Tag Archives: entertaining

Healthy Holiday Appetizers: Smoked Salmon Kale Wraps

kale salmon tf

Here is a healthy gluten-free appetizer that’s perfect for holiday entertaining . I can’t get enough of these wraps, and neither can my guests. Not only are they delicious, they are pretty to look at. Crisp kale leaves are stuffed with a delicious salad of warm-smoked salmon, lemon and dill. Thanks to the sturdiness of the kale leaves, they can be assembled in advance. I recommend making an extra batch of the salmon salad, because it’s that good.

Smoked Salmon Kale Wraps
The narrowest parts of the kale leaves work best for these wraps.

Makes 24 to 30

12 ounces warm smoked salmon, flaked
1/4 cup whole milk Greek yogurt
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and chopped
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup minced chives
8 to 10 lacinato (Tuscan) kale leaves

1 lemon, halved
Fresh dill sprigs for garnish

Combine the salmon, yogurt, lemon juice, red onion, capers, and Tabasco in a bowl. Stir with a fork to blend. Add the salt and black pepper and taste for seasoning. Fold in the chopped dill and the chives.

Cut the kale leaves crosswise into 2 inch pieces. Place 2 to 3 teaspoons salmon salad in the center of the leaves and fold the leaves around the salmon, pressing gently to hold in place. Repeat with remaining kale leaves. Arrange the wraps on a serving platter. Sprinkle with lemon juice and garnish with dill sprigs.

Holiday Desserts: Cranberry Orange Trifle with Candied Walnuts

Here is a festive trifle that will carry you through the holidays – it’s a great do ahead party dessert with show-stopping results. Buttermilk poundcake is blanketed with layers of cranberry compote, orange infused mascarpone cream, and candied walnuts. Each bite is light and airy with the pop of sweet-tart cranberries and the crunch of cinnamon dusted nuts, so be sure to get a little bit of everything in each spoonful. The best part is this dessert can be assembled a day in advance, which leaves you plenty of time to take care of that turkey.

Cranberry Orange Trifle with Candied Walnuts

While there are several components to this trifle, each one may be prepared in advance, and each one is stand alone good, so feel free to use them on their own. Serve in a trifle bowl or individual goblets. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

For the buttermilk pound cake:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 325 F. (170 C.) Butter a 9-by-5 inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment and butter the parchment. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and set aside.
Beat the sugar and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Add half of the flour, then the buttermilk, then the remaining flour, mixing well to combine after each addition. Pour into the loaf pan. Bake in the oven until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes clean, about 55 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool 10 minutes. Invert the cake onto a rack and cool completely. The pound cake may be prepared up to 2 days in advance. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate until use.

For the cranberry compote:
12 ounces cranberries, fresh or frozen
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Combine all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries pop and release their juices. Remove from heat and cool completely. Refrigerate, covered, for up to 4 days.

For the candied walnuts:
1 1/2 cups walnut halves
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Arrange the walnuts on a baking tray and bake 10 minutes. Heat the sugar over medium heat in a small saucepan. As soon as it begins to dissolve, stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar is liquid and amber colored. Add the walnuts and stir to coat. Add the salt and cinnamon. Remove from the heat and pour the walnuts onto a baking tray lined with parchment or a silpac sheet. Cool completely then break into coarse pieces. Store at room temperature in an air-tight container for up to 1 week.

For the orange mascarpone cream:
2 cups heavy cream, chilled
8 ounces mascarpone cheese, chilled
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
1 tablespoon Gran Marnier or Cointreau
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine the cream and mascarpone in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a wire attachment. Beat until traces of the whisk are visible. Add the remaining ingredients and continue to beat until soft peaks form. Refrigerate until use. (May be made 4 hours in advance.)

Assemble the trifle:
Reserve a few whole cranberries from the compote for garnish. Pour a thin layer of cranberry compote into the bottom of the trifle dish or individual serving glasses. Cut the pound cake into 3/4-inch cubes. Arrange a layer of pound cake over the compote. Top with a layer of cream. Sprinkle a few of the nuts over the cream. Repeat the layering process, finishing with a layer of cream and nuts. Garnish with reserved cranberries and finely grated orange zest. Serve immediately or refrigerate, covered, up to 24 hours before serving.

Optional: Brush each layer of pound cake with Cointreau or Gran Marnier for an adult version of this dessert.

Bloody Mary Gazpacho with Shrimp

bloody mary gazpacho tastefood

Posted by Lynda Balslev

This chilled and refreshing summer soup is spiced with all of the necessary accoutrements for a great Bloody Mary, minus the vodka. (Of course, who says you can’t add a splash of spirits for an adult appetizer?) So, depending on your mood, the time of day – and your age – you might call this a spicy gazpacho, an inspired shrimp cocktail, or even a substantial bloody mary, heavy on the garnishes. Serve for brunch or lunch, or in small glasses as a party starter.

Bloody Mary Gazpacho with Shrimp
Serves 4 to 6

4 cups tomato juice
3 medium vine-ripened tomatoes, seeded, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 celery stalks, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 English cucumber, seeded, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 small red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 small red onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 to 2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon Tabasco
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped celery leaves

Optional garnishes:
Celery stalks
Italian Parsley stalks
1 pound large (15/20) shrimp, deveined and shelled with tails intact, cooked and chilled
Splash(es) of vodka

Combine all of the gazpacho ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning and adjust to taste. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour and up to 4 hours to let the flavors develop. Serve in bowls or cups. Garnish with celery, parsley and shrimp if using. For an adult version, stir in a splash of vodka.

Orange Almond Semifreddo with Port Wine Poached Figs and Praline

~ Orange Almond Semifreddo, Port Wine Poached Figs, Almond Praline ~

What are you serving for dessert for Christmas? I am making this light and luscious semifreddo, cloaked in a heady sauce of port-wine poached figs. Fragrant with orange and spice, it’s reminiscent of English Christmas puddings and mulled wine. The semifreddo is an elegant frozen Italian concoction of whipped cream and meringue, flecked with toasted almonds and orange zest. Each bite is ethereal, melting on the tongue in a teasing airy poof. For a little extra oomph (it’s Christmas after all) a shard of caramelized almond praline crowns the dessert.

Orange Almond Semifreddo with Port Wine Poached Figs

Each component may be prepared in advance, perfect for entertaining and last minute gift wrapping.

Serves 8

Semifreddo:
3/4 cup whole almonds
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
Pinch of salt
3 large egg whites, room temperature
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
1 teaspoon Gran Marnier or Cointreau
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Figs:
1 cup Port wine
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Zest and juice of 1 orange
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
12 large dried (or medium fresh) figs, stems removed, halved

Praline:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Prepare the semifreddo:
Line a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan with plastic, leaving a 3-inch overhang. Place the almonds and 2 tablespoons sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until finely ground. Add the orange zest and salt; pulse to blend. Beat the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer until they begin to hold soft peaks. Add 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until egg whites are glossy and hold stiff peaks. Transfer to a large bowl. Beat the cream, Amaretto and vanilla extract in a clean mixing bowl until soft peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the cream until no traces are visible. Gently fold the almonds into the egg whites until evenly distributed. Spoon into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top. Cover tightly with plastic. Freeze at least 8 hours or overnight.

Prepare the figs:
Bring all of the ingredients, except the figs, to a boil in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and boil until liquid is reduced by half. Strain the liquid and return to the saucepan. Add the figs and toss to coat and submerge. Simmer over medium-low heat for 15 minutes. Remove and cool completely in the liquid. (Figs may be prepared up to 1 day in advance. Refrigerate until use. Allow to come to room temperature before serving).

Prepare the praline:
Heat the sugar in a heavy small saucepan over medium heat until sugar melts, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until sugar turns amber in color. Add the almonds and sea salt and stir quickly to coat. Pour onto a baking sheet lined with parchment and spread into a thin layer. Do not touch with your fingers. Cool completely. Break into small pieces.

When ready to serve, remove the semifreddo from the loaf pan. Working quickly, cut in 3/4-inch slices and arrange on serving plates or shallow bowls. Spoon figs and juice over the semifreddo and garnish with praline shards. Serve immediately.

Healthy Holiday Appetizers: Warm Smoked Salmon and Kale Crostini

~ Warm Smoked Salmon, Kale, Lemon, Capers, Parsley ~

During the holiday season, it’s nice to have a few healthy appetizers up our sleeve for guilt-free nibbling before a big meal. Warm smoked salmon salad is an elegant, healthy and seriously tasty starter which can be made in advance. Spread it on crostini, scoop it with tortilla chips, or take it one step further and pile on kale leaves for a bigger heartier bite. Just be sure to make a big batch. The salmon will keep in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days, perfect for having on hand for unexpected guests, a light lunch and late night cravings.

Warm Smoked Salmon and Kale Crostini

Depending on the event, you can serve these as bruschetta or smaller crostini. For a lighter version, skip the bread and use the kale leaves as the serving vessel. Warm smoked salmon is available in fish markets and specialty stores. To learn more about how it’s prepared, read here. Makes 10.

12 ounces warm smoked salmon, flaked
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley leaves
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon Greek yogurt or sour cream
2 teaspoons capers, finely chopped
1 teaspoon Sriracha or hot sauce, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
10 baguette slices, 1/2-inch thick (or 5 slices levain bread, cut in half)
Extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt
10 lacinato kale leaves
1/2 lemon
Snipped chives, for garnish

Combine the salmon, onion, parsley, lemon juice, yogurt, capers, hot sauce and pepper in a bowl. Mix with a fork to thoroughly combine.

Brush the bread with olive oil and lightly sprinkle with sea salt. Toast in oven until light golden on both sides. Remove and cool slightly.

Tear 2-inch tips off of the kale leaves. (Save the rest of the kale for another use). Place in a large bowl and add 2 teaspoons olive oil and a pinch of salt. Lightly massage the leaves to coat and slightly soften, about 30 seconds. Place a leaf tip on bread. Spoon salmon salad over the kale. Squeeze with half lemon and garnish with snipped chives. Serve immediately.

Holiday Entertaining: Perfecting the Cheese Board

Food52 Cheese BasketDuring the party season, let the cheese board take center stage. Cheese and charcuterie are a perfect accompaniment to cocktails, and, with a little thought, provide a stunning centerpiece. I never tire of arranging cheese platters and baskets, using the season and holidays for inspiration. For this wintry cheese basket I picked sturdy deeply colored greens with firm, spiky and frizzy leaves to provide the bed and border and studded it with woody gnarled garnishes such as burdock root and Jerusalem artichokes. The cheese selection was equally hearty and texturally diverse: Ash-rubbed goat cheese, crumbling blue veined gorgonzola, a pungent brandy-washed rind cheese, and billowy soft white cheese. The crisps and crackers were dark, rough and seeded, weaving through the cheese like paths in a forest. cheeseboard tf A cheese board can be lavish or simple. No matter the size or level of fanciness, try to balance your cheese selection in strength, texture, flavor and color. As a simple rule of thumb, serve a blue, a soft white molded cheese such as Camembert, a goat cheese and a hard alpine cow or sheep milk cheese. Vary the shapes as well, choosing wedges, bricks and molded rounds. cheese Use edible garnishes and decorations with a variety of colors and textures that emphasize the season. Snipped rosemary sprigs, mustard greens, chicories, purple kale, frisée, miniature red pears, black radishes, burdock root, gourds, black olives, pumpkins seeds, dried currants and cranberries are all great cold weather decorations. Scatter the crisps and snacks throughout the board, piled in small bowls or nestled in cabbage heads or radicchio leaves. Nuts and seeds, black sesame rice crackers, dried fruit and nut crisps, crisp flatbread, and chunks of dense fig and almond cake are perfect for December. Arrange the cheese on a background of black slate or a weathered cutting board, or place a cutting board in a large wide basket. Arrange smaller wooden plates or decorative bowls on the boards to fill with olives, nuts or to contain runny cheese. Finally, don’t skimp – enjoy and don’t hold back! cheese garnish

Prosciutto Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Goat Cheese

parma date tastefood

Are you having a last minute holiday panic attack? You have the turkey brined, the potatoes smashed, the cranberries sauced, and 4 sorts of vegetables cleaned. But…what if you don’t have enough? (Of course you do). If you are like me, the  last hours of party prep often include last minute additions to the menu – just in case someone, heaven forbid, should waddle, I mean walk, away from the table still hungry.

Such was the inspiration for these stuffed dates. I added them to my holiday menu in a sudden moment of panic (maybe 3 appetizers were not enough!) I had all the ingredients on hand: goat cheese for the cheeseboard, dates to accompany the cheese, rosemary in the garden, and Proscitto, a permanent staple in my refrigerator. Prosciutto is easy to store and ready to pull out for charcuterie boards, draping over pizza, and layering into salads. I love it as is or baked in the oven where it crisps, waiting to be snapped into shards and sprinkled over pasta, soups and salads. For these appetizers, the prosciutto wrapped up the dates, sealing in the filling and creating tidy flavor-packed nuggets – sweet, salty and creamy at once. They were easily assembled one day in advance, simply needing a quick bake to crisp the ham and amplify its saltiness, providing a perfect foil to the sugary dates and mild goat cheese.

Parma Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Goat Cheese

Makes 12 to 16, depending on the size of the dates

5 ounces mild soft goat cheese
1 teaspoon finely minced rosemary leaves
1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
12 to 16 medjool dates
8 slices Parma ham, halved lengthwise

Preheat oven to 375°F (190C). Combine the goat cheese, rosemary, orange zest, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Mix with a fork to soften and combine.
Make a small incision in the dates lengthwise and remove the pits. Using a teaspoon or your fingers, fill the cavities of the dates with the goat cheese. Wrap each date with a strip of Parma ham. Place seam-side down on a baking sheet. Bake until the ham is slightly golden, about 15 minutes, turning once. Transfer to a serving plate and cool slightly. Garnish with rosemary sprigs. Serve warm.

Roasted Butternut Squash (or Pumpkin) Soup

Butternut Squash Soup tastefoodButternut Squash, Apples, Cider, Spice 

There is something magical about roasted butternut squash. Its orange flesh softens into a sweet and nutty squidginess, which is easily transformed into a puree. It’s hard to believe something so rich and sugary can be loaded with nutrients and betacarotene, but so it is. One cup of butternut squash provides a glutton’s worth of Vitamins A, B, and C, as well as potassium, fiber and manganese. When roasted, its natural sugars are coaxed out and gently caramelized, accentuating the squash’s inherent nutty flavor – simply delicious with a pinch of salt. In this recipe, roasted butternut mingles with its fall buddies – apples, cider and loads of warm spices – yielding an essential autumn soup.

Spicy Butternut Squash (or Pumpkin) Soup

Serve as a starter to any meal, including Thanksgiving dinner. If you are entertaining a crowd, consider small servings in little cups or demi-tasse as a light hors d’oeuvre. Pumpkin may be substituted for the squash. I prefer small hokkaido pumpkins.

Serves 4 to 6 in bowls or 8 to 12 in small cups.

1 medium butternut squash (or 1 large hokkaido pumpkin) about 2 pounds
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, cut in 1/2-inch dice
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup apple cider
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 to 2 teaspoons salt, to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Chopped fresh cilantro leaves for garnish

Heat the oven to 375°F. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Lightly brush the exposed flesh with olive oil. Place squash, cut-side-down, on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until the flesh is fork tender, 50 to 60 minutes. Remove from oven and cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened without coloring, 3 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the apple, curry powder, cumin, coriander and cayenne.  Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the squash and chicken stock. (There should be just enough stock to cover the squash and apples. If needed, add additional stock to cover). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer until the apples are very soft, about 20 minutes.

Carefully puree the soup in batches in a food processor (or with an immersion blender). Return to the pot. The soup should be thick. Thin it to your desired consistency with the apple cider. Stir in the brown sugar, salt and pepper. Warm thoroughly over medium-low heat and taste for seasoning. Serve warm, garnished with fresh cilantro leaves.

Holiday Sides: Kale, Quinoa, Pomegranate Salad

kale quinoa salad tastefood

~ Kale, Red Cabbage, Quinoa, Carrots, Pomegranate, Raisins, Almonds ~

Just because there’s a chill in the air doesn’t mean we should skip fresh salads. In fact, at this time of year it’s more important than ever that we boost our immune system with healthy greens and grains – and not just for keeping the doctor away. Hardy cold weather salads are a welcome addition to any holiday table. Deeply flavorful and unabashedly colorful, wintery salads are hefty enough to absorb copious handfuls of nuts, fruit and grains while providing a beautiful addition to a special meal. Even the non-meaters will gobble them up, while the vegetarians will be very pleased with this substantial option.

This is one of my favorite cold weather salads. Brimming with curly kale, red cabbage, and quinoa, it could be a meal in a bowl. The addition of dried raisins, toasted almonds and glistening pomegranate seeds adds all the extra bling necessary to invite this salad to your Thanksgiving dinner. The key to this recipe is to massage the kale. Yes, that’s right. By gently rubbing the leaves in oil, lemon and salt before assembling, the leaves will be coaxed into a softer and milder version of themselves, making for a delicious raw salad.

Kale, Quinoa and Pomegranate Salad

Unlike most salads, this may be entirely prepared up to 1 hour in advance, which is ideal for entertaining. Serves 6 to 8.

Kale:
1 large bunch curly green kale, ribs removed, torn in bite-size pieces
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt

Dressing:
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salad:
1 1/2 cups shredded red cabbage (or radicchio)
1 to 2 carrots, thinly sliced
1 small shallot, very thinly sliced
1/3 cup cooked quinoa (I used red)
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds

For the kale: Place the kale in a large serving bowl. Drizzle with the olive oil, lemon juice and salt. Using your hands, gently rub the leaves to coat for about 1 minute. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes (or refrigerate for up to 2 hours).

For the dressing: Whisk the garlic, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Add the oil in a steady stream, whisking constantly to emulsify.

Assemble the salad: Add the cabbage, carrots, shallot and quinoa to the kale. Add half of the dressing and toss to combine. Scatter the raisins, almonds and pomegranate seeds over. Gently toss with more dressing to taste. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 1 hour.

Smoked Trout Pate

smoked trout plate tastefood

Smoked Trout Pâté is the ideal recipe to have on hand for the holidays. Not only is it a snap to prepare, it’s versatile; elegant enough for a fancy party and simple enough for a fireside dinner. The ingredients are minimal and may be purchased in advance and stored in the refrigerator, ready to be blitzed at a moment’s notice or a surprise guest’s arrival. The smoky trout is fluffed and lightened with lemon and cream cheese, then crowned with crunchy toasted almonds and fresh chives. The flavor is so addictively good you might want to double up on the quantities, so you can make a separate stash for yourself.

smoked trout

Smoked Trout Pâté

Serve the pâté on baguette slices, pumpernickel rounds, or cubed pumpernickel bread. Don’t hold back on the almonds. Their nutty flavor and crunchy texture are what set these canapes apart. Smoked mackerel may be substituted for the trout. Makes about 2 cups.

Pâté:
8 ounces smoked trout (or mackerel), skin and any bones removed
6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup grated onion with juices
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for garnish
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco

Thinly sliced European-style pumpernickel squares, rounds or baguette slices
1/3 cup almonds, toasted, coarsely chopped
Chopped chives

Process all of the pâté ingredients in the bowl of a food processor until light and smooth. If too thick, add a little more lemon juice. Transfer to a bowl. To serve, smear on pumpernickel bread or baguette slices. Sprinkle with almonds and chives.