New Year's

Beet Tarte Tatin

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Every New Year’s Eve my brother and sister-in-law come over for the day, my cousins sleep over for a couple of days. We start our celebration early with a round of drinks and hors d’oeuvre. A few hours later we have another round of drinks and hors d’oeuvre.

No dinner.

We have dessert much later, near midnight. The anticipation of something sweet helps keep us up so we can watch the ball drop and then go to bed.

Some of the hors d’oeuvre I serve are fancy, some plain; some homemade, some from a package (like the Spring Valley or Hebrew National franks-in-blankets that everyone loves).

A while ago I read a blog post about Beet tarte tatins and was inspired to make some because they looked and sounded so appealing. I made up my own recipe, tried it a few times and decided that they would be perfect as one of the fancies at this year’s New Year get-together.

I wrote down whose blog it was, so I could credit her with the inspiration, but I can’t find the paper and forgot the name.

But — to that wonderfully creative person who alerted me to beet tarte tatin —- thank you.

Here’s my recipe.

Beet Tarte Tatins

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 large beet (8-10 ounces)

  • 2 small chopped shallots or 1/3 cup chopped red onion

  • 1 teaspoon Mirin (rice vinegar)

  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar

  • 1 teaspoon crushed, dried rosemary (or 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary)

  • salt to taste

  • 1/2 pound puff pastry

  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh orange peel

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Use a small amount of the olive oil to brush the insides of 6 muffin tins. Peel the beet and cut it into thin slices, then cut the slice to make them small enough to fit inside the muffin tins. Place the cut beet slices in a bowl. Add the shallots and toss the ingredients. In another small bowl, whisk together the remaining olive oil, Mirin and brown sugar and pour the dressing over the beet mixture. Sprinkle with the rosemary and salt and spoon equal amounts of the beet mixture inside the muffin tins. Cover the filled tins with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the tin from the oven. Raise the oven heat to 400 degrees. Cut out 6 circles from the puff pastry to cover the top of the muffin tins. Place over the beets. Bake for another 20 minutes or until the pastry is puffed and golden brown. Carefully spoon each beet mixture from the bottom and turn it over onto a dish so that the pastry is at the bottom. Spoon any remaining beets that do not come up and place them on the tarte tatins. Garnish with the orange peel and serve (may be served hot or at room temperature).

Makes 6

New Year's Shakshuka

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I'm finding it a bit weird to be thinking about New Year's, even though we are well into December, because the weather where I live is balmy. For Connecticut in December that is. It feels more like October.

It is December though and New Year's is coming and Ed and I always spend New Year's Eve with my brother and sister-in-law, Jeff and Eileen, and also cousins Leslie and Neil. Then Les and Neil stay for a few days and we just hang out, watch movies and eat. And drink.

Most of the time we have smoked fish for breakfast 3-4 days in a row but for several reasons we are changing course this year. One day of lox-and-bagels will do.

So then what?

I'm planning to serve shakshuka one morning. I have several versions, some with cheese, some with mergeuz sausage, some all-vegetarian. Some with middle eastern seasonings, some with Mediterranean herbs such as basil or oregano. A quickie or two.

This is the one I'm thinking of for this year, a substantial dish that reminds me of Huevos Rancheros. The pita bread sops up the juices from the vegetables. Also, the eggs aren't poached, but baked under a layer of grated cheese. I can set this up ahead and just pop it into the oven before we are ready to eat.

Huevos Rancheros Shakshuka

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, deseeded and chopped
  • 1 medium serrano pepper, deseeded and chopped
  • 4 medium tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 pita breads
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, bell pepper and serrano pepper and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the vegetables have softened.

Add the tomatoes, cilantro, cumin, salt and pepper. Turn the heat to low, cover the pan and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 8-10 minutes or until the ingredients are soft and sauce-like.

While the sauce is cooking, spread the butter over one side of the pitas and place the pitas in a large baking pan. When the sauce is done, spoon it over the bread.

Crack the eggs into a small bowl one at a time then transfer each one next to the other on top of the vegetables. Sprinkle the cheese on top. Place the baking pan in the oven and cook for 15-18 minutes or until the eggs are cooked but with slightly runny yolks and the cheese is hot and bubbly.

For a crispier looking top, place the pan under the broiler for a minute or so.

Makes 4 servings.



Kumquat and Mascarpone Crisps

My first experience with a kumquat was at a Chinese restaurant. It didn’t go very well. I must have been about 8 years old and I expected the tiny, orange looking thing to taste like an orange. 
 Surprise! 
 Kumquats are bitter, even when they’re cooked in loads of sugar, which they often are. And besides, the Chinese restaurant kind also came with a sticky syrup that was supposed to counteract the bitter fruit. 
 It didn’t, at least for my 8 year old self. 
 Time passes and our tastes change, don’t they? 
 I can’t recall when I next tasted a kumquat but it was a riveting sensation in my mouth. These kumquats were crusted with sugar and I couldn’t get enough of them to satisfy my now awakened taste buds.  
 It put me in a kumquat sort of mind and now, whenever the season comes around I buy a load and experiment with new ways to eat them. 
 I’ve made those  sugared kind  (not too often because I can’t stop eating them). Used them with  chicken , cut them into salad, stir fried slices of kumquat with vegetables, cooked them into  chutney . 
 But I’m always looking out for new hors d’oeuvre, so recently I cooked the kumquats with honey, to temper the bitterness, but also added hot jalapeno pepper and rich, creamy mascarpone cheese to bring all the taste sensations together. 
 This is a good one for New Year’s! 

  

 Kumquat and Mascarpone Crisps 

 8 ounces kumquats 
 2 teaspoons chopped chili pepper (such as serrano or jalapeno) 
 2 teaspoons vegetable oil 
 salt to taste 
 2 tablespoons honey 
 2 tablespoons orange juice 
 2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese 
 2- 3 teaspoons cream or milk 
 crackers or chips 
 freshly grated nutmeg 
 tiny shreds of kumquat or orange peel 
 Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the kumquats in half and remove the seeds. Chop the kumquats and place them on the parchment. Add the chopped chili pepper. Pour the 
 vegetable oil on top and toss the kumquats and chili to coat all the pieces. Sprinkle with salt to taste. Bake for 20 minutes or until very soft. Place the ingredients in a food processor. Add the honey and juice and process until very fine and well mixed. In a bowl, mix the mascarpone cheese with the cream or milk (make it soft and smooth enough to pipe out of a pastry bag). Spread about one teaspoon of the kumquat mixture on crackers or chips. Pipe a small amount of the mascarpone mixture on top as a garnish. Grate nutmeg on top. Garnish with a tiny shred of peel. Makes about 36

My first experience with a kumquat was at a Chinese restaurant. It didn’t go very well. I must have been about 8 years old and I expected the tiny, orange looking thing to taste like an orange.

Surprise!

Kumquats are bitter, even when they’re cooked in loads of sugar, which they often are. And besides, the Chinese restaurant kind also came with a sticky syrup that was supposed to counteract the bitter fruit.

It didn’t, at least for my 8 year old self.

Time passes and our tastes change, don’t they?

I can’t recall when I next tasted a kumquat but it was a riveting sensation in my mouth. These kumquats were crusted with sugar and I couldn’t get enough of them to satisfy my now awakened taste buds. 

It put me in a kumquat sort of mind and now, whenever the season comes around I buy a load and experiment with new ways to eat them.

I’ve made those sugared kind (not too often because I can’t stop eating them). Used them with chicken, cut them into salad, stir fried slices of kumquat with vegetables, cooked them into chutney.

But I’m always looking out for new hors d’oeuvre, so recently I cooked the kumquats with honey, to temper the bitterness, but also added hot jalapeno pepper and rich, creamy mascarpone cheese to bring all the taste sensations together.

This is a good one for New Year’s!

Kumquat and Mascarpone Crisps

8 ounces kumquats

2 teaspoons chopped chili pepper (such as serrano or jalapeno)

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

salt to taste

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons orange juice

2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese

2- 3 teaspoons cream or milk

crackers or chips

freshly grated nutmeg

tiny shreds of kumquat or orange peel

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the kumquats in half and remove the seeds. Chop the kumquats and place them on the parchment. Add the chopped chili pepper. Pour the

vegetable oil on top and toss the kumquats and chili to coat all the pieces. Sprinkle with salt to taste. Bake for 20 minutes or until very soft. Place the ingredients in a food processor. Add the honey and juice and process until very fine and well mixed. In a bowl, mix the mascarpone cheese with the cream or milk (make it soft and smooth enough to pipe out of a pastry bag). Spread about one teaspoon of the kumquat mixture on crackers or chips. Pipe a small amount of the mascarpone mixture on top as a garnish. Grate nutmeg on top. Garnish with a tiny shred of peel. Makes about 36

Pearl Fein’s Standing Rib Roast

Today is my husband’s birthday. He’s an almost impossible person to buy a gift for. But he is the most possible, positive and terrific person to cook for. 
 He eats and enjoys whatever food I prepare. He is a good sport and will taste and comment on all the recipe creations and experiments I work on for my newspaper articles and blogging. 
 So, what to make him for him birthday dinner? (He prefers to stay at home instead of go out, especially ever since our favorite local restaurant closed.) 
 I thought about Chinese take-out but he nixed that (maybe because he knows it’s not my favorite). 
 He would be happy with anything he could pour ketchup over, so maybe hamburgers or beef stew? (But those don’t seem festive enough.) 
 He would really love a corned beef sandwich on rye bread but our local deli’s stuff is awful and I don’t feel like driving into New York City and downtown to Katz’s to get one (even though they have some of the best corned beef sandwiches in the world). 
 He isn’t much of a dessert eater, so even though I make decent pie and cake, none of that would do it for him (although he does like European style, dense chocolate cake with apricot filling …). 
 He adores candy, but I usually don’t make my own, so I bought him his favorite dark chocolate-almond bark and a bagful of red-colored, chocolate coated candies filled with pomegranate. 
 After thinking it all over, I decided I’ll make Rib Roast. The way his mama made it. He really really loves that. It was his mother, Pearl Fein, who taught me how to make a Rib Roast. She would always make this dish for special family occasions. They were always so wonderful (the beef and the occasions). 
 So, that’s it. And here is her recipe, which I’ve posted before, but it’s worth doing again: 
     
  Pearl Fein’s Standing Rib Roast  
 1 2-3 rib beef roast 
 kitchen string 
 1 tablespoon paprika 
 1-1/2 to 2 teaspoons salt 
 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons garlic powder 
 water 
 Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Carve the meat from the bones as close to the bone as possible so that you are left with a round beef roast and L-shaped bones. Tie the meat back onto the bones with kitchen string. (This procedure makes it much easier to carve the cooked meat.) In a small bowl, combine the paprika, salt, pepper and garlic powder plus enough water to form a paste. Brush the paste on all of the meat and bone surfaces. Place the roast bone side down in a roasting pan. Roast for 20 minutes. Lower the heat to 350 degrees and cook for about 15 minutes per pound or until it is cooked to the doneness you like. Use a meat thermometer (place it in the middle of the meat) and remove the meat from the oven when it reaches 115 degrees F for rare and 130 degrees F for medium. Let the roast rest for 15-20 minutes before you carve it (the temperature will rise a bit during that time). Snip the strings and place the now-boneless roast on a carving board to slice. Makes 4-6 servings

Today is my husband’s birthday. He’s an almost impossible person to buy a gift for. But he is the most possible, positive and terrific person to cook for.

He eats and enjoys whatever food I prepare. He is a good sport and will taste and comment on all the recipe creations and experiments I work on for my newspaper articles and blogging.

So, what to make him for him birthday dinner? (He prefers to stay at home instead of go out, especially ever since our favorite local restaurant closed.)

I thought about Chinese take-out but he nixed that (maybe because he knows it’s not my favorite).

He would be happy with anything he could pour ketchup over, so maybe hamburgers or beef stew? (But those don’t seem festive enough.)

He would really love a corned beef sandwich on rye bread but our local deli’s stuff is awful and I don’t feel like driving into New York City and downtown to Katz’s to get one (even though they have some of the best corned beef sandwiches in the world).

He isn’t much of a dessert eater, so even though I make decent pie and cake, none of that would do it for him (although he does like European style, dense chocolate cake with apricot filling …).

He adores candy, but I usually don’t make my own, so I bought him his favorite dark chocolate-almond bark and a bagful of red-colored, chocolate coated candies filled with pomegranate.

After thinking it all over, I decided I’ll make Rib Roast. The way his mama made it. He really really loves that. It was his mother, Pearl Fein, who taught me how to make a Rib Roast. She would always make this dish for special family occasions. They were always so wonderful (the beef and the occasions).

So, that’s it. And here is her recipe, which I’ve posted before, but it’s worth doing again:

 

Pearl Fein’s Standing Rib Roast

1 2-3 rib beef roast

kitchen string

1 tablespoon paprika

1-1/2 to 2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons garlic powder

water

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Carve the meat from the bones as close to the bone as possible so that you are left with a round beef roast and L-shaped bones. Tie the meat back onto the bones with kitchen string. (This procedure makes it much easier to carve the cooked meat.) In a small bowl, combine the paprika, salt, pepper and garlic powder plus enough water to form a paste. Brush the paste on all of the meat and bone surfaces. Place the roast bone side down in a roasting pan. Roast for 20 minutes. Lower the heat to 350 degrees and cook for about 15 minutes per pound or until it is cooked to the doneness you like. Use a meat thermometer (place it in the middle of the meat) and remove the meat from the oven when it reaches 115 degrees F for rare and 130 degrees F for medium. Let the roast rest for 15-20 minutes before you carve it (the temperature will rise a bit during that time). Snip the strings and place the now-boneless roast on a carving board to slice. Makes 4-6 servings

Salmon Spread

Need a quickie hors d’oeuvre you can make for New Year’s in just a few minutes? 
 Try this one: Salmon Spread. 
 I just did and it took under 10 minutes. 
 I usually fuss a lot for New Year’s when our cousins Leslie and Neil come for a few days. I like to experiment with hors d’oeuvres and usually wind up making 2-3 in addition to the standby favorites. 
 But this year I’ve had a lingering cold and I haven’t been up to the usual food prep. So I bought some frozen and take-out stuff  but managed to do the Salmon Spread because it’s so easy.  
  Also, I didn’t have to do any extra shopping for it. I always have cream cheese, lemons, white horseradish and a shallot in the house. And because I had made myself some   chicken soup   the other day, there was a bit of fresh dill left over too.  
 There was also some leftover salmon from yesterday’s dinner, so I used that, but canned salmon (always a good item to keep on the shelf, for just-in-case moments) would have been just fine too. 
 I like this spread with Stacy’s pita chips, but crackers or crudites are perfectly fine too. 
 Salmon Spread 
 8 ounces cooked salmon (canned, drained red salmon is fine) 
 4 ounces cream cheese, cut into chunks 
 1 small shallot, cut into chunks 
 1 tablespoon lemon juice 
 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill 
 2 teaspoon prepared white horseradish 
 salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. 
 Crumble the salmon into a food processor. Add the cream cheese, shallot, lemon juice, dill and horseradish and process until well combined and blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes about 1-1/2 cups

Need a quickie hors d’oeuvre you can make for New Year’s in just a few minutes?

Try this one: Salmon Spread.

I just did and it took under 10 minutes.

I usually fuss a lot for New Year’s when our cousins Leslie and Neil come for a few days. I like to experiment with hors d’oeuvres and usually wind up making 2-3 in addition to the standby favorites.

But this year I’ve had a lingering cold and I haven’t been up to the usual food prep. So I bought some frozen and take-out stuff but managed to do the Salmon Spread because it’s so easy.

Also, I didn’t have to do any extra shopping for it. I always have cream cheese, lemons, white horseradish and a shallot in the house. And because I had made myself some chicken soup the other day, there was a bit of fresh dill left over too.

There was also some leftover salmon from yesterday’s dinner, so I used that, but canned salmon (always a good item to keep on the shelf, for just-in-case moments) would have been just fine too.

I like this spread with Stacy’s pita chips, but crackers or crudites are perfectly fine too.

Salmon Spread

8 ounces cooked salmon (canned, drained red salmon is fine)

4 ounces cream cheese, cut into chunks

1 small shallot, cut into chunks

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

2 teaspoon prepared white horseradish

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Crumble the salmon into a food processor. Add the cream cheese, shallot, lemon juice, dill and horseradish and process until well combined and blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes about 1-1/2 cups

Vegetable Hash

I’m not the kind of woman who tells her husband “we’re going on a diet” or “I’m serving smaller portions” or “lets go low-carb for a while.” Because those sorts of statements can be provocative and irritating and might start a conversation that won’t be pleasant when I’d rather talk about the Fiscal Cliff or the Debt Ceiling.  I just do it. I make less fattening food and serve smaller portions and make dinner with several vegetables instead of carbs and just never mention the obvious.  Ed is good with that and frankly, he’s an extraordinarily sharp guy who notices practically everything so I’m always surprised when he says something like “really, we’ve been on a low/no carb regimen?”  So he isn’t yet aware of the “meatless, more vegetarian” thing yet. But I have been making more vegetarian meals lately.   Last week I made  Veggie Burgers  that looked like real, raw beef (and were absolutely wonderful on toasted multigrain bread with a little Dijon mustard spiked mayo). This week I made Vegetable Hash. It has lots of crispy bits of caramelized vegetables and loads of onion (Ed loves that). I topped the hash with Sunnyside-Up eggs. When you break the yolk it runs into the crusty stuff below and gives it that rich, velvety coat that tastes so good and feels so good on your tongue.  It was so delicious I decided to make it for our cousins Les and Neil, our annual New Year’s sleepover guests. We usually have smoked salmon, bagels and such on New Year’s Day, but sometime during their visit over the long weekend, we’ll be eating Vegetable Hash with Sunnyside Eggs.   In my opinion it’s way better than corned beef hash, but I wouldn’t ask Ed to compare. I’ll just serve this and keep quiet about it and watch him eat up every morsel on the plate and nibble on any leftovers cold from the fridge.   Vegetable Hash   8-10 large Brussels sprouts  4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice  3 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice  4 tablespoons olive oil, approximately  salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste  4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice  1 large yellow onion, chopped  2 tablespoons butter  1/3 cup vegetable stock (or use cream)  3 tablespoons chopped chives  Sunnyside-up eggs  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the Brussels sprouts into small chunks and wash thoroughly under cold running water; drain. Place the Brussels sprouts, carrots and parsnips on a baking sheet. Pour 2 tablespoons olive oil over the vegetables and toss to coat the pieces. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for about 25 minutes or until tender. Set aside. While the vegetables are roasting, cook the diced potatoes in lightly salted simmering water for about 8 minutes or until tender but still firm. Drain and add to the roasted vegetables. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4-5 minutes or until softened and beginning to brown. Place the butter in the sauté pan. When the butter has melted and looks foamy, add the vegetables, stirring and mashing them slightly for the first minute. Pour in the stock and add the chives and stir to incorporate them into the vegetables. Cook, flipping the hash once, for about 15-20 minutes or until browned and crispy. Add some olive oil if needed to prevent the vegetables from over-browning or sticking to the pan. Serve the hash topped with Sunnyside-up eggs.  Makes 4-6 servings

I’m not the kind of woman who tells her husband “we’re going on a diet” or “I’m serving smaller portions” or “lets go low-carb for a while.” Because those sorts of statements can be provocative and irritating and might start a conversation that won’t be pleasant when I’d rather talk about the Fiscal Cliff or the Debt Ceiling.

I just do it. I make less fattening food and serve smaller portions and make dinner with several vegetables instead of carbs and just never mention the obvious.

Ed is good with that and frankly, he’s an extraordinarily sharp guy who notices practically everything so I’m always surprised when he says something like “really, we’ve been on a low/no carb regimen?”

So he isn’t yet aware of the “meatless, more vegetarian” thing yet. But I have been making more vegetarian meals lately. 

Last week I made Veggie Burgers that looked like real, raw beef (and were absolutely wonderful on toasted multigrain bread with a little Dijon mustard spiked mayo). This week I made Vegetable Hash. It has lots of crispy bits of caramelized vegetables and loads of onion (Ed loves that). I topped the hash with Sunnyside-Up eggs. When you break the yolk it runs into the crusty stuff below and gives it that rich, velvety coat that tastes so good and feels so good on your tongue.

It was so delicious I decided to make it for our cousins Les and Neil, our annual New Year’s sleepover guests. We usually have smoked salmon, bagels and such on New Year’s Day, but sometime during their visit over the long weekend, we’ll be eating Vegetable Hash with Sunnyside Eggs. 

In my opinion it’s way better than corned beef hash, but I wouldn’t ask Ed to compare. I’ll just serve this and keep quiet about it and watch him eat up every morsel on the plate and nibble on any leftovers cold from the fridge.

Vegetable Hash

8-10 large Brussels sprouts

4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice

3 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice

4 tablespoons olive oil, approximately

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice

1 large yellow onion, chopped

2 tablespoons butter

1/3 cup vegetable stock (or use cream)

3 tablespoons chopped chives

Sunnyside-up eggs

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the Brussels sprouts into small chunks and wash thoroughly under cold running water; drain. Place the Brussels sprouts, carrots and parsnips on a baking sheet. Pour 2 tablespoons olive oil over the vegetables and toss to coat the pieces. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for about 25 minutes or until tender. Set aside. While the vegetables are roasting, cook the diced potatoes in lightly salted simmering water for about 8 minutes or until tender but still firm. Drain and add to the roasted vegetables. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4-5 minutes or until softened and beginning to brown. Place the butter in the sauté pan. When the butter has melted and looks foamy, add the vegetables, stirring and mashing them slightly for the first minute. Pour in the stock and add the chives and stir to incorporate them into the vegetables. Cook, flipping the hash once, for about 15-20 minutes or until browned and crispy. Add some olive oil if needed to prevent the vegetables from over-browning or sticking to the pan. Serve the hash topped with Sunnyside-up eggs.

Makes 4-6 servings

Ginger Chicken Skewers

During the hearings for Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, Senator Lindsey Graham wanted to know what she knew about the Christmas Day Bomber. So he asked: “where were you on Christmas day?”  And Kagan, who is obviously smart and witty, said: “You know, like all Jews, I was probably at a Chinese restaurant.”  She got a fierce round of applause.  I don’t know if Senator Graham understood the joke, but anyone who is Jewish, or hangs out with people who are Jewish or at least lives in a place where there are Jewish people knows that Jewish people are famous for doing three things on Christmas:  Going to the movies  Working in a Soup Kitchen  Eating Chinese food  Some say it’s a tribal thing. I don’t know. My children and grandchildren are always at my house on Christmas, especially if it falls over a long weekend like this year’s kind of is. We re-do Hanukkah, open gifts that I hadn’t bought in time for that and go to my brother Jeff and sister-in-law Eileen’s house because they have a universal type holiday party. And there are too many young children in the family to go out to any Chinese restaurant that would have us or go to the movies or work in a soup kitchen.  So I make a Chinese dish at home, sometimes a nibble, like  Pearly Meatballs  and sometimes an entree, like  Chicken and Peanuts .  This year it’s Ginger-Chicken Skewers. They’re tangy and sweet, have eye appeal and can be prepared up to the point of actualy cooking, in advance.  Which makes these perfect hors d’oeuvre for New Year’s if you’re entertaining. Or any old time I suppose.  Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy New Year to all.  Honestly, I think it’s a whole lot easier just to say Happy Holidays, which covers it all. But I don’t feel like getting too political here. This is about a good hors d’oeuvre.     Ginger Chicken Skewers     1/3 cup soy sauce  3 tablespoons orange juice  1 tablespoon vegetable oil  2 teaspoons sesame seed oil  3 scallions, chopped  2 tablespoons chopped ginger  2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken  1 red bell pepper  1 green bell pepper    Combine the soy sauce, orange juice, vegetable oil, sesame seed oil, scallions and ginger in a medium bowl. Cut the chicken into strips about 3-inches long and 1/2-inch wide. Immerse the chicken in the soy sauce mixture and let soak for 2-3 hours. Remove the stem, pith and seeds from the peppers and cut them into chunks. Soak 2-1/2 dozen wooden skewers in cold water for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven broiler or outdoor grill. Thread the skewers using one strip of chicken, placing different color pepper pieces between the curves. Broil chicken 6 minutes, turning skewers occasionally, or until chicken is cooked through.   Makes 2-1/2 dozen

During the hearings for Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, Senator Lindsey Graham wanted to know what she knew about the Christmas Day Bomber. So he asked: “where were you on Christmas day?”

And Kagan, who is obviously smart and witty, said: “You know, like all Jews, I was probably at a Chinese restaurant.”

She got a fierce round of applause.

I don’t know if Senator Graham understood the joke, but anyone who is Jewish, or hangs out with people who are Jewish or at least lives in a place where there are Jewish people knows that Jewish people are famous for doing three things on Christmas:

Going to the movies

Working in a Soup Kitchen

Eating Chinese food

Some say it’s a tribal thing. I don’t know. My children and grandchildren are always at my house on Christmas, especially if it falls over a long weekend like this year’s kind of is. We re-do Hanukkah, open gifts that I hadn’t bought in time for that and go to my brother Jeff and sister-in-law Eileen’s house because they have a universal type holiday party. And there are too many young children in the family to go out to any Chinese restaurant that would have us or go to the movies or work in a soup kitchen.

So I make a Chinese dish at home, sometimes a nibble, like Pearly Meatballs and sometimes an entree, like Chicken and Peanuts.

This year it’s Ginger-Chicken Skewers. They’re tangy and sweet, have eye appeal and can be prepared up to the point of actualy cooking, in advance.

Which makes these perfect hors d’oeuvre for New Year’s if you’re entertaining. Or any old time I suppose.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy New Year to all.

Honestly, I think it’s a whole lot easier just to say Happy Holidays, which covers it all. But I don’t feel like getting too political here. This is about a good hors d’oeuvre.

Ginger Chicken Skewers

1/3 cup soy sauce

3 tablespoons orange juice

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 teaspoons sesame seed oil

3 scallions, chopped

2 tablespoons chopped ginger

2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken

1 red bell pepper

1 green bell pepper

Combine the soy sauce, orange juice, vegetable oil, sesame seed oil, scallions and ginger in a medium bowl. Cut the chicken into strips about 3-inches long and 1/2-inch wide. Immerse the chicken in the soy sauce mixture and let soak for 2-3 hours. Remove the stem, pith and seeds from the peppers and cut them into chunks. Soak 2-1/2 dozen wooden skewers in cold water for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven broiler or outdoor grill. Thread the skewers using one strip of chicken, placing different color pepper pieces between the curves. Broil chicken 6 minutes, turning skewers occasionally, or until chicken is cooked through.

Makes 2-1/2 dozen

Sauteed Crispy Potatoes with Rosemary

Do you do the same thing every New Year’s Eve?

We do. But only for the last 35 years or so, so we’re beginning to get the hang of it.

My cousins, brother and sister-in-law will be coming for dinner.

It’s always the same schedule and dinner but we don’t think it’s boring because after years and years of trying this and that, we figured out what we like to eat and to do.

For example, we all know we like roast beef, except Eileen, for whom I will make a chicken breast her favorite way: baked until it’s really really dead and all the juices knocked out of it.

I used to do try a new dish every so often on New Year’s eve. They were mostly fine. But we all still joke about the time, many years ago, when I made the infamous Beef Stroganoff, which was really horrible.

So why not, on this one occasion, just cook something tried and true that happens also to be delicious and everyone (but one) likes and we also rarely get to eat — if ever— during the rest of the year?

Besides it’s also important to make stuff that won’t leave me with too much preparing, serving and cleaning. I want to enjoy the evening too.

We’ll start at 2:00 p.m. with cocktails or wine and hors d’oeuvre, all pre-made, either to serve cold or just pop in the oven. Like cheeseballs (recipe posted yesterday) and smoked fish canapes, gougeres and scallion pancakes.

Dinner will start at 8. Roast beef; one really really dead chicken breast plus a vegetable and ALWAYS Sauteed Potatoes with Rosemary because my cousin Neil loves them and it wouldn’t be New Year’s with that side dish.

Here’s the recipe for those potatoes, which you can pre-cook, up to a point, a day or two before.

Sauteed Crispy Potatoes with Rosemary

18 “new” or small Red Bliss potatoes

lightly salted water

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste

freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

Place the potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with lightly salted water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender. Drain the potatoes and peel them when they are cool enough to handle. Cut each potato in half. Heat the butter and olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. When the butter has melted and looks foamy, add the potatoes and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Saute for about 10 minutes, turning them from time to time. Sprinkle the rosemary into the pan and cook for another 5-15 minutes or until as crispy as you like them. May be reheated in a preheated 425 degree oven for 6-8 minutes. Makes 6 servings

Cheese Truffles

Remember Cheese Balls? 
 Maybe your mother or grandmother (or you) made them once-upon-a-time? They were popular in the 1950s, right up there with Deviled Eggs and Franks-in-blankets. But those two items never went out of style. Especially Franks-in-blankets, the downscale hors d’oeuvre people like to sneer at but are always the first to be gobbled at any gathering. 
 Anyway, Cheeseballs didn’t hang on the way the other two nibbles did.  
 Maybe it’s nostalgia for some lost, long-ago time, but Cheeseballs are back in style. They’re a terrific hors d’oeuvre for New Year’s or any kind of cocktail party or with before-dinner drinks. They’re easy to make and extremely versatile — add herbs, spices, chopped fruits or vegetables; use different kinds of cheeses, roll them in different coatings for a better visual effect: bread crumbs, crushed nuts, chopped parsley, paprika, crushed peppercorns and what have you.  
 And if you think Cheeseballs are, well, too cheesy for your guests, make them smaller and call them truffles. 
 After all, what’s in a name? 
 Cheese Truffles 
 8 ounces blue cheese 
 8 ounces cream cheese 
 4 ounces fresh pineapple, finely chopped, including juices 
 2 teaspoons finely chopped jalapeno or serrano pepper 
 sea salt, seasoned salt or Adobo seasoning to taste 
 chopped nuts, chopped parsley, paprika, breadcrumbs 
 Mash the blue cheese, cream cheese, pineapple and jalapeno pepper together until the ingredients are evenly distributed. Season to taste if desired with sea salt, seasoned salt or Adobo seasoning. Shape the mixture into small balls about 1-inch in diameter. Roll the balls in one or more of the toppings. Makes about 4 dozen

Remember Cheese Balls?

Maybe your mother or grandmother (or you) made them once-upon-a-time? They were popular in the 1950s, right up there with Deviled Eggs and Franks-in-blankets. But those two items never went out of style. Especially Franks-in-blankets, the downscale hors d’oeuvre people like to sneer at but are always the first to be gobbled at any gathering.

Anyway, Cheeseballs didn’t hang on the way the other two nibbles did. 

Maybe it’s nostalgia for some lost, long-ago time, but Cheeseballs are back in style. They’re a terrific hors d’oeuvre for New Year’s or any kind of cocktail party or with before-dinner drinks. They’re easy to make and extremely versatile — add herbs, spices, chopped fruits or vegetables; use different kinds of cheeses, roll them in different coatings for a better visual effect: bread crumbs, crushed nuts, chopped parsley, paprika, crushed peppercorns and what have you. 

And if you think Cheeseballs are, well, too cheesy for your guests, make them smaller and call them truffles.

After all, what’s in a name?

Cheese Truffles

8 ounces blue cheese

8 ounces cream cheese

4 ounces fresh pineapple, finely chopped, including juices

2 teaspoons finely chopped jalapeno or serrano pepper

sea salt, seasoned salt or Adobo seasoning to taste

chopped nuts, chopped parsley, paprika, breadcrumbs

Mash the blue cheese, cream cheese, pineapple and jalapeno pepper together until the ingredients are evenly distributed. Season to taste if desired with sea salt, seasoned salt or Adobo seasoning. Shape the mixture into small balls about 1-inch in diameter. Roll the balls in one or more of the toppings. Makes about 4 dozen

Kumquat-Date Chutney

Aren’t these beautiful? They’re kumquats, which I mentioned yesterday. They’re small, oval and bitter and most people don’t like them raw. But they’re good stuff when you cook them. Kumquat chutney is a real winner. Goes very well with roasted chicken, turkey or lamb, so you can use it as a special little side dish for New Year’s dinner if you’re entertaining at home.  You can also use it as an hors d’oeuvre: serve it with mascarpone cheese, cream cheese or Brie and crackers.    Kumquat-Date Chutney   1 teaspoon mustard seeds  1/2 teaspoon anise seeds  1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns  6 whole cloves  1 2-inch cinnamon stick  1 cup sliced, deseeded kumquats  8 large Medjool dates, halved  1/2 cup raisins or dried cherries  1-1/4 cups orange or tangerine juice  1/3 cup apple cider vinegar  1 cup sugar  2 tablespoon chopped crystallized ginger  Place the mustard seeds and anise seeds in a saucepan over medium heat and cook for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant. Let cool slightly, then place the seeds in a small muslin spice bag (or use a few layers of cheesecloth) with the peppercorns, cloves and cinnamon stick (fold the cheesecloth over the spices and secure with string or a plastic bag tie). Place the spice bag in the pan. Add the kumquats, dates, raisins, orange juice, apple cider vinegar, sugar and ginger. Bring the ingredients to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat, stir and simmer the ingredients for 35-40 minutes or until the chutney is thick. Let cool. Remove the spice bag. Makes about 2-1/2 cups

Aren’t these beautiful? They’re kumquats, which I mentioned yesterday. They’re small, oval and bitter and most people don’t like them raw. But they’re good stuff when you cook them. Kumquat chutney is a real winner. Goes very well with roasted chicken, turkey or lamb, so you can use it as a special little side dish for New Year’s dinner if you’re entertaining at home.

You can also use it as an hors d’oeuvre: serve it with mascarpone cheese, cream cheese or Brie and crackers. 

Kumquat-Date Chutney

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1/2 teaspoon anise seeds

1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

6 whole cloves

1 2-inch cinnamon stick

1 cup sliced, deseeded kumquats

8 large Medjool dates, halved

1/2 cup raisins or dried cherries

1-1/4 cups orange or tangerine juice

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoon chopped crystallized ginger

Place the mustard seeds and anise seeds in a saucepan over medium heat and cook for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant. Let cool slightly, then place the seeds in a small muslin spice bag (or use a few layers of cheesecloth) with the peppercorns, cloves and cinnamon stick (fold the cheesecloth over the spices and secure with string or a plastic bag tie). Place the spice bag in the pan. Add the kumquats, dates, raisins, orange juice, apple cider vinegar, sugar and ginger. Bring the ingredients to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat, stir and simmer the ingredients for 35-40 minutes or until the chutney is thick. Let cool. Remove the spice bag. Makes about 2-1/2 cups