Monday, December 15, 2014

"Chutneys & Rlishes; "Make it Ahead - A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook;" "Williams Sonoma Cocktail Parties" - Holiday Party Food

Date I made these recipes:  December 7, 2014

Chutneys & Relishes by Lou Seibert Pappas
Published by:  Chronicle Books
ISBN:  0-8118-0840-8
Purchased at Goodwill – St. Louis Park
Recipe:  Cranberry-Shallot Chutney – p. 15
*Also made Granny Smith Apple Chutney – p. 13 and Pear-Anise Chutney – p. 17

Make It Ahead – A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten
Published by:  Clarkson Potter Publishers
ISBN:  978-0-307-46488-0
Recipe:  Marinated Herbed Feta – p. 36

Williams Sonoma Cocktail Parties – Recipes by Georgeanne Brennan; General Editor Chuck Williams
Published by:  Free Press
ISBN:  13: 078-0-7432-7854-6
Purchased at Arc's Value Village Thrift Stores, Richfield, MN
Recipe:  Asparagus with Parmesan Dipping Sauce – p. 42

As is usual and customary at this time of year, we turn our attention to party food to serve our guests at our holiday soiree.  The first couple years we had this party, I relied heavily on cookbooks, setting aside potential candidates well in advance.  And although I did that this year, I ended up making more recipes culled from magazines, newspapers and the internet.  This does not mean I'll give up collecting the cookbooks, it's just sometimes easier to go with the bird in the hand than to start looking through books.  Besides, 'tis the season for publications to give us all their holiday best recipes.

So this year, I ended up with only three "new" cookbooks to use for the party.  Some recipes we made – the tried and true – were from cookbooks I've used for previous parties but since my "rule" is to only post a cookbook review once, you'll just have to revisit previous blog postings to find them.  I will tell you that Betty Crocker Christmas Cookbook provided the ever-popular almond bon-bon recipes (posted December 2010) and these suckers fly off the table every time I make them.  In fact, I ran into one friend about a month before my soiree and she whined (yes, "whined") "Can you make the bon bons again?  Because you didn't make them last year, you know!"

Well, no pressure there!  By the way, just like the lemon bars (see below), I goofed when I made the bon bons the first year and added double the almond paste.  No wonder they're popular!

At any rate, coming in at #1 in the "hit" parade of party food this year was the trio of chutneys I made to go with a couple of pork tenderloins that we roasted the night before and served at room temperature.  All three were good but I'll only be repeating the Cranberry-Shallot Chutney below as I think it was the best one.  Plus, cranberries just scream "Holidays!" do they not? 

This cute little cookbook had a lot of recipes to try plus a section in the back with recipe suggestions and then, of course, the recipes.  To paraphrase Arnold Schwarzenegger, "I'll be back" (to try out some other recipes).

Also popular this year was Ina Garten's Marinated Herbed Feta.  One friend stood there pointing at the plate saying "I could stand here and eat this all day."  I agree. The thing about Ina's recipes is that they are often so easy and simple yet yield big rewards in the form of kudos.  The first year we threw this party, I made her lemon bars and after taking them out of the oven, I forgot about them whilst wrangling other items in and out of the oven.  The result?  The lemon filling cooked even longer on the stove top and became extra creamy, thus prompting an outpouring of cooing and a trashing of my cookie tray.  Since then, I've tried to duplicate that boo-boo (not easy to do on purpose, let me tell you) but haven't quite stuck the landing yet.

At any rate, this recipe is super easy and very impressive.  My only "complaint," and it's minor, is that it was hard to keep the feta from crumbling when I sliced it.

Overall, you cannot go wrong with one of Ina's books.  I made a variation of her ricotta cheese recipe (so easy) this year and that too, was a big hit.  Plus, I've met the woman and had her sign a few books and she is really nice so that's in her favor.  Why wouldn't I collect her books?

Finally, there is Williams Sonoma Cocktail Parties cookbook where I found a recipe for Roasted Asparagus with Parmesan Dipping Sauce.  While the asparagus (as well as roasted fennel and carrots) was a big hit, the dipping sauce was kind of meh.  Still, I won't hold it against Chuck Williams (he's the head of the Williams Sonoma empire) as I've had great success with some of his other cookbooks.  The problem with this recipe was the ratio:  too much Italian parsley and Parmesan cheese and too little yogurt.  So I added more yogurt and it was acceptable.  Still, other recipes in this cookbook looked inviting so maybe next year.

As to the other party food recipes, America's Test Kitchen, Better Homes and Gardens and other magazines usually publish special holiday issues and that's where the majority of the recipes came from this year.  And so since they aren't cookbooks, they don't qualify for this blog post but don't let that stop you from running to your local bookstore or grocery store and stocking up while supplies last.

By the way, I'm going to end the year with over 2,000 cookbooks in my collection.  My work here continues....

Cranberry-Shallot Chutney – makes about 4 cups – from Chutneys &  Relishes by Lou Seibert Pappas
3 cups (12 ounces) fresh cranberries
2 large tart apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1 ¼ cups packed brown sugar
1/3 cup raspberry vinegar
½ cup golden raisins
¼ cup (1 ounce) finely chopped candied ginger
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon curry powder
Finely shredded zest of 1 orange
2 shallots, minced
¾ cup (3 ounces) chopped walnuts or pecans, toasted (optional)

Ann's Note:  I made half the recipe and skipped the nuts.  I also skipped the canning process (fraught with peril) and froze my batch until it was time to serve.

Place all the ingredients except the nuts in a large saucepan.  Bring to a gentle boil and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 20 minutes.  If desired, stir in the nuts.  Ladle into hot sterilized jars, seal and refrigerate.  Keeps for 6 to 8 weeks.

Marinated Herbed Feta – Serves 8 from Make it Ahead by Ina Garten
1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried fennel seeds
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 ½ pounds Greek feta, drained and sliced ½ inch thick
3 sprigs fresh thyme
½ cup green olives with pits, such as Cerignola  (Ann's Note:  I bought some large green olives sans pits. It's just easier that way.)
½ cup good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Toasted pita triangles for serving

Combine the dried thyme, fennel seeds, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl.  Lay the feta slices overlapping on a 9 x 9-inch square serving plate.

Sprinkle the feta with the entire herb mixture.  Nestle the thyme sprigs and olives among the feta slices.  Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper.  Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.  Serve at room temperature with the pita triangles.

Ina Garten noted that you can prepare the feta, wrap and refrigerate for up to a week and so I did.

Ann's Note:  feta cheese is pretty salt so I raised an eyebrow when she suggested we add another ½ teaspoon to the mix.  I passed on that one.

Asparagus with Parmesan Dipping Sauce – serves 12-14 from Williams-Sonoma Cocktail Parties
48 asparagus spears, ends trimmed
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Dipping sauce
¼ pound freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 450F.

Arrange the asparagus spears in a single layer in 2 shallow baking dishes.  Drizzle with the vinegar and olive oil, then sprinkle with the salt and pepper.  Turn several times to coat the spears well.  Roast, turning several times, until tender but crisp and the tips are lightly golden, 10-15 minutes.  Transfer to a platter.

To make the dipping sauce, in a small bowl whisk together the cheese, olive oil, yogurt and parsley.  Whisk in salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer the sauce to a serving bowl and place alongside the platter of asparagus.  Serve at room temperature.

Williams-Sonoma notes that you can roast the asparagus up to 8 hours in advance, and the dipping sauce can be made up to 4 hours in advance.  Cover and refrigerate separately until it's time to serve; serve at room temperature.

Ann's Notes:  I have yet to find the perfect vegetable dip and sadly, this is not making the cut.  The ratio of cheese to yogurt and parsley needs to change.  I suggest more yogurt, about the same amount of Parmesan and way less Italian parsley in order to balance the flavors.  I also roasted some fennel and carrots to go with this dip and they were ridiculously popular.

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