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
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.
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
Active Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes, plus cooling and freezing time
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 orange liqueur, such as Gran Marnier or Cointreau
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup Port wine
1/4 cup brown sugar
Zest and juice of 1 orange
3 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
12 large dried figs, stems removed, halved
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Prepare the semifreddo:
1. Line a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan with plastic, leaving a 3-inch overhang.
2. Place the almonds and the 2 tablespoons sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until finely ground. Add the orange zest and salt and pulse once or twice to blend.
3. Beat the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer until they begin to hold soft peaks. Add the 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until the egg whites are glossy and hold stiff peaks. Transfer to a large bowl.
4. In a clean mixing bowl, beat the cream, orange liqueur, 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 compote ingredients, except the figs, to a boil in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and boil until the liquid reduces by half. Strain the liquid and return to the saucepan. Add the figs and simmer, partially covered, over medium-low heat until soft, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove and cool completely in the liquid. (Figs may be prepared up to 1 day in advance. Refrigerate until use. Bring to room temperature to serve.)
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.
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
10 lacinato kale leaves
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.
During 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
~ 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.
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
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
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 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 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.
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
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.
Hot, spiced, and boosted with wine and spirits, gløgg is an elixir capable of warming the hardiest Viking. Throughout the month of December, this libation is a Scandinavian staple, served in cafés, doled out from street carts, and ladled into mugs at social gatherings. It’s the fortified response to the season’s cold and seemingly endless darkness, and it’s as ubiquitous as pickled herring. Most home cooks will make their own brew, either enabled by a mix or from scratch. This recipe is my version of gløgg from scratch. It avoids the cloying sweetness often found in pre-mixes, and it’s remarkably easy to prepare. You don’t have to splurge on a nice bottle of wine for this recipe, but be sure it’s something you wouldn’t mind drinking, and that it has body and heft–we’re talking Viking sustenance here, folks.
Serves 8 to 10 friends.
For the garnish: 1 cup raisins
1/3 cup Cointreau or Gran Marnier
1/2 cup whole almonds (optional)
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 untreated or organic oranges, shaved in strips with a vegetable peeler, white pith removed
2 cinnamon sticks
2 bottles full-bodied red wine Fresh orange slices as garnish
Prepare the garnish: 1. Combine the raisins and Cointreau in a small bowl. Let stand at room temperature for at least 2 hours.
2. Toast the almonds (if using) in a dry skillet on the stove. Remove from heat and coarsely chop in large pieces.
Prepare the gløgg: 1. Combine all of the ingredients except the 2 bottles of red wine in a large heavy pot with a lid. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until reduced to about 2 cups, 12 to 15 minutes.
2. Reduce the heat to low, add the red wine, and cover the pot. From this point on, do not let the gløgg come to a boil–or the alcohol will evaporate!
3. To serve, add a spoonful each of raisins and almonds (if using) to a heat-proof glass or mug. Strain the gløgg into the glass (a tea strainer works well for this). Garnish with fresh orange slices and/or a cinnamon stick and serve with a spoon for scooping up the raisins and almonds.
You might also call this a “fill-in-the-blank gratin.” I had spinach in the fridge, but other sturdy greens such as kale or Swiss chard will work equally well in this recipe. The preparation is simple, consisting of sautéing the greens-of-your-choice, followed by a quick nap of cream. A crunchy topping of breadcrumbs and cheese finishes the gratins in the oven. And I dare say if there is someone in your family who is less inclined to favor these leafy superfoods, this gratin may be just the vehicle to get them munching.
There is no thickener such as egg or flour in this recipe, so the results are akin to creamed spinach in a cup, with a cheesy breadcrumb topping. Because of this, I like to serve the gratin in individual ramekins. Makes enough for 4 individual gratins.
1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano or Pecorino Romano cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped, about 1/2 cup
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
12 ounces fresh spinach leaves, coarsely chopped if large
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
Heat oven to 375 F. Mix breadcrumbs, cheese and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper together in a small bowl; set aside. Heat oil in a large pot or deep skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and red chili flakes. Sauté 1 minute. Add spinach, cover pot and cook over medium-low heat until leaves soften, about 2 minutes. Stir in the cream and salt. Simmer, uncovered, 1 minute. Divide spinach between 4 (3/4-cup) ramekins. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and cheese. Bake in oven until tops are golden and gratins are bubbly, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve warm.