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Posts Tagged ‘holiday food’

When you need a quick appetizer this is one that you can assemble in minutes and serve on a platter in no time!  Perfect for Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years Eve.

 crostini with burrata homegrown tomatoes and drizzle of olive oil

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We decided to do things differently for our New Year’s Eve party this year. We happily abandoned the elegant, complicated menu we usually serve. As an alternative, we enjoyed a simple yet succulent paprika/garlic roasted chicken with pan juices on a bed of roasted tomatoes and onions complimented by oven roasted sweet potato planks (to ensure a sweet new year) served with an herb and lime yogurt dipping sauce accompanied by a medley of steamed vegetables.

After so much holiday cooking for everyone else, I wanted to enjoy my party. So, while our dinner was in the oven, I prepared some simple appetizers.

We had a selection of cheeses consisting of a tangy special edition white cheddar and a homemade herbed cheese spread served alongside four delightful soft cheeses paired with wines. We paired the nutty Camembert with Chardonnay, the Bleu cheese with a Pinot Noir, the triple crème with Gewürztraminer and the buttery Déjeuner with a white Zinfandel. new year cheese platter

Next, I prepared an appetizer tray that encourages guests to interact. Each guest constructs their own bite-sized cracker beginning with a dollop of cayenne-spiced avocado spread and then topped with a spoonful of Crab seasoned with a hint of tart lime juice and fragrant mint. As our guests move around the table building their appetizers, the conversation warms up. new year crab appetizer platter

new year crab appetizer

The appetizer table rounded out with a fiery hot appetizer that I call a Wonton Cigar. This is one of my favorites. Inside a crisp oven-baked rolled wonton is a ground beef filling sprinkled with minced jalapeño and livened up with oregano, cumin, chili powder and sharp cheddar cheese. It’s served with a room temperature homemade salsa. If the salsa is too cold, it’s not as spicy tasting. We served this with a dark beer.

new year wonton appetizer

Overall, it was a fun evening with good food, great friends and lots of laughter. I wish everyone a sweet, healthy, happy and successful year ahead.

Happy New Year to you all!

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Since I highlighted my grandmother in my previous post, the one who was an avid yet not very good cook, I should turn some attention to my other grandmother now.  She was a top-flight cook.  Grandma B could take dust and air and create a cake or a “bulkah” (a thick yeast roll with filling) or sweet cookies that were tender and melted on your tongue but her glory was anything fried.

Grandma B. was foremost an oiler.  No, she was not a football player but a person who loved cooking with oil.  As a result, her specialty was potato latkes for Hanukkah.  Grandma B. would don that grease splattered apron, grate her onions while she cried, grate her potatoes until the potato juice was running down her arms and then, with gusto, she mixed it all together in a large wooden bowl with an egg, or two, some salt and pepper and a “bisel” of matzo meal or flour—with both hands.

She tossed that mixture until it combined into a bowl of spidery goo.  Then she said, “Let rest.  Dun’t bodder it.  Sha!”

So all of us kids would then sit in the wooden chairs around the table while she shouted another instruction, “Dun’t moov.  Stay, yah, stay.  Shecket!  (Quiet).”

She would drop the cast iron skillet on the burner with a loud clang and turn the flame up so high we could hear the gas sing.  When the skillet sizzled after a drop of water landed on it, she added the oil.  Always, olive oil from a large can.

She said, “You see, kinderlah, the oil dat last’d?”  We all nodded in agreement. “You makeh de oil dis dip.  See, no, stay sitted.”  We nodded yes anyway.

Then when the oil began to shimmer, Grandma B went into her trance.  She forgot we were all sitting there as she molded blobs of potato and goo into small patties and dropped them by handfuls into the hot oil.  It sizzled, shizzled and spat as she grinned and grabbed another handful.  Soon the pan filled with golden orbs that made us drool as we watched Grandma B work.

With a slotted spoon, she flipped those blobs over as soon as they browned.  We never knew how she could tell they had browned on the side you couldn’t see, yet she was right every single time she flipped one over.

When the backsides had browned, she moved those hot potato pancakes to a plate lined with a linen cloth.  After she finished the batch, she would turn to us and yell, “No touch!  Hot.”

She then poured sour cream into a small bowl with a spoon and her homemade applesauce into another bowl with a spoon.  She gave us each a small plate and then set the latkes in the middle of the table.  Grandma B announced, “Now, kinder, now eat, ah, yes, gud, gud.”

And it was good.   Those hot potato latkes fried to a crisp with the cooling sour cream and applesauce made an incredible memory for all of us cousins.

This year I start a new tradition with my own grandson.  I’ve already got my oil can and apron ready.

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This has to be one of the easiest appetizers available!  It is so simple that my 8 year old niece was able to do this all on her own. The recipe below serves 12 but it is quite easy to size up or down depending in your needs.  I always make more than necessary because they are gone in a flash!

Ingredients:

12 Crimini mushrooms, stemmed and cleaned, or more depending on the number of guests

Drizzle of olive oil to lightly coat mushroom caps

Several grinds of sea salt, taste or 1/4 teaspoon of table salt

Optional, 1 stalk of rosemary leaves, chopped finely

5 oz. high quality goat cheese, divided into 12 servings

1 Tablespoon walnut oil

1/4 cup walnut halves or pieces

Preheat toaster oven, or conventional oven if making a large quantity, to 400 degrees.

Gather all the mushroom caps in a small bowl.  Drizzle until covered in olive oil, about 1 tablespoon.  Stir to coat and add one or two twists of ground sea salt or 1/4 tsp. table salt. If desired, you can add one stalk of rosemary, finely minced to the bowl.  Stir until well combined, gently so that you don’t break or injure the mushrooms.

Next, place each mushroom cap, round side up, on a broiler pan or cookie sheet.  Place in either the toaster oven or conventional oven.  Roast until browned.  Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature, for about 10-15 minutes.

Turn the mushrooms stem side up.

Spoon a heaping glob of goat cheese into the mushroom cap.  Add either a walnut half or chopped walnuts.  Drizzle with 1/4 teaspoon walnut oil.

Let stand at room temperature for 20 – 30 minutes.  Serve.

Another twist to these is to add a few strips of sun-dried tomatoes, sparingly and just for color and a spark of flavor.  Too much is overpowering.

These are good for all occasions from New Year’s Eve, Birthdays and Superbowl to simple dinner parties.  Enjoy!

This has to be one of the easiest appetizers available!  It is so simple that my 8 year old neice was able to do this all on her own. The recipe below serves 12 but it is quite easy to size up or down depending in your needs.  I always make more than necessary because they are gone in a flash!

Ingredients:

12 Crimini mushooms, stemmed and cleaned, or more depending on the number of guests

5 oz. high quality goat cheese, divided into 12 servings

1 Tablespoon walnut oil

1/4 cup walnut halves or pieces

Preheat toaster oven, or conventional oven if making a large quantity, to 400 degrees.

Gather all the mushroom caps in a small bowl.  Drizzle until covered in olive oil, about 1 tablespoon.  Stir to coat and add one or two twists of ground sea salt or 1/4 tsp. table salt. If desired, you can add one stalk of rosemary, finely minced to the bowl.  Stir until well combined, gently so that you don’t break or injure the mushrooms.

Next, place each mushroom cap, round side up, on a broiler pan or cookie sheet.  Place in either the toaster oven or conventional oven.  Roast until browned.  Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature, for about 10-15 minutes.

Turn the mushrooms stem side up.

Spoon a heaping glob of goat cheese into the mushroom cap.  Add either a walnut halve or chopped walnuts.  Drizzle with 1/4 teaspoon walnut oil.

Let stand at room temperature for 20 – 30 minutes.  Serve.

Another twist to these is to add a few strips of sundried tomatoes, sparingly and just for color and a spark of flavor.  Too much is overpowering.

These are good for all occasions from New Year’s Eve, Birthdays and Superbowl to simple dinner parties.  Enjoy!

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Whether hosting large holiday parties, a small neighborhood get-together or an intimate family gathering for two, food seems to take center stage.

Especially in the wintertime, on these occasions, when we huddle together to keep warm there is almost certainly a shared hot meal coming from the kitchen exuding an aroma that tempts our taste buds and spins our heads!

After a couple of days of entertaining, my refrigerator bulges with containers of “a little bit of this,” “a tidbit of that,” and “a pinch of unused cheese” along with “a mystery sauce.”

In keeping with the season of sharing, giving, and adhering to our steadfast kitchen rule of wasting nothing, we count our eggs and then invite as many people as we have eggs for omelets!

Ah, the satisfaction of sautéing leftover vegetables, folding warm creamy eggs around them and topping it all with a savory sauce seems like a little bit of heaven on a chilly morning.  Hot, seasoned hash browns and home cured bacon strips balance the flavors and the plate.  When served with a mug of hot coffee, tea or chocolate, and some friendly conversation, contentment fills the room.

There’s nothing like a Leftovers Omelet* for a wholesome, no additive, no preservative, vitamin packed, inexpensive and deliciously shared meal with family and friends.

*No recipe necessary:  plan approximately 1-2 eggs per omelet, a handful of any combination of leftover vegetables, about 2 palmfuls of potato cubes per person and either two strips of bacon, fried tofu or Quark. if desired.  Any leftover holiday sauce (whether meat, poultry, sriracha, tabasco or green/red chili sauce) makes a fine accent.

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Each year as summer’s heat fades and fall’s cooler air moves in, I begin planning my Thanksgiving menu.  It is finally cool enough to use the oven a bit more as I experiment with recipes to test which yield just the right flavor ensemble, which recipes freeze well, and which ones fit my meal courses as appetizers, entrees and side dishes.

Infusing this annual feast with new taste experiences is a welcome challenge in my kitchen.  I’m tired of serving dinner rolls, popovers and cornbreads, redundant when sitting alongside stuffing, for my Thanksgiving spread.  My thoughts turned to little filled pastry shells to enliven the meal.

One of the first pastry doughs I learned to make is called choux, multi-layered pastry dough, also known as choux paste, cream-puff pastry or pâte à choux.

Gougeres

A simple choux contains flour mixed with water and butter, and then beaten with the addition of eggs.  It is a very paste like, sticky blob that can be piped onto a baking sheet or simply dropped from a spoon like drop cookies and baked.

(They can be baked in advance and frozen too.)

Tray of Gougeres

While a choux bakes, the eggs inflate the pastry creating a delicate, hollow shell comprised of a flakey crust.

Open and Closed Gougeres

Splitting this pastry in half reveals a perfect inner hollow begging for a sweet or savory filling, rendering it easily consumed in one or two bites.

Open Gougere

As an inexperienced cook, I struggled to make this choux into a delicate puff pastry, sometimes shaped as swans, filled sweet creams or preserves comprising a cream puff pastry or its larger cousin, an éclair.

These miniature choux-based pastries, served as either savory appetizers or sweet desserts, offer every cook a fulfilling creative experience in the composition.

My great-aunties presented these balls of baked choux as a sticky profiterole stack served with a drizzled sweet cream or gooey honey (called a Taiglach in Yiddish) also commonly known as an impressive French dessert, a Croquembouche.

As I became more adept in the kitchen, I learned to flavor my choux with herbs, spices and a variety of cheeses, sometimes combining finely minced meats or nuts too, culminating into the ever-popular gougère.

The little bite sized pastry made of choux suddenly fit into all parts of my menu leaving me with a large dilemma.

Should I serve a savory appetizer gougère filled with a mound of goat cheese and fresh herbs?  The thought of a sweet appetizer puff filled with diced fresh pear and sweet cream with a tart cranberry or two sounds delectable too.

Then again, a miniature gougère made with gruyere or parmesan and minced pecans might make a wonderful crouton with our soup.  Perhaps I should serve a cream puff filled with ginger-vanilla custard and a cranberry puree or simple pumpkin filling as dessert.

I simply can’t decide where to use these precious mini-bites of flavor.  Maybe I’ll just serve a bite-sized array for our Thanksgiving feast and call it Donna’s Mini-Morsel Thanksgiving Meal.

Gougere

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