Christmas dinner for 10, survived. But I’m not going to lie – the day after its execution, when I first sat down to write this, I had a knocker of a headache and pretty much just stared at the screen, mouth-breathing. I’m glad to have had these couple of days to step back and regroup.
So here we are, dear readers, on December 29th; I come to you with a sense of calm and sanity that I was unable to muster three days ago when the cooking parade was over and the kitchen looked like it had the worst hangover of its life. All I wanted to do was drink coffee and nap and watch bad movies until I felt functional again.
If nothing else, it was an interesting exercise in love and motivation – from the early-morning grocery shopping marathon, to the chopping, zesting, de-seeding, roasting, whipping, cocktail-shaking and family-wrangling – I have a new-found appreciation for the people who do this every holiday. People with kids, full-time jobs, partners…extra-curriculars. People who spend days, back-to-back, confined in their kitchen cube, but still manage to look like Doris Day when they set it all out on the table, maintaining polite conversation with their guests and smiling pleasantly throughout. You guys rule. Cha-peau!
That said, when you’re doing something out of love, the hard work is worth it. You might be a little worse for wear (box-grater wounds, oil burns, mental collapse) but you’ll recover. Plus, when your grandmother eats your food, puts her hand on your shoulder and very gently calls you “Brava”, all the bad melts away.
Now since it’s almost New Year’s, I thought it’d be a good idea to lay out some (simple, sanity-friendly) recipes that you might find useful for your NYE entertaining. From the menu posted here, I’ve extracted a few delicious little things that would fit an end of year schmooze – whether you’re hosting for two, or a dozen (or even if you’re home sick and entertaining a party of one) – here are some tasty treats to say “Au revoir, 2012” and “Oh well, hello there, handsome 2013”.
Satsuma & Pomegranate Campari Cocktails – serves 6-8 (adapted from Baker’s Royale)
- 4 parts satsuma (about 12), freshly squeezed, sieved and chilled*
- 2 parts pomegranate juice**, freshly pressed, sieved and chilled
- 2 parts Campari
- 1 part white vermouth
- fresh ice
- strands of orange zest (optional)
*I know, I know…juicing fruit seems like a lot of work. But once you get into the swing of it, it ain’t that bad. And it makes the drinks so, so much better. Trust me on this one. Put on some music and karaoke your way through it if you want to. It’ll be worth it.
**Tips to de-seed and juice a pomegranate:
1) Remove any light-coloured clothing and put on an apron – things might get a little messy (à la slasher film).
2) Cut the pomegranate in half, hold it cut-side down with both hands over a large bowl and gently press the center, lifting the sides up slightly. This will help release the seeds from the pulp.
3) Holding the pomegranate over the bowl with one hand, cut-side down, firmly whack the skin-side (facing up, towards you) with the back of a wooden spoon until all of the seeds have fallen out into your hand and the bowl. Remove any little bits of pulp that may have found their way into the bowl (there shouldn’t be many).
4) Reserve about 1/4 of the seeds for serving. Pour the remaining seeds into a food processor and liquefy. Push the juice through a sieve to dispose of the tougher bits (the actual seeds within the juice-filled pod). Chill before use.
Serving the cocktail:
1) Divide the reserved pomegranate pods and orange zest strands evenly between 6-8 glasses (martini glasses or champagne coupes are pretty dapper).
2) Fill a cocktail shaker 1/4 full with ice.
3) Pour in the juices, the Campari and the vermouth. Shake until combined.
4) Serve in the prepared glasses. Bottoms up, baby.
Persimmon and pear and caprese toasts (makes approx. 20 canapés) – adapted from Joy the Baker
- 1 semi-firm persimmon, sliced + each slice cut into quarters
- 1 medium pear (Bartlett or Anjou), sliced
- 4-5 small bocconcini, sliced
- 1 baguette, sliced thinly
- 1/4 cup pesto (best way to revive frozen pesto from the summer)
- basalmic vinegar (the best you can afford)
- olive oil for brushing
- fleur de sel and freshly cracked black pepper
1) Preheat the oven to 350° F. Lay baguette slices on a pizza tray or baking sheet; brush with olive oil and bake for about 8 minutes, or until golden brown. Set aside to cool (if you want to do these ahead, conserve them in a brown paper bag until use).
2) Put pesto in a small bowl and brush onto the toasts. Next, toss the bocconcini slices into the bowl and stir to coat the cheese with pesto.
3) Arrange toasts on a serving platter and layer with a slice of persimmon, pear and bocconcini. Sprinkle with fleur de sel and cracked pepper. Finish with a gentle drizzle of balsamic vinegar*
(*if you have the time, it’s worth reducing the vinegar by heating it in a pan until it becomes a bit syrupy.)
Smoky sweet potato hummus – adapted from Blissful Eats
Makes 4 cups
- 1 pound sweet potatoes (about 2 medium)
- 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 tsp chopped chipotle chili, canned in adobo sauce
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 Tbsp tahini
- coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 350° F.
Pierce potatoes several times with a fork; place on a foil lined baking sheet. Bake until tender (about 45 mins). Cool slightly, then peel and add to the bowl of a food processor. Add chickpeas, lime juice, tahini, olive oil, chipotle and garlic. Purée until smooth, adding up to 2 tablespoons of water if necessary. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and smoked paprika before serving.
Pita chips (makes about 60 chips)
- 2 bags of pita bread (whole wheat and/or white)
- herbes de Provence
- olive oil
- fleur de sel
1) Preheat the oven to 350° F.
3) Place pita slices on a pizza tray or baking sheet; brush with olive oil and sprinkle with herbes de Provence and fleur de sel. Bake for about 6 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow to cool and reserve in brown paper bags. Serve with smoky sweet potato hummus.