custard in small individual pumpkins. Photo courtesy



    According to some accounts, the English settlers hollowed out pumpkins and filled the shells with milk, honey and spices to make a custard. They baked the filled pumpkin in the hot ashes of the fireplace. You, fortunately, have an oven.

    This recipe creates an impressive dessert that happens to be gluten free. You can also make a savory custard version to serve as a side. Here’s an assortment of savory custard recipes.

    Note that this isn’t “pumpkin custard” but a conventional custard baked inside a pumpkin. You can make a pumpkin custard by adding pumpkin purée to the custard recipe. Here’s one pumpkin custard recipe; there are many others online.
    Ingredients For 4-5 Servings

  • 1 small pumpkin*
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs plus 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon of cornstarch
  • Pinch of salt
    *The pumpkin should be 4-5 inches in height and 18 inches in diameter. Sugar pumpkins are ideal, but if you can’t find a small pumpkin, look for other winter squash in this size range (Hubbard, for example).

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Prepare the pumpkin as if preparing a jack-o-lantern: Cut off the top leaving the stem intact and scoop out the seeds and pulp. Scoop out enough pulp (pumpkin flesh) for the custard, while leaving a border of pulp to serve along with the finished custard. Place the large bottom portion on a baking sheet. Reserve the top (stem end) for later.

    2. COMBINE the sugar, eggs and vanilla in a mixing bowl and whisk until combined. Add the heavy cream, cornstarch and salt and whisk until fully combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared pumpkin, leaving a 3/4-inch space between the filling and the top of the pumpkin. Bake for 15 minutes; then cover the top of the pumpkin loosely with foil and bake another 15 minutes.

    3. LOWER the oven temperature to 375°F, place the top of the pumpkin on the tray and continue to bake for another 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake an additional 30 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the custard comes out almost clean.

    4. TURN off the oven, allow the pumpkin to cool for an hour, then place it a refrigerator or in your cold garage, loosely covered with plastic wrap or foil. Allow the custard to set 6 hours or overnight. This is a good recipe to assign to a guest, since if you’re making the rest of the dinner, you (a) have your hands full and (b) your fridge is packed.

    5. TO SERVE: Scoop the custard into dessert bowls, scraping the sides to include some of the baked pumpkin.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Apple Cider Salted Caramels

    We love salted caramels: plain sea salt, fleur de sel, gray sea salt, smoked sea salt (see the different types of sea salts).

    They aren’t inexpensive: A box of seven smallish squares, chocolate coated and garnished with salt, is $14.00 at Fran’s.

    So how about a project for a lazy Sunday: homemade salted caramels? It can also solve holiday gift-giving needs.

    This recipe, which adds the seasonal touch of apple cider, was developed by P.J. Hamel for King Arthur Flour. Here are additional photos and tips.

    This recipe is made in the classic French style: Salted butter is used and more salt can be added to the caramel, instead of the current vogue for sweet butter with a salt garnishing on top. We prefer the latter, so if you prefer, use unsalted butter in the recipe and garnish the top with sea salt or other fine salt.

    The boiled cider that flavors the caramels is simply reduced apple cider or juice. You can make it (instructions are in the recipe that follows) or buy it (King Arthur Flour sells it). If you’re making your own, you can make it up to three months in advance.

    Use the extra boiled cider to add flavor to:

  • Baking: Add to baked recipes that use apples: cakes, crisps, crumbles, pies, turnovers. Replace the honey or molasses in recipes for apple cake, gingerbread, spice muffins and similar recipes.
  • Breakfast: Drizzle over French toast, oatmeal, pancakes, waffles; stir into plain yogurt.
  • Condiment: Add a teaspoon to vinaigrette or barbecue sauce; drizzle over baked apples, crêpes, grilled fruit, ice cream, sorbet or frozen yogurt; spread on toast or cornbread; give better flavor to store-bought applesauce.

    Apple Cider Caramels

    Apple Cider Salted Caramels

    Try your hand at making caramels. Photos courtesy King Arthur Flour.

  • Dinner: Glaze grilled vegetables or poultry (brush it on) or add a bit to marinades.

    Ingredients For 64 Caramels

  • 2 cups (1 pint) heavy cream or whipping cream
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
  • 1/2 cup boiled cider*, purchased or made (recipe follows)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon apple pie spice†
    For The Boiled Cider

    Prep time is 10 minutes, cook time is 1 hour. The yield is 1-1/2 cups.

  • 8 cups fresh apple cider or apple juice
    See the difference between cider vs. apple juice, below.
    *You can buy ready-made boiled cider from King Arthur Flour and other baking supply retailers.

    †Substitute 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ginger and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg or allspice.



    Chocolate Covered Salted Caramels

    TOP PHOTO: Homemade boiled apple cider. Photo courtesy Midwest Living. Here’s their
    full recipe. BOTTOM RECIPE: Feeling
    ambitious? Dip your caramels in melted
    chocolate. Photo courtesy Alma Chocolate.



    1. MAKE the boiled cider. BRING the cider to boiling in a 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven. Reduce the heat to medium and boil gently, uncovered, for 1-3/4 hours. Stir occasionally, until the cider has reduced to 1-1/2 cups. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.

    2. TRANSFER the boiled cider to a screw-top jar with a mouth at least wide enough to insert a spoon. Cover and store in the fridge for up to 3 months. The boiled cider will thicken in the fridge. Bring it to room temperature to use in this recipe.

    3. LIGHTLY GREASE an 8″ x 8″ baking pan and line with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on opposite sides.

    4. COMBINE the cream, corn syrup, sugar, butter and boiled cider in a heavy-bottom, deep saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce to medium-high heat and cook until the mixture reaches 248°F on a candy thermometer, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat; stir in the salt and spice.

    5. POUR the hot mixture into the prepared pan. Let it stand for 12 to 18 hours at room temperature before cutting into 1″ squares.

    6. WRAP the caramels: Use 6″ squares of parchment paper. (We had 5-inch squares. The difference is shorter twisted ends.) Place one caramel in the center of each square; wrap the opposite edges of the paper around the caramel and twist the exposed edges to close. If you don’t have parchment paper you can use wax paper, but you need to be careful when twisting the edges because it tears more easily.

    Here’s a very helpful video on how to wrap caramels.



    Since Prohibition, which began in the U.S. in 1920, “cider” has referred to the unfermented, unpasteurized apple juice. “Hard cider” is used to indicate the alcoholic beverage. In the U.K. it is the opposite, with “cider” indicating the alcoholic drink for which special cider apples are used.

  • Hard cider is a fermented alcoholic beverage made from the unfiltered juice of apples. The alcohol content varies from a low 1.2% ABV* to 8.5% or higher—some imported ciders can be up to 12% ABV, an average level for table wines. It does not need to be refrigerated until the container is opened.
  • Fresh apple cider is raw apple juice, typically unfiltered. Thus, it is cloudy from the remnants of apple pulp. It is also typically more flavorful than apple juice—although of course, the particular blend of apples used in either has a big impact on the taste. It needs to be refrigerated.
  • Apple juice has been filtered to remove pulp solids, then pasteurized for longer shelf life. It does not need to be refrigerated until the container is opened.


    TIP OF THE DAY: Bananas Foster Topping & Garnish

    As a lover of both chocolate cake and Bananas Foster, we were inspired by the creative use of Bananas Foster at Davio’s Italian Steakhouse in Boston (see photo). It’s traditionally used to top ice cream.

    It’s a most delicious addition. At Davio’s, a slice of flourless chocolate cake is topped with a slice of caramelized banana. But you can adapt the idea to almost any dessert. A chocolate base (or other dark color) is best to contrast the beige banana; but it will be delectable on anything. (It was a hit at THE NIBBLE on top of homemade chocolate pudding.)

    Before we are forthcoming with the recipe, here’s a bit of culinary history.


    Bananas Foster is a more elaborate version of caramelized bananas. Sliced bananas are sautéed in butter with brown sugar, banana liqueur and Grand Marnier (orange-infused brandy) or rum. It is then flambéed at the table for a dramatic effect, and spooned over vanilla ice cream.

    For the flame-averse: While igniting the dish tableside is dramatic both at a restaurant and at home, it isn’t necessary.


    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01_data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/flourless cake caramelized banana daviosbboston 230

    Two great desserts in one: Bananas Foster atop chocolate cake. Photo courtesy Davio’s |

    The original Bananas Foster recipe was created in 1951 by Paul Blangé (1900-1977), the executive chef at Brennan’s in New Orleans. The dish was named in honor of Richard Foster, a regular customer and friend of restaurant owner Owen Brennan, Sr.

    It is one of the flambé desserts that also include Crêpes Suzette and Cherries Jubilee. Savory dishes are also flamed at the table, from Steak Diane to Veal Marsala. Here’s a list of flambé recipes. Note, though, that the technique has long gone out of style.

    But how did it come into style?


    Flambé (it means flamed in French), is a cooking procedure in which alcohol is warmed and then added to a hot pan, where it is lit to create a burst of flames. The alcohol burns off shortly and the flames die out.

    While the practice of igniting food for dramatic flair can be traced to 14th century Moors, modern flambéing became popular only in the late 19th century, and by accident.

    According to his memoir, in 1895 at the Café de Paris in Monte Carlo, 14-year-old Henri Charpentier (1880-1961), an assistant waiter, accidentally set fire to the liqueur in the pan of crêpes he was preparing. At the time, many foods were prepared tableside. The guests happened to be Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VII) and some friends. According to the memoir:

    “It was quite by accident as I worked in front of a chafing dish that the cordials caught fire. I thought I was ruined. The Prince and his friends were waiting. How could I begin all over? I tasted it. It was, I thought, the most delicious melody of sweet flavors I had every tasted. I still think so. That accident of the flame was precisely what was needed to bring all those various instruments into one harmony of taste.

    The dish was served, and the Prince liked it.

    “He ate the pancakes with a fork; but he used a spoon to capture the remaining syrup. He asked me the name of that which he had eaten with so much relish. I told him it was to be called Crêpes Princesse. He recognized that the pancake controlled the gender and that this was a compliment designed for him; but he protested with mock ferocity that there was a lady present. She was alert and rose to her feet and holding her little skirt wide with her hands she made him a curtsey. ‘Will you,’ said His Majesty, ‘change Crêpes Princesse to Crêpes Suzette?’ Thus was born and baptized this confection, one taste of which, I really believe, would reform a cannibal into a civilized gentleman. The next day I received a present from the Prince, a jeweled ring, a panama hat and a cane.”

    SOURCE: Life A La Henri – Being The Memories of Henri Charpentier, by Henri Charpentier and Boyden Sparkes, The Modern Library, New York, 2001 Paperback Edition. Originally published in 1934 by Simon & Schuster, Inc. Thanks to What’s Cooking America for the reference.


    Banana with vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce and hazelnuts


    TOP PHOTO: Bananas Foster served
    banana-split style. Photo | Fotolia. BOTTOM
    PHOTO: Bananas Foster at Brennan’s. Photo
    courtesy We
    prefer to slice our bananas in chunks.



    While the Davio’s recipe cuts the banana into a stylish oblong and the photo at right halves the fruit banana-split style. At Brennan’s the long slices are cut in half. We prefer chunks perhaps 3/4-inch thick—easier to spoon over ice cream…and French toast, pancakes and waffles.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 4 firm, ripe bananas
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup banana liqueur
  • 1/2 cup dark rum
  • Optional garnishes: toasted chopped pecans, grated orange

  • 1 pint vanilla ice cream, or
  • Cake or whatever else you want with your Bananas Foster

    1. CUT the bananas in half lengthwise and crosswise for a total of 4 pieces each (alternative: cut 3/4″ rounds; you’ll have more than 4 pieces).

    2. MELT the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and cinnamon and cook, stirring until the sugar dissolves (about 2 minutes—this creates a caramel sauce). Add the bananas and cook on both sides until they begin to soften and brown (about 3 minutes).

    3. ADD the banana liqueur and stir to blend into the caramel sauce.

    If you want to flambé, follow the instructions below. However, the drama of the flambé works only if the dish is prepared tableside. Otherwise, the drama is lost in the kitchene.

    4. LIFT lift the bananas carefully from the pan and top the four dishes of ice cream; then spoon the sauce over the ice cream and bananas and serve immediately.

    Here’s a video on how to flambe from QVC chef David Venable. Tips:

  • Liquors and liqueurs that are 80-109 proof are best to ignite. Don’t try to ignite a higher proof; they are highly flammable.
  • The liquor must be warmed to about 130°F before adding to the pan. (Keep it well below the boiling point. Boiling will burn off the alcohol, and it will not ignite.) This is generally done by holding the liquor, in a spoon, over a candle or other flame.
  • Always remove the pan from the heat source before adding the liquor to avoid burning yourself.
  • Vigorously shaking the pan usually extinguishes the flame, but if you’re just learning, keep a pot lid nearby in case you need to smother the flames.


    TIP OF THE DAY: International Nachos For National Nachos Day



    TOP PHOTO: Classic nachos. Photo by Chee
    Hong | Wikimedia. BOTTOM PHOTO:
    Japanese nachos, made with rice chips and
    spicy tuna. Photo courtesy RA Sushi.


    Today is National Nacho Day, and our tip is: Go where no Mexican nacho has gone.

    The appeal of Tex-Mex nachos—crunchy, creamy, spicy—cannot be denied.

    But how about fusion nachos, with culinary accents (crunchy, creamy, spicy) from the world’s favorite cuisines? We’ll pick up on that below, right after…


    Nachos are an example of necessity being the mother of invention.

    As the story goes, in 1943 a group of Army wives from Fort Duncan, in Eagle Pass, Texas, had gone just across the border to Piedras Negros, Mexico, on a shopping trip. By the time they arrived at the Victory Club restaurant for a meal, the kitchen was closed.

    But the accommodating maître d’hôtel, Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya (Nacho is a nickname for Ignacio), threw together a snack for the ladies from what was available in the kitchen: tortillas and cheese. He cut the tortillas into triangles and fried them, added shredded Cheddar cheese, quickly heated them to melt the cheese and garnished the dish with sliced jalapeño chiles.

    When asked what the tasty dish was called, he answered, “Nacho’s especiales,” Nacho’s Special. (Food trivia: In Mexico, nachos are called totopos, the local word for tortilla chips).

    The dish quickly spread throughout Texas and the Southwest. The first known appearance of the word “nachos” in English dates to 1950, from the book. A Taste of Texas. [Source]


    In the beginning, nachos were a simple dish as Ignacio made them: tortilla chips, shredded melted cheese and jalapeños.

    But as time marched on, so did nachos, leading to “loaded” Tex-Mex nacho options with:

  • Beans: black beans, pinto beans, refried beans, chili con carne, chile con queso.
  • Condiments: garlic, hot sauce, lime, olives, pickles.
  • Meat: carne asada, chicken, chorizo, ground beef, sliced steak.
  • Salsa and dressings: cooked salsa, guacamole, pico de gallo, ranch dressing, salsa fresca, sour cream (see the different types of salsa).
  • Vegetables: chive, cilantro, diced tomato, elote (grilled corn), jalapeño, lettuce, onion, scallion.
    And while these ingredients offer a huge number of combinations, why not look outside Central American ingredients to international combinations. First…


    Step away from tortilla chips (a.k.a. taco chips) or other corn chips. There are lots of different chips to be had, representing all corners of the world. Pick your base, and it will inspire the toppings.

  • Bagel chips
  • Bean chips
  • Cassava/yucca chips
  • Flavored tortilla chips (taco chips)
  • Kale chips
  • Lentil chips
  • Pasta chips
  • Pita chips
  • Plantain chips
  • Potato or sweet potato chips
  • Rice chips
  • Soy crisps
  • Vegetable chips (e.g. beet, lotus root, yucca)


    Top the base chip with the main ingredients and cheese, melt the shredded cheese under the broiler or with a kitchen torch, and top with the sauces and garnishes.

  • American Nachos: potato chips, popcorn, sliced hot dogs, dill pickles or relish, shredded American cheese, onion dip.
  • Barbecue Nachos: tortilla chips, barbecued pork, melted cheese, barbecue sauce, and sliced jalapeños.
  • California Nachos: vegetable chips, kale chips, guacamole, shredded Monterey Jack cheese, sprouts.
  • French Nachos: French fries, goat cheese, crème fraîche, frizzled onions.
  • German Nachos: potato chips, munster cheese, sliced sausage, caramelized onions (or sauerkraut, if you want a pucker).
  • Greek Nachos: pita chips, mini lamb meatballs, crumbled feta cheese, shredded saganaki (melting cheese; substitute mozzarella), sliced pepperoncini, tzatziki, kalamata olives.
  • Hawaiian Nachos: plantain chips or sweet potato chips, kalua pork (smoky; made from a whole, slow-roasted pig), melted cheese, barbecue sauce, diced pineapple.
  • Healthy Nachos: vegetable chips, roasted vegetables or jarred pimentos, fat-free plain Greek yogurt, salsa fresca.
  • Indian Nachos: lentil chips, shawarma (spit-grilled meat) with Indian spices, raita, green peas.
  • Irish Nachos: Fried potato slices topped with corned beef, shredded Irish cheddar, cooked bacon, lettuce, chopped tomatoes and scallions.

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/Oyster Nachos zagat 230


    TOP PHOTO: “Pacific” nachos with oysters. Photo courtesy BOTTOM PHOTO: Barbecue pork nachos. Photo courtesy

  • Italian Nachos: pasta chips, Italian sausage or pepperoni, sweet peppers, marinara sauce and shredded mozzarella and chili flakes.
  • Japanese Nachos: rice chips, cooked or raw fish/seafood, wasabi-accented plain yogurt or sour cream, shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven-spice blend).
  • Jewish Nachos: bagel chips, chopped herring, sour cream, dill.
  • Middle Eastern Nachos: pita chips, grilled meat or vegetables, hummus, plain yogurt.
  • Pacific Nachos: Crispy wontons, cornmeal-crusted fried oysters (substitute any seafood), shredded Swiss, cocktail sauce or tartar sauce.

    Beyond the chip, here are other spins on nachos:

  • Baked potato nachos recipe
  • Nacho stuffed shells recipe
  • Naked nachos recipe


    TIP OF THE DAY: Stuffed Acorn Squash

    Whole Acorn Squash

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/acorn whole halved 230

    TOP PHOTO: Whole acorn squash. BOTTOM
    PHOTO: Halved and seeded acorn squash.
    Photos courtesy Good Eggs | San Francisco.


    Last night we were out with a group of friends, the majority of whom ordered healthy roast vegetable plates for dinner. Roasting vegetables at home arose as a topic, and surprise:

    While most of us roasted sliced root vegetables, only two baked halved acorn or butternut squash.

    The reason given: It’s difficult (and scary) to cut the hard squash with a knife. So they purchased already-peeled and diced squash.

    Anyone with a sharp knife and a degree of caution can cut open a hard squash. Do not be intimidated by a vegetable!

    Sharpen your knife and watch this video.

    When you get comfortable with the process, you don’t even need to cut off the ends. We prefer to leave them on for aesthetic appeal, and use this technique—a rocking knife motion—to slice the squash in half.

    Now there’s nothing wrong baking the squash halves with a bit of butter or oil, salt and pepper—or a drizzle of maple syrup.

    But baked stuff squash is such a festive dish. You can stuff it with absolutely anything, from grains to other vegetables, as a first course or a vegetarian entrée. It’s a great Meatless Monday dish, but you can also add sausage or other meat.

    One squash serves two people. The following recipe is from QVC’s chef David Venable.

    The photo of the recipe is below the preparation instructions.


    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 2 acorn squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • Salt and pepper
    For The Stuffing

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for coating squash
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 stalk of celery, diced
  • 3/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • 3/4 cup dry stuffing mix
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 bag (8.8 ounces) precooked long grain and wild rice blend
  • 1/2 cups grated Gruyère, Cheddar or substitute*
  • 1/2 cup pecans, lightly toasted and chopped
    *Semi-firm cheese or semi-hard cheeses include American Swiss, Appenzeller, Asiago, Beaufort, Caciotta, Caerphilly, Cantal, Cheshire, Colby, Comte, Emmental, Fontina, Glouster, Gjetost, Jarlsberg, Caserri, Manchego, Tete de Moine andTomme d’Abondance, among others.

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil and season the flesh of each squash with salt and pepper. Place the halves flesh-side down on a baking sheet. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until fork tender. While the squash is baking…

    2. MAKE the stuffing. Add 1 tablespoon oil to a skillet over medium heat, and sauté the onion and celery until cooked through, about 5-7 minutes. Add the chicken stock and bring the mixture to a simmer. Add the stuffing mix and cranberries. Stir and remove the pan from the heat. When the stuffing has cooled slightly…

    3. SPOON it into a medium-size bowl and add the rice, cheese and pecans. Mix until combined. When the squash has finished baking…

    4. TURN each squash half flesh-side up and spoon the stuffing into the cavity. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the stuffing is heated through and is golden brown on top.
    TIP: Whole acorn squash can be stored for up to a month in a cool, dry spot. Only cooked or cut acorn squash should be refrigerated.



    Squash is indigenous to Central and South America. It was introduced to the Spanish conquistadors in Mexico and to the English setters in Virginia and Massachusetts.

    It was easy to grow and hardy enough to store for months, providing a nutritious dietary staple throughout the winter.

    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, 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 (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.

    While acorn squash is most commonly baked, it can also be microwaved, sautéed or steamed.

  • The seeds of the squash are toasted and eaten. (Trivia: 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.

    Stuffed Bake Acorn Squash


    TOP PHOTO: Stuffed acorn squash, the recipe above. Photo courtesy QVC. BOTTOM PHOTO: Go trendy: Stuff acorn squash with quinoa and kale. Here’s a recipe from

  • The green tops, about three inches’ worth from the end of the 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.
  • Squash in salads. Don’t hesitate to add cooked squash to green salads, grains, omelets, and anyplace you’d like another level of flavor and color.
    Acorn 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.

  • 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.
  • 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 certain Andean valleys.
  • Before the arrival of Europeans, Curcubita pepoCurcubita 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 our 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 odf 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: Thanksgiving Turkey Varieties


    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/larryprice natwildturkeyfed 230

    TOP PHOTO: Broad Breasted White,
    America’s supermarket turkey. Photo
    courtesy Porter Turkeys. BOTTOM PHOTO:
    What the Pilgrims ate: the original wild
    turkey, a streamlined physique. Photo by
    Larry Price | National Wild Turkey


    The turkey is a native American bird. As everyone who went to grade school here knows, it was enjoyed by the Pilgrims and their Wampanoag Native American neighbors at a dinner at the Plimouth Plantation, Massachusetts in 1621.

    (Plimouth is how the Pilgrims spelled it. In the 17th century, there was no standardization of spelling. The modern town is spellled Plymouth, but the historical site retains its original spelling.)

    A celebration of the settlers’ first harvest, this harvest feast was later called “The First Thanksgiving” by 18th-century scholars. The name stuck. Check out more about it below.

    Fast forward almost 400 years, and we’re consuming 400 million turkeys a year. Ninety-nine percent of them are Broad Breasted Whites, a breed with short legs and a huge breast, bred to meet Americans’ overwhelming taste for white meat.

    As much as we gobble up those big birds, there’s been rumbling that they’re dry, tasteless, and bear no relation whatsoever to that enjoyed by our forefathers (or even our grandparents).

    Is that true? We share our notes from a tasting test in the next section. But the choices become confusing, and we’ve addressed them: heirloom versus heritage, wild versus heirloom, and supermarket turkey versus the world.

    More than 10 breeds are classified as heritage turkeys: Auburn, Buff, Black, Bourbon Red, Narragansett, Royal Palm, Slate, Standard Bronze and Midget White. These were bred long ago from the original wild turkey.

    Much of the ancient breeding stock survived on family farms, kept as show birds, consumed by the farm families and available in tiny quantities in the locale.

    But it’s not all deliciousness in Heritage Turkeyland. According to, the Jersey Buff and Midget White are on the critical extinction list; the Narragansett is on the Threatened list; and the Bourbon Red, Royal Palm, Slate and Standard Bronze are on the Watch list. However…

    Over the past two decades, as heritage breeds have been “reclaimed” by chefs, expansion of certain heritage breeds has ensured that there’s enough heritage turkey for everyone who wants one.

    Does that mean you should reach for the Butterball and forget heritage breeds? Not at all!

    Thanks to Whole Foods for helping to explain these choices. All of Whole Foods Markets’ turkeys come from farms that have been certified by the third-party verified 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating System. They are raised with no antibiotics, no added hormones and no animal bi-products in their feed.

  • Classic Antibiotic-Free Turkeys. These are Broad Breasted Whites (see top photo above) raised with no antibiotics. They are the perennial customer favorite at Whole Foods Markets. “They offer a trifecta of flavor, quality and value,” says Whole Foods.
  • Organic Turkeys. In addition to being raised without the use of antibiotics, organic turkeys are raised on farms that have been certified organic according to USDA Organic Standards (only certified organic feed, processing and packaging allowed).
  • Heritage Turkeys. These birds are raised slowly and traditionally. They’re old breeds with a more robust turkey flavor, and are typically a bit smaller (usually up to 14 pounds) than classic antibiotic free birds. One reason for their smaller size is that, unlike the majority of today’s commercial breeds, heritage turkeys are single breasted like their wild ancestor.

    Our mother was a Butterball loyalist, and made terrific turkey with moist breast meat, using her various techniques that included brining and covering the breast with foil. If you want an ultra moist turkey, but don’t want to do the brining at home, buy a hand-brined bird that’s ready to roast. (NOTE: Remember not to stuff a brined bird because the stuffing will be too salty.)

    A few years ago, we were invited to a tasting of different roast turkeys at a prominent culinary school. Except for the Butterball, which was frozen, the birds were fresh.

    We liked Butterball the best! Here are our tasting notes, with the counsel that it isn’t truly scientific since we didn’t repeat the test. And, birds from different farms could easily yield different results.

  • Organic Turkey. The white meat was pebbly, papery. The dark meat was pink, moist, very tasty.
  • Butterball Turkey. The meatiest breast and drumsticks. Excellent texture and taste, a very “birdy” flavor (what we have come to recognize as great turkey flavor) and classic white meat. The dark meat is darker in color and a little chewier than the organic turkey, but a lovely, pure, excellent flavor. The interesting thing about this bird is that the white meat and dark meat flavors are not at extremes: White meat lovers should enjoy the dark meat, and dark meat lovers should enjoy the white meat. Note that Butterball is a brand, and not all Broad Breasted White turkeys are branded.
  • Heritage Bourbon Red Turkey. A smaller, broad breast with lots of breast meat but smaller drumsticks. The meat was chewy all over without a lot of flavor. The dark meat is very dark; moist but just too chewy with no other payoff.
  • Heritage Standard Bronze Turkey. The meat was chewy, but not as chewy as the Heritage Bourbon Red. The dark meat was moist, the white meat O.K.
  • Wild Turkey. This scrawny, elongated bird looks like a champion marathon runner (see the photo above). There was almost no meat on the upper breast, but it had big thighs. Surprisingly, both white and dark meat were very tender. I wish it had more “birdy” flavor.
    The next two varieties were included in our taste test; but to be fair, they were at the end of the tasting, and we were all turkeyed out. We were stuffed and predisposed not to like anything else.

  • Heirloom Turkey. Dating back to the early 1920s-1930s, heirloom turkeys were bred to strike a balance between the wild, robust flavor of the heritage breeds, and the mild flavor then (and still) preferred by consumers. They were bred to be double breasted, to provide more white meat than heritage turkeys.
  • Kosher Turkeys. Rabbinical inspectors check each bird to ensure that it is of the highest quality and processed in accordance with the kosher standards of cleanliness, purity and wholesomeness. You can find both conventional and organic kosher birds. TIP: Hold the salt! Kosher turkeys have already been salted. And don’t brine or you’ll have an overly salty bird.
    So what should you do? The decision is yours. You can go with what you enjoyed last year, or try something new.

    Tip: If you’re feeding a large group or want white meat leftovers, pick up an extra organic turkey breast to make sure you have plenty of white meat to go around.




    It is a little-known fact that the three-day feast celebrated by the Pilgrims and Wampanoag natives, which we purportedly replicate on the fourth Thursday of each November, was never again repeated in Plimouth Plantation; nor was it deemed by the colonists to be a “Thanksgiving feast.”

    In fact, days of thanksgiving observed by the Pilgrims were devoted to prayer, not feasting. So we are not replicating the Pilgrims’ Thanksgiving Day each year.

    That term was bestowed by academics researching the topic in the 18th century.

    We know that in 1621, the governor of Plimoth Plantation sent four men fowling, and “they four in one day shot as much fowl.” Perhaps it was turkey, perhaps duck, which was also plentiful in the area. The one written record dies not specify.

    We also know that the native Wampanoag guests killed five deer. About ninety of them attended, and the feast lasted for three days.
    A Treasure Trove Of Thanksgiving History

    There’s much to know about the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag People that we never learned in school. But has the best site we’ve seen on the history of Thanksgiving. We love it!

    If people are waiting around for dinner, send them here.

    President Abraham Lincoln declared the first national Thanksgiving Day in 1863, and created the holiday observed since on the fourth Thursday of November.




    Platter garnishing ideas: TOP PHOTO. Add some veggies to the plater. We raw prefer cherry tomatoes and baby pattypan squash, which add color, don’t take away from the cooked fare and can be enjoyed the next day. Photo courtesy iGourmet. BOTTOM PHOTO: Keep it simple with kumquats and whole uncooked cranberries. Photo courtesy National Turkey Federation.



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