Crush a package of red spiral peppermints with a rolling pin between waxed paper. Keep them in an airtight jar. Then, use them to apply a touch of holiday flavor to ice cream, the rims of hot chocolate mugs, cupcake icing, other desserts, vanilla yogurt…whatever strikes your fancy (use a pinch to garnish to any dessert plate). It’s as if the Good Peppermint Fairy touched her wand to make things a bit more special. Peppermint bark is crushed peppermint added to chocolate bars. Read about our favorite peppermint bark from Enstrom’s—peppermint plus semisweet and white chocolate and chocolate cookies!
This week’s prize in THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet Giveaway is a delicious 3-4 pound spiral-sliced, boneless ham from Nueske, which we rated as one of our favorite hams after tasting more than 40. It has a hand-applied honey glaze that gives it a mild, sweet flavor. And it comes fully cooked, already cut into neat, even slices—ready for a party or a special family dinner. Serve at room temperature or gently warmed. Few things so delicious require so little preparation time (“remove ham and set on plate”). You can see more of Nueske’s ham and bacon products at Nueskes.com. See more of THE NIBBLE’s favorite hams in the Gourmet Meat & Poultry Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine. Also take a look at the other top hams in our ham challenge tasting. Take trivia quizzes on ham and other food topics at the Gourmet Giveaway home page.
A few months ago, we went to a press reception where we were introduced to the wonders of Chipilo Authentic Mexican Crema. Crema, or cream, which is what Mexicans call cultured sour cream. If you are a sour cream lover, it will take you higher—in a slightly different way than Ike and Tina Turner, but just as exciting. It’s richer, sweeter, more complex in flavor. It’s la crema de la crema. Newly available in the U.S., it’s made in Wisconsin according to Chipilo’s specifications, since fresh dairy products can’t be imported into the U.S. until next year. (However, most Mexican cremas are made from milkfat imported from New Zealand!) This is a crema worth going out of your way for, and worth spending your calories on.
Much more exciting than sour cream.
Use crema as you would sour cream; but it can do much more. The innate sweetness makes it a natural dip for fruit, a topping for pancakes, a spread for muffins and toast. Just resist the temptation to eat it from the carton. The first sales initiative focuses on Latin markets—their customers already understand what crema is and are familiar with the brand (Chipilo is the number one crema in Mexico). From our point of view, it’s taking too long to get into the mainstream. So, get over to the nearest Latin market and buy a few pounds. In one-pound containers, give them as holiday gifts. Not only will they be the most inexpensive gifts you can give, they’ll probably be the most appreciated by anybody who likes good food. To find a market near you, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Make your Christmas salad decidedly red and green.
Make a beautiful red-and-green Christmas salad by adding “red” greens to your “green” greens. If you can’t find the more exotic red lettuces (red leaf lettuce, red oak lettuce, red romaine, red mustard greens), most stores carry radicchio, the naturally red-veined chard and baby kale. For more color, add very thin rings of red and green bell peppers and slice crunchy, white water chestnuts into thin disks as “tree ornaments.” Use an elegant vinaigrette: fine olive oil with a sherry or Champagne vinegar in a 3 tablespoons:2 tablespoons proportion. Add a pinch of dry mustard, plus salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste. Click here for a red-and-green salad recipe with an Asian twist, seaweed, cherry tomatoes and sesame (shown in the photo at left). Visit the table of contents of the December issue of THE NIBBLE online magazine for more holiday recipes.
– The Los Angeles Times tastes 23 dark chocolate bars. While we agree with quite a few of their choices, their last-place bar, Theo’s 75% Ivory Coast, to which the Times ascribed “flat, chalky texture; there’s little chocolate flavor and no finish,” was ranked “phenomenal” by THE NIBBLE tasters earlier this year. We also liked the 70% Santander bar that the Times tasters placed second-to-last. In wine circles, bottle variation is frequent—even bottles of wine pulled from the same case can taste very different. So are we seeing “bar variation?” You can read our detailed reviews of Theo Chocolate and Santander Chocolate, and many of the other bars reviewed by the L.A. Times in the Chocolate Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.
– If you are seduced enough by a pretty picture to make the recipe, then TasteSpotting.com is for you. Pore over the luscious photos; then click through to the blog on which they appear, and find the recipe. Some non-recipe photos appear, like carved pumpkins and racks of aging cheeses.
Theo’s Ivory Coast bar, spurned by the L.A. Times, adored by THE NIBBLE.
– Food blog Chez Pim urges you to participate in the 4th Annual Menu For Hope. This annual fundraising event is coordinated by food bloggers from all over the world. From now until December 21, check out the raffle offerings and bid on the prizes. Contributions go to the U.N. World Food Programme. Last year, Menu For Hope raised $60,925.12. If charity isn’t enough of a motivator, consider these incredible prizes: touring the El Bulli laboratory with Ferran Adrià, a historic British meal prepared by The Fat Duck’s Heston Blumenthal and a lunch date with food science writer Harold McGee.
– The battle royale of cookbooks: Are the mammoth Gourmet and Bon Appetit recipe compendia fighting it out like the Crips and the Bloods?