Tag Archives: holiday

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

Root Vegetable Mash

mashMashed Sweet Potato, Celery Root and Rutabaga

Root vegetables are winter’s best kept secret. Packed with nutrients, natural sugars and starch, the lowly root is a healthy and flavorful substitute for the ubiquitous potato, and a superb way to get your vitamins and nutrients in the cold weather season. A good peel of skin reveals a rainbow of colors ranging from magenta to ochre to creamy white, sure to brighten any dreary winter day – and your holiday table. Feel free to mix and match roots, such as sweet potato, parsnip, rutabaga, carrot, celery root, and of course the dependable russet, to your taste and preference.

Root Vegetable Mash

Choose a balance of sweet and savory roots for even flavor (I used 1 pound each of sweet potato, celery root and rutabaga) and mash to your desired consistency. I like to leave my roots a little chunky for a more rustic presentation.

3 pounds mixed roots
Salt
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup whole milk Greek yogurt
Freshly ground black pepper

Peel the root vegetables and cut into 1-inch chunks. Place in a large pot and cover with cold water. Add 2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium and cook until vegetables are tender and easily pierced with a fork. Drain and return to the pot. Let cool 5 minutes. Add the garlic, butter, sour cream, and yogurt. Mash with a potato masher or in a food mill to desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. Spoon into a serving bowl and serve warm.

Prepare ahead: The mash may be prepared up to 1 day in advance of serving. Cool completely and transfer to a buttered, deep gratin dish. Cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Remove from refrigerator 1 hour before serving. Preheat oven to 325°F. Dot the top of the mash with 1 tablespoon butter and cover with foil. Bake in oven until heated through, 35 to 45 minutes.

Raspberry Almond Streusel Bars

raspberry bars tastefood
Raspberry Almond Streusel Bars

I made this recipe recently for a contest sponsored by Attune Foods. We were challenged to create a recipe using whole wheat flour and one of Attunes Foods’ healthy whole grain cereals. I didn’t win the contest, but I feel like I won anyway, because these bars were a huge hit and this recipe is a keeper. The streusel does double duty as the crust, and sandwiches  an intense raspberry filling. The whole wheat flour and wheat flake and flax cereal nudge these bars into the kind-of-sort-of healthy department. Oh, who am I kidding…but healthy or indulgent, these bars should be on your to-do list as we embark upon the holiday season.

Raspberry Almond Bars
Old-fashioned oats may be substituted for the cereal. Makes 16 bars.

Crust and Topping:
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup almond meal
½ cup Uncle Sam Original Cereal (or old fashioned oats)
½ cup dark brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract

Filling:
1 cup high quality raspberry preserves, such as Bon Maman
6 ounces fresh raspberries
1 tablespoon raspberry liqueur, such as Chambord (optional)

1/4 cup sliced or slivered almonds

Heat the oven to 375°F. Butter an 8 by 8-inch baking pan. Line the bottom with parchment leaving a 2-inch overhang on 2 opposite sides. Butter the parchment.

Combine the flours, almond meal, cereal, sugars, cinnamon, and salt in a food processor. Pulse to combine and finely chop the cereal, about 10 times. Add the butter and extracts. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, 10 to 12 times. Transfer 2 cups of the mixture to a bowl to reserve for topping. Press the remaining mixture firmly and evenly into the pan. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Place the preserves, raspberries and liqueur in a bowl. Mix with a fork to combine, lightly mashing the whole raspberries but leaving large pieces intact. Spread the raspberries over the crust. Add the almonds to the reserved topping, then sprinkle the topping over the filling.

Bake until the filling is bubbling and the topping is golden brown, about 25 minutes. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Remove from pan and cut in 2-inch squares. Serve at room temperature or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

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.

Orange Almond Semifreddo with Port Wine Poached Figs

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

This dessert has the whiff of Christmas. The good news is that you don’t need to wait until December to taste it. It’s really a 2-part dessert, with each component stand-alone good. Fresh figs are poached in a heady reduction of Port wine, balsamic vinegar, citrus and spice yielding intense results reminiscent of Christmas puddings and mulled wine. You could stop there and serve the figs in their stew as a simple dessert soup, but why hold back? That was my thought, when I ladled the figs and their sauce over a wedge of melt-in-your-mouth semifreddo. Semifreddo is a fancy way to describe this frozen Italian concoction of whipped cream and meringue, which, in this case, is flecked with toasted almonds and orange zest. Each bite is ethereal, light and airy, disappearing on the tongue in a teasing poof. For a little structure and lasting crunch, I topped the dessert with a shard of caramelized almond praline. Like I said – why hold back?

Orange Almond Semifreddo with Port Wine Poached Figs 
Serves 8

Semifreddo:
3/4 cup whole almonds
1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
Pinch of salt
3 large egg whites, room temperature
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
1 teaspoon Amaretto or almond liqueuer
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Figs:
1 cup Port wine (or heavy bodied red wine)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Zest and juice of 1 orange
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
3 whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
12 ripe medium-large figs, 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-inch-by-5-inch loaf pan with plastic, leaving a 3-inch overhang. Place almonds and ¼ cup sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until finely ground. Add 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 sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, and beat until egg whites are glossy and hold stiff peaks. Transfer to a large bowl. Beat 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 prepared baking dish and smooth top. Cover 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 10 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 saucepen 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. Spoon figs and juice over the semifreddo and garnish with praline shards. Serve immediately.

If you like this, you might enjoy these recipes:
Cranberry Orange Trifle with Candied Walnuts from TasteFood
Pistachio Pound Cake from Oui Chef
Holiday Pumpkin Roulade from TasteFood
Fig Crostata from The Wimpy Vegetarian

Ring in the New Year with these Party Appetizer and Menu Ideas

The New Year is approaching, and the holiday festivities continue. During this busy time it’s fun and easy to get caught up in socializing, so it’s important to have a few tricks up our sleeve for entertaining, drop-in visitors or an impromptu get-together. Let this blog do some of the work for you. Here are a few menu ideas for holiday bites and appetizers to have on hand or to serve for a party. Meanwhile, savor the moment and enjoy some family time, take a walk in the forest or open that new book  you got from Santa.  Best wishes for a healthy and happy New Year!

Ginger Spiced Molasses Cookies

~ Ginger Spiced Molasses Cookies ~

We’ve waited until very late (for us) to get our Christmas tree this year. Normally it’s up in early December, and by time the 25th arrives, we light the candles in a last hurrah, before dismantling it the next day. This year is a little different. We harvested our tree only this past weekend, on Saturday evening in the dark. As we picked it out, it felt like we were back in Denmark, searching for a tree in the darkness of the nordic winter. We spent Sunday decorating and will continue to do so over the next few days – after all, everyone has to have their way with the decorations. Then on the 24th, we will light the tree in its full glory as we celebrate julaften or Christmas eve, when we eat our big holiday dinner. In true Scandinavian fashion we use live candles, and it’s truly the most beautiful sight to behold.

Since the tree is so fresh, it will remain standing for a good week after Christmas, which is perfect, since we are home for the holidays this year and look forward to friends stopping in for wine and gløgg.  In anticipation, I’ve made an extra large batch of these Ginger Molasses Spiced Cookies to have on hand for any last minute tree tweaking and unexpected guests who might surprise us. The spice of these cookies goes very well with a glass of warm spiced gløgg.

Ginger Spiced Molasses Cookies

I was honored that Food52 selected these cookies last week as their contribution to a virtual cookie swap, hosted by Food Network and Yahoo! Shine. And Alicia, the talent behind the delicious blog Weekly Greens, has featured this recipe in her Whole Foods Market Cooking Column. Christmas has indeed come early this year!

Makes about 42 (1 1/2 inch) cookies.

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
1/3 cup finely diced candied ginger, optional
Granulated sugar for rolling

Whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ground ginger, allspice, salt, and cloves in a bowl to combine.  Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and molasses and mix well.  Add the dry ingredients and mix to combine. Stir in the candied ginger. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Pour some granulated sugar into a small bowl. Roll dough into 1 1/2 inch balls, then in the sugar. Arrange on baking sheets lined with parchment paper and gently flatten. Bake in oven until set and crinkled on top, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove and cool.

If you like this, you might enjoy these recipes:
Russian Teacake Cookies from TasteFood
Salted Pistachio Brittle from the Kitchn
Lebkuchen from Brown Eyed Baker
Spiced Linzer Cookies from My Baking Addiction

Gløgg, Glüwein, Mulled Wine

Gløgg, glüwein, mulled wine – the names and languages are different but not the results. Orange, cinnamon and cloves steep in red wine fortified with a reduction of port wine spiked with Cointreau. Goodness, if this isn’t enough to get you fired up for the holiday season, then I’m not sure what will.

Gløgg

There are many pre-made mixes for gløgg, but the best way to make it is from scratch. It’s easy to do and requires an inexpensive dry red wine.  When you make the gløgg, the aroma of simmering spices and wine will fill your home with winter cheer. Best served in front of a fire on a cold and snowy day.

Serves 8-10 friends.

For the garnish:
1 cup raisins
1/3 cup Cointreau or rum
1/2 cup whole almonds

For the gløgg:
1 1/2 cups Port wine
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup Cointreau or Gran Marnier
1/3 cup brown sugar
zest of 2 oranges, cut in strips
10 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 bottles dry red wine

Fresh orange slices

Prepare the garnish:
Combine the raisins and Cointreau in a small bowl. Let sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours. (Raisins may be prepared up to one week in advance.  Cover and refrigerate until use.)
Toast the almonds in a dry skillet on the stove. Remove from heat and coarsely chop in large pieces.

Prepare the gløgg:
Combine all the ingredients except the 2 bottles of red wine in a heavy large pot with a lid. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered until reduced to 2 cups, 12-15 minutes. Add red wine and warm over low heat with the lid on the pot. Do not boil. To serve, add a spoonful each of raisins and almonds to a glass or mug.  Strain gløgg into glass.  Garnish with fresh orange slices.