In southern France, I’m reading they’re already cooking the first of the courgettes (zucchini) and beans while here on the edge of the Rocky mountains snow will fly tonight and we’re damned lucky to have the first of our garden’s bounty, which is always herbs. When spring is trying ever so hard to be sprung in Colorado and my herbs have just begun to come on, there’s nothing like focusing on all of them (and little else) to make an herbaceous melody of a cheese spread perfect for favorite crackers, grilled baguette, vegetables, stuffed tiny sweet peppers or cherry tomatoes, omelet fillings, and more.Continue reading
|Hot Spiced Cider with or without Rum (Pum Pum Pum)|
An afternoon open house is the perfect party … No main course. Everyone’s gone by dinner time… And folks show up because other commitments are for evening. Few dishes to wash. Food that’s easy to prepare ahead. Your goal: everything out and ready for guests to help themselves. Your reward: To be able to enter your own party!
|Ginger cookies, Chocolate Snowballs, Date bars–Made ahead and frozen|
A couple of perfect festive drinks (Sparkler and Hot Cider), as well as a pot of strong coffee and some thick cream (for those who must dunk cookies or are heading to a serious evening party), make set-up much easier than a cocktail or dinner party. People come dressed comfortably. Yes.
|A festive few dishes and a candle or two. Not much more needed.|
Your best cookies, a couple of great nibbles…Always vegetables…A bit of cheese-
|Lots of vegetables–some fresh, some grilled. Herb Garlic Cheese Dip with Pine Nuts|
Something they’ll remember later…like my taste-like-jelly-filled-donut shortbread sandwiches:
|Crowded is ok. They’ll come and go.|
All set up ahead leaves time for visiting and listening to the great Christmas playlist you put together for the party. Everything from Revels to Tony Bennett to Harry Connick, Jr. to Cambridge Singers.
Something filling for those who skipped lunch. Here, a great tapenade. Don’t skimp on the olives; buy the best you can find. Grill your sliced baguette on the stove if it’s too cold outside.
|Spicy Tapenade with Crostini|
Spanish Cava is a lovely, inexpensive sparkler. Whatever’s leftover can be used for New Year’s or for
mimosas for brunch. There’s usually a discount if you buy a case. Think ahead.
|Cava and Cranberries. Back-up bottles all chilled in the frig.|
|Leave flutes set up with cranberries and folks will pour the sparkler over them.|
|David Lebovitz famous Pretzel and Nut Mix. No Chex Mix needed.|
Something crunchy is a must. Nuts, pretzels, chips…for the salty people.
My take on Eli Zabar’s shortbread recipe..Bittersweet chocolate and sea salt.. I like Valrhona chocolate for dipping, but could only find Callebaut locally this year. Makes excellent hot chocolate, too, by the way if you’ve any leftover from dipping. Valrhona is French chocolate; Callebaut is made in many places, but is basically Belgian-French in origin.
*Hot Cider with or without Rum (I leave the rum plainly marked in a pitcher on counter.)
*Pot of strong coffee and Hot Water for tea. The best cream you can find. Lemon, sugar.
*Cava (or your favorite bubbly)–Add a couple of fresh cranberries to the $1. glasses
*Cookies–4 of your favorites. Homemade or beg from friends-even buy at great bakery.
*Garlicky Rosemary Cheese Dip with Pine Nuts and Lots of Veggies (Recipe below)
*Spicy Tapenade and Crostini (Grilled Bread) – Recipe Below
*Cranberry Almond Bars with Tangerine —You must have chocolate. Make it yourself.
*Alyce’s Go Nuts! Salty, hot, and sweet pecans. Great protein.
*David Lebovitz Pretzel and Nut Mix–gotta have something that crunches.
Herb Garlic Cheese Dip with Pine Nuts
12 oz goat’s cheese (chevre), softened
32 oz (4 c) ricotta cheese
Zest of one lemon
Hot sauce- a few drops
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced or grated
2T fresh dill, minced (Can choose just one herb if you like.)
2T fresh basil chiffonade
2T fresh chives, minced
1T fresh thyme, chopped (plus a few sprigs for garnish)
1T fresh Rosemary, finely minced
1/2 t coarsely ground black pepper (or more to taste)
Pinch of kosher salt
1/2 cup of pine nuts
1/4 cup sweet red pepper, diced
Place all ingredients except garnishes in the food processor and pulse until well-blended. Taste and readjust seasoning. If making the day before, the garlic will settle down a lot overnight in the frig. Store in a tightly-covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Spoon into serving bowl and garnish with pine nuts, peppers, and sprigs of rosemary Serve with fresh vegetables or crackers. If too thick, add a few drops of milk and stir well before serving.
Spicy Tapenade (Basic recipe courtesy Tyler Florence)
Generous pinch of crushed red pepper
Tiny pinch ea kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood
This week, we’re buying a few small gifts, making a vat of barbequed brisket, going to a choir party, taking some friends out to dinner and to a Rose Ensemble concert, baking a manger scene (yes!) and stollen, watching every Christmas movie we can, and picking up my sister at the airport. Emily and I are getting our hair done together tomorrow, so we’ll be all cleaned up for the whole deal. Work is slowing down, though I still have a couple of pieces to rehearse and direct. Probably need to get that Rutter out and practice! Dave’s week will be intense and then crawl, alternately….as co-workers world-wide try to get ready for Dell’s week-long break, but still make time for Christmas parties.
We’ll be at church on Christmas Eve, of course…it’s my favorite service. If there’s time, we’ll stop by a couple of open houses, but we’ll come home to cookies and eggnog in the wee early hours of Christmas morning and fall into bed to listen for the sleigh bells.
Christmas Day is a different story:
|Last year’s Christmas Day rolled flank steak with roasted tomatoes.|
|Christmas Day. Toys, movies, the pups.|
|Gabby and Tuck have been good all year, but they’re still worried there’ll be nothing in their stockings.
Maybe there are others with the same fears….
|courtesy Share Our Strength|
Want to feed some kids before the end of 2011?
No Kid Hungry this Holiday Season
With your help this holiday season, we can connect hungry children with nutritious meals all year long! Every $1 you donate to Share Our Strength helps connect a child with up to 10 meals. Through December 31, our No Kid Hungry Partners are matching the first $500,000 donated during the holiday season. Click here to donate.
Merry Days to you! Do the fun things.