Sunday, December 14, 2014

Best Laid Plans

When I decided a couple of months ago that I was going to have a Christmas party this year, I felt as though I had months to straighten the place up, do a massive autumnal Spring cleaning, and plan the perfect little soiree (which I'm always planning in my head to some degree).  I haven't had a get-together in close to five years.  It was time.  I even thought it would be great to have a fondue party (to officially break in the fondue pot my parents gave me for Christmas a few years ago).

My party would be a 2014 version of this:

1952 Diane and Allan Arbus

People dressed spiffily, a table spectacularly laid out, sparkling conversation, and wine flowing freely.  Then, before I knew it, Thanksgiving happened.  There has been no autumnal Spring cleaning, no straightening, and I have barely thought of holiday logistics.  I still don't have a baking schedule, a completed Christmas card list, or a wreath on the front door.  

All this means there will be no party.  At least not a Christmas party.  Maybe a New Year's party?  Not a New Year's Eve party (too stressful)...but a get-together post-holidays, when peace and calm reign again.  It will be a few close friends, a pot of melted cheese, free-flowing wine, and no pressure to throw a 'perfect' party.  Doesn't that sound like a good idea?

But...just because I'm not throwing a holiday party doesn't mean that I can't share a couple of appetizer ideas for your holiday get-together.  They are easily cobbled together, requiring not a lot of prep, and are great to add to any selection of cheeses, salumi, dips, or whatever else you find yourself craving.  

Persimmon and Tarragon Bites
Makes 12

1 Fuyu persimmon, sliced thin
1/4 cup goat cheese or cream cheese
1-2 sprigs, fresh tarragon
black pepper, fresh ground
12 mini toasts, crackers, pita chips

Place a half moon slice of persimmon on each toast, top with 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of cheese, and garnish with 2 tarragon leaves.  A fresh crack of pepper is a nice addition.  

So easy it's not even a recipe!  But that's what you want...easy!  Time to actually mingle with the people you invited to your house!  To be honest, I cannot lay claim to this combination.  The credit must go to a woman that I've spoken to a couple of times at the produce exchange I go to.  She brought the tarragon at this month's exchange and when we were chatting she shared this combination with me.  I came right home and made it, since I had the goat cheese, the toasts, the persimmon, and thanks to her contribution...the tarragon.  It's divine.  She also offered the cream cheese substitution for those who don't like goat cheese (who are you people?).  Doubling, tripling, or even quadrupling this will be no problem.  

Warm Herbed Olives

1-2 cups, olives (a variety)
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves
1 garlic clove, minced
black pepper

In a large skillet, over low heat, add olives, rosemary, garlic, and pepper.  Stir frequently to combine everything and allow flavors to mingle.  

Again...this will require little to no effort.  Be sure to get a variety of olives.  You can buy a mix at any grocery stores that has a decent service deli and they will probably already be a little seasoned.  If you can, buy small amounts of single varieties that you can combine as you like.  Kalamatas, picholines, Nicoise, Alfonsos...there is a whole world of olives out there for you to conquer!  If you don't like rosemary, you can take it to a different level with oregano, or even basil.  The important part is to warm them to release a little of their oils and develop the depth of their flavors.  

Spicy Almonds
Makes 2 cups

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp shichimi togarashi or chili powder
pinch of salt
2 cups almonds, roasted, unsalted
3-4 dashes hot sauce

In a large skillet over medium flame, heat the olive oil until it barely starts to shimmer.  Add garlic powder, curry powder, cumin, togarashi, and salt.  As the spices begin to warm, stir to mix together.  Add almonds and stir quickly to coat with oil and spices.  Lower heat and add hot sauce, still stirring to distribute hot sauce evenly.  Remove from heat and let cool.  


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