…Say what? I’ve fallen from your favor? Sorry I’ve been snubbing you for the past couple of months. But I’m needing—nay, craving—to have you back into my life. I’m done with wretched excess; the frothy creams, sumptuous sauces and trumped-up cocktails that caught my eye in December. I miss your tasteful earthiness, your smart frugality, your downright wholesomeness. Give me one more chance–I’m begging!–to make things right.
Always wash lentils and remove small stones before cooking.
Mid-January finds me as another bloated statistic entrenched in detox, mainlining soups loaded with beans and veggies, forcing myself to pound out another mile (er…block) on the treadmill while my headphones knock out a lobotomizing Latin Dance Club collection, which insists my legs move forward.
And lentils are back into my life. What’s not to love about these petite colorful beans? User friendly, they cook fast and don’t need soaking; they’re a powerhouse of nutrition and easy on the purse strings. Below, I’ve assembled a slide show of lentil inspiration. One recipe not featured is a no-recipe-recipe I recently made: Quinoa-Lentil Salad: In separate pots, cook equal parts of black beluga lentils and quinoa until tender, then drain and toss in a vinaigrette made with a smidgen of garlic, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil. Toss with feta cheese and you’ll be doin’ right by lentils.
Another holiday season, a herd of family I can’t wait to see, all with their convoluted schedules, none of which coincide simultaneously. Therefore, I’ll be turning the holidays on and off several times in the next couple of weeks. I’ll be flexible. I’ll be creative. I’ll try to stay sober.
Entertaining Canapé Platter
I’m thinking small plates and bite-sized packages by the fire will be appreciated. In a holiday stuffed with excess, less can often be more. Guests tend to eat slower, lingering over small plates. And in-between the plates, the conversation flows.
Freshly shucked oysters with a mignonette, followed by a couple of small pieces of buttery brioche topped with lemon creme fraiche and a smear of the most delicious roe your purse will allow. A sparkler, of course. Less is more, unarguably.
Meatballs may be made in advance and frozen for up to a couple of weeks.
My freezer is an ally. The lamb meatballs in the following recipe were divided into aluminum pans, and then frozen. I take out a tray and bake them as needed. A garlicky tart tzadziki would be the perfect accompaniment, but I chose to drizzle pomegranate syrup/molasses onto the plate, then top it with the lamb.
The lamb meatballs pair especially well with phyllo cups stuffed with mediterranean ingredients you’ll find in the recipe below. Here’s another recipe (Inside Karen’s Kitchen) that inspired mine; she bakes her phyllo cups and the ingredients include sun-dried tomatoes and kalamata olives. Most quality groceries stock phyllo cups next to the frozen phyllo sheets in their freezer sections. They thaw in 30 minutes, then I stuff them with a variety of ingredients through the holidays. Again, here’s the link to my collection of other stuffings for phyllo cups made in the past.
Phyllo cups may be found in the frozen section of most grocery stores, saddled next to the phyllo sheets. So flexible and versatile, what’s not to like?
Good things come in small packages. Have a lovely holiday season!
Planning a dinner party menu, for me, is like figuring out an outfit to wear for a special occasion; so many choices but nothing comes together. The (such-a-deal) taupe sheath with a metallic band is very cool but none of my shoes are right. And accessories? Don’t even go there. The Baked Quince stuffed with Ground Lamb and Currants is festive but I’m stumped about a side dish. And dessert? Forget about it.
Maybe you have similar issues, especially when you’re busier than ever stuffing goodwill towards all into a few short weeks. I’ve perused my Holiday Cookbook and have pieced together some soup-to-nuts festive dinners, including cocktails, that may ease some of your strain. (I do believe in potlucks. I do, I do, I do….)
Proposal #1: Super-Easy & Festive Menu
Appetizer: Gorgonzola Pear DipNotes: Stupid simple, but oh so good. Can be assembled in 5 minutes and made the night before; all but the addition of pears, which should be stirred in a couple of hours before serving. Serve with a sliced baguette or Rosemary-Raisin Crisps (or something similar) I’ve enjoyed from Trader Joe’s.
Roast Pork with Rosemary and Garlic
Main Course:Roast Pork with Rosemary and GarlicNotes: How can something so easy taste so heavenly? Five minutes to prep the roast and about 45 minutes to roast. Don’t overcook!
Pick your Side(s): Maple-Glazed Butternut SquashNotes: The only thing time-consuming is attacking the butternut squash. I prefer the slices but you could save time and use the pre-cut cubes.
Baked Apples stuffed with Orange-Scented Sweet Potatoes
Sauteéd Chard and Currants: No recipe for this, it’s so easy. Simply remove greens from stems and sauté chopped stems in butter or olive oil with currants until almost tender. Stir in chopped leaves and season with salt and pepper. Using chard with red stems looks quite festive on the plate and the sweet currants are delish with the pork.
Yogurt and Fig Cake
Dessert: Yogurt and Fig CakeNotes: I love this cake and it’s the simplest scratch-made cake I’ve ever made. It may be made a couple of days in advance and freezes well. Substitute frozen or dried figs if you can’t find fresh. I’d go the distance and serve this topped with whipped cream infused with Grand Marnier.
Cocktail: Lucy’s Pig PunchNotes: This is a yummy whiskey and apple potent. But to keep thing really simple, serve a creamy Chardonnay with fruity notes, particularly apple, before and throughout the meal.
Proposal #2: A bit more involved, a bit more classy-sassy, but most of the prep work may (and should for survival) be done well in advance.
Sherried Shrimp Bisque
Appetizer: Sherried Shrimp BisqueNotes: I love serving appetizers in shot glasses! The bisque be made a couple of days in advance; it ages well.
Main Course: Flank Steak Florentine (header photo) Notes: Pretty on a plate and may be rolled and prepped the evening prior to cooking and serving. If you prefer your beef cooked medium or well-done, make this Standing Rib Roast instead. The sides listed below are compatible for both. Flank steak toughens the longer it cooks.
Food writer by trade, curious cook by design.
The past 30 years have witnessed a raucous race from my professional to
home kitchen - persnickety customers, petulant children and piles of dirty dishes
lie in my wake. And the dinnerFeeds - well - they
are my story. More about Peggy and this site...
Taste buds prickle; wanderlust triggered. An Argentine barbecue (asado)
enticed me to Patagonia. A friend gave me a vial of ground sumac berries--4 months later I was
waking at dawn to the "Call To Prayer" in Turkey. Porcini to Tuscany, and so on. Read more about my chronicles of
trips and favorite associated recipes. Browse my travel recipes...
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