Category:  Holidays

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An Elegant and Easy New Year’s Eve – Prosecco & Panettone

In Holidays On December 21, 2010 0 Comments

Panettone is a sweet bread that originated in Milan and is served during the Christmas holidays. At year’s end, it is paired with Prosecco, the Italian sparkling wine that comes from the Veneto region.

Every year on December 31, we Italians say “Buon Anno” or “Happy New Year” with a flute of Prosecco in one hand and a generous slice of panettone in the other.

I love this manner of celebrating New Year’s Eve because it’s exquisite and easy. All you have to do is pour the prosecco and cut the panettone. With New Year’s Eve right around the corner, there’s no need to fuss. Buon anno to all!

Prep time: 5 minutes
Serves: 6 to 8

Ingredients:
1 Panettone (one-pound)
1 bottle Prosecco (750 ml), chilled

1. Cut the panettone in 8 slices and arrange on a serving platter.

2. Pour the Prosecco, distributing evenly among 6 to 8 champagne flutes.

Serve immediately.

Text and Photographs ©2010 Nancy DeLucia Real

A Quebecois Christmas – Tourtière

In Holidays, Pizzas, Savory Tarts & Quiches On December 16, 2010 0 Comments

The French Canadian province of Quebec is home to a meat pie whose origins can be traced to the “tourtes” or savory pies of the Middle Ages in France. Encased in pastry, these pies were created to make use of roasted meats that were left over from a “festin” or banquet.

Present-day tourtières or pies are made with fresh meat and are absolutely exquisite. Using a combination of ground pork, beef or veal and potato and are served as part of the Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, or New Year’s Eve dinner.

While baking, the pie spices will warm up your home with holiday aromas. Whenever I prepare tourtières, I am magically transported to my past Christmases where I suddenly see the snowy streets of Montreal lined with quaint homes or shops – all sparkling with yuletide lights and décor. And then, I imagine coming home to my family to enjoy “le reveillon de Noël”  to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. This is our modern-day, traditional Christmas banquet.

Merry Christmas and Bon Appétit!

Ingredients:
2 medium potatoes (will yield 1 cup mashed potato)
1-1/4 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ pound ground pork or veal
½ pound extra lean ground beef
½ cup finely chopped brown or white onion
Dash ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon each ground allspice and ground cinnamon
Dash each cloves and black pepper
Ready-made frozen pastry for one two-crust, 9-inch pie

1. Peel the potatoes and then cut them into one-inch cubes.

2. Immediately place potatoes in a 2-quart saucepot, covered with cold water.

3. Bring to a boil and stir in ½ teaspoon of the salt.

4. Cook on medium-high heat for 5 to 6 minutes, or until potatoes are fork-tender.

5. Drain potatoes completely and mash finely, removing all lumps.

6. Transfer the mashed potato to a glass or porcelain bowl; cover and set aside to cool.

7. Meanwhile, in a 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat the oil on high setting.

8. Add meats, onion, remaining salt, spices and pepper.

9. Cook on medium-high heat, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, 4 to 5 minutes or until onion is translucent and meat is cooked through.

10. Drain the cooked meat to a colander set over a glass or porcelain bowl to drain; set aside.

Assemble the Pie:

1. Preheat oven to 425˚F and line a 9-inch glass or porcelain pie plate with one pâte brisée or readymade pastry sheet.

2. Using a fork, make intermittent holes in pastry-lined plate and set aside.

3. Transfer the drained meat in a 4-quart mixing bowl and stir in the mashed potato until mixture is uniform.

4. Carefully spread the meat filling evenly onto pastry-lined plate.

5. Place second pastry sheet over meat filling; trim edges and seal.

6. Using a fork, make intermittent holes over pastry top and cover edges of pastry with aluminum foil strips (this prevents burning).

7. Place pie on a rack positioned in center of oven and bake for 30 minutes.

8. Remove foil strips during last 5 minutes of baking.

Serve warm, garnished with ketchup (on the side or drizzled over each individual slice).

Wine pairing suggestion: Bordeaux (red).

Text and Photographs ©2010 Nancy DeLucia Real

Spicy Ornaments

In Cookies, Candies & Sweets, Holidays On December 10, 2010 2 Comments

When it comes to holiday cookies, my family is notoriously picky about flavors and textures. My son and I love chocolate in everything, but my husband prefers light, dry cookies with just a hint of chocolate. Since all of us enjoy aromatic and spicy tastes, a few Christmases ago I created a cookie to please all of our palates – it features cocoa, cinnamon and cloves.

These Spicy Ornaments echo the sparkle of Christmas and the excitement of opening gifts. Be patient and enjoy the cookie – it will surprise you with a zesty finish!

When I entered this recipe in the Holiday Cookie Bakeoff this past November, it became one of fifty finalists. It resulted in the LA Times becoming a follower of The Kitchen Buzzz. Thanks to all my supporters who voted for Spicy Ornaments and Happy Holidays.

Prep time: 45 minutes
Bake time: 12 to 14 minutes
Makes: 32 to 34 cookies

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa
¾ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon chipotle ahumado powder
1-1/3 cups granulated sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ cup red crystal sugars, set in a small bowl
¼ cup green crystal sugars, set in a small bowl
1 cup confectioners’ sugar (powdered sugar)
2-1/2 to 3 teaspoons cold water
Pastry bag fitted with a narrow tip

1. Preheat oven to 375˚F. Grease and flour two large, nonstick rectangular baking sheets; set aside.

2. Meanwhile, in a 1-quart bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves and chipotle ahumado powder; set aside.

3. In a 4-quart bowl, beat together the sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla until mixture is uniform, about 2 minutes.

4. Stir in the combined dry ingredients and beat on medium-high until a dough is formed, about 2 to 4 minutes.

5. Pulling off pieces of dough, form 1-1/2-inch balls and set them on a flat surface.

6. Roll half of the dough balls in the red crystal sugars and other half in the green crystal sugars (about 16 to 17 balls of each color). Divide dough balls evenly and set on baking sheets, spaced two inches apart.

7. Bake in preheated oven for 6 minutes. Invert the sheets and bake an additional 6 to 7 minutes or until cookie tops crack and feel slightly firm to the touch.

8. Remove baking sheets from oven and set on a counter. With a spatula, immediately transfer the cookies to a flat surface to cool.

9. In a 2-cup bowl, vigorously stir the powdered sugar and 2-1/2 teaspoons of the water until mixture is smooth. The icing should feel thick and not watery. If it is too firm, add a little more water. Transfer icing to the bag, pushing it all the way down to the tip.

10. Holding bag firmly in hand, decorate the surface cracks of the cookies with curvilinear designs.

11. Spicy Ornaments can be made two weeks ahead and stored in freezer in double plastic food bags (without the icing).

To thaw: remove cookies from freezer and from plastic bags. Set them on a platter at room temperature for two hours. Decorate with icing before serving.

Note: Chipotle ahumado powder can be purchased online at GOURMETSLEUTH.COM.

Text and Photographs ©2010 Nancy DeLucia Real

Celebrating Chanukah – Potato & Chives Latkes

In Breads, Crêpes, Pancakes & Puddings, Holidays, Vegetables On December 4, 2010 9 Comments

Lasting eight days, Chanukah, also known as the “Festival of Lights”, is a Jewish holiday  which commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple (Second Temple) in Jerusalem. At Chanukah, one of the traditions occurring in Jewish homes is the lighting of a candle on a Menorah – a candelabrum – in a prayer at dinnertime. Over the years, I have been invited to my Jewish friends’ homes in order to participate in such a joyous celebration.

A popular side dish served at Chanukah dinners consists of potato pancakes called “latkes”. Latkes are crunchy on the outside and deliciously sweet inside. I finally learned how to make them with an added accent of chives. Serve these latkes as tradition has it – with applesauce and sour cream. Enjoy.

Active prep time: 10 to 15 minutes
Inactive prep time: 4 minutes
Cook time: 16 minutes
Makes: 6 to 7 latkes

Ingredients:
1 pound Russet potatoes (approx. one large)
1 small white or brown onion
1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
Dash ground black pepper
1 tablespoon all-purpose, unbleached flour
1 to 2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup olive oil
8 ounces (1 cup) ready-made applesauce
8 ounces (1 cup) sour cream

1. Peel and grate potato into a large bowl with cold water. Peel and grate the onion into the same bowl; stir in ½ teaspoon of the salt. Let mixture soak 1 to 3 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a 4-quart mixing bowl, beat together the egg, remaining ½ teaspoon of salt, black pepper, flour and chives. Set aside.

3. Drain the potato-onion mixture in a colander, pressing down to remove excess water.

4. Transfer the drained potato-onion mixture to a cheesecloth or clean white kitchen towel; roll up and squeeze out excess water.

5. Stir the potato and chives into the egg mixture and blend with a fork until uniform.

6. Heat both oils in a 12-inch, nonstick skillet until oil is hot but not smoking.

7. Measure ¼-cup potato mixture into hands and form a round, flattish shape.

8. Place the flattened potato mixture in hot oil, pressing down with a spatula to form a 4-inch pancake (latke).

9. Measure and prepare 2 more flattened potato mixtures in skillet and cook 3 to 4 minutes per side, on medium-high heat, until latkes are golden brown.

10. Drain on paper towels on a platter.

11. Serve latkes hot, accompanied by applesauce and sour cream. Latkes usually accompany beef brisket or other roasted meats.

Note: If oil is not hot enough, the latkes will be oily.

Text and Photographs ©2010 Nancy DeLucia Real

Pumpkin "Cheese" Cake

In Cakes & Cupcakes, Holidays On November 13, 2010 20 Comments

During the week before Thanksgiving I usually make pumpkin bread. This year, I reinvented this Autumn coffee go-with. I made a traditional pumpkin cake with an added cream cheese filling. Some of the white flour has been substituted with whole wheat flour. And, although I eliminated the oil, this dessert is still moist and scrumptious. Serve this “no fuss” cake for Thanksgiving – and don’t forget the coffee!

Prep time: 20 minutes
Bake time: 40 to 50 minutes
Makes: One 10-inch cake

FOR THE CREAM CHEESE CAKE FILLING:
One 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg

1. In a 2-cup mixing bowl and with a hand mixer, beat together the cream cheese, sugar and egg.

2. Set aside until ready to assemble into the raw cake batter.

FOR THE CAKE:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
One 15-ounce can pumpkin
1 cup nonfat, plain yogurt
4 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (4 ounces) Dulce de Leche*

1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease and flour an 10-inch round spring form pan and set aside.

2. In a 4-cup mixing bowl, combine the flours, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and allspice; set aside.

3. Meanwhile, in a 2-cup mixing bowl, using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar and egg; set aside.

4. In a 3 or 4-quart mixing bowl, mix together the pumpkin, yogurt, eggs, sugar and vanilla on low speed.

5. Gradually add the combined dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and beat at low speed until the batter is uniform, about 1 to 2 minutes.

6. Pour half of the pumpkin batter into the prepared pan, spreading it evenly with a spatula; set aside.

7. Spoon the cream cheese mixture evenly over batter in pan followed by remaining half of pumpkin batter. Make sure the top pumpkin batter layer covers the cream cheese mixture evenly.

8. Place springform pan with batter on a rack positioned in center of oven and bake 40 to 50 minutes.

9. After 40 minutes, check doneness of cake by inserting a pointed knife in its center. If knife has sticky batter around it, bake cake for an additional 5 minutes. Check doneness once more. Knife inserted should come out clean. If not, bake another 5 minutes.

10. Cool cake completely in spring form pan on counter.

11. If making a day ahead, cover pan with aluminum foil and refrigerate. Remove cake from refrigerator 2 hours before serving.

FOR THE CAKE GARNISH:
5-Minute Sweetened Whipped Cream (found in our recipes, under Desserts, Creams & Sauces)

1. When cake is completly cook and at serving time, remove sides of spring form pan and set cake on a platter (do not remove cake from pan bottom). 

2. Serve individual pieces of cake on your guests’ plates, topped with a drizzle of dulce de leche and the whipped cream.

*Dulce de leche is a caramel sauce from Argentina and can be found in Latin American supermarkets. It is usually packaged and sold in a 15-ounce glass or plastic jar.

Text and Photographs ©2010 Nancy DeLucia Real