Saturday, December 27, 2008

Elegant Cocktails & Mocktails for this Holidays

Kir

A French bistro favorite, this aperitif turns an everyday white wine into a festive cocktail. To really make it an occasion, use sparkling wine.

Kir


Makes 4 servings

ACTIVE TIME: 5 minutes

TOTAL TIME: 5 minutes

EASE OF PREPARATION: Easy

4 tablespoons crème de cassis (black currant liqueur) or black currant syrup
16 fluid ounces (2 cups) chilled dry white wine or sparkling wine
Twists of lemon or orange zest for garnish

Spoon 1 tablespoon crème de cassis (or black currant syrup) into each 8-ounce wineglass. Fill with white wine and add a twist of lemon or orange zest.

Pear-Ginger Shooters

Fresh ginger and fragrant cinnamon infuse this chilled pear soup. Serve it in large shot glasses. Guests may add a splash of vodka if they like.

Pear-Ginger Shooters

Makes 12 servings, about 1/3 cup each

ACTIVE TIME: 25 minutes

TOTAL TIME: 4 3/4 hours (including chilling time)

EASE OF PREPARATION: Easy

4 ripe Anjou pears, peeled and quartered
1 cup apple cider
1 cup dry white wine
1-2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger or ginger juice (see Note)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 4-inch cinnamon stick
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons honey

1. Stir pears, cider, wine, ginger (or ginger juice) to taste, lemon juice, cinnamon stick and salt in a large saucepan; bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat, and gently simmer until the pears are very tender, about 20 minutes.

2. Discard the cinnamon stick. Pour the soup into a large blender or food processor; add honey. Blend or process until smooth. (Use caution when pureeing hot liquids.) Pour into a large bowl, cover and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours. Pour into small glasses to serve.


TIP: Note: We use bottled ginger juice (pressed gingerroot) to add the taste of fresh ginger without the work of mincing or grating. Use it to flavor drinks, stir-fries, marinades or anywhere you’d use fresh ginger.

Blueberry Ginger Bellini

Muddling is is a traditional bartending technique where herbs and/or fruit are crushed, releasing their full flavor into a cocktail. Here we muddle blueberries and ginger with sugar and lemon to add another dimension to our take on a bellini.

Blueberry Ginger Bellini

Makes 4 servings

ACTIVE TIME: 10 minutes

TOTAL TIME: 15 minutes

EASE OF PREPARATION: Easy

1/2 cup blueberries
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon sugar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 cups blueberry juice
1/2 cup sparkling wine, divided

Mash blueberries with ginger, sugar and lemon juice. Add blueberry juice and let steep for at least 5 minutes. Strain; divide among 4 champagne flutes. Top each with 1/2 cup sparkling wine.



Pomegranate Cosmos

Make the base for these pomegranate cosmopolitans ahead of time and shake individual cocktails “to order.” Or for individual drinks, combine 3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) each pomegranate juice and vodka, 4 teaspoons lime juice, 1 tablespoon Cointreau, 1 1/2 teaspoons ginger juice and 1/2 teaspoon sugar.

Pomegranate Cosmos


Makes 12 servings

ACTIVE TIME: 10 minutes

TOTAL TIME: 10 minutes

EASE OF PREPARATION: Easy

2 1/4 cups pomegranate juice
2 1/4 cups vodka
1 cup lime juice
3/4 cup Cointreau or Grand Marnier
1/4 cup ginger juice (see Note)
2 tablespoons sugar, preferably superfine “bar sugar,” plus more for the rims
Strips of lime zest for garnish

1. Mix pomegranate juice, vodka, lime juice, Cointreau (or Grand Marnier), ginger juice and sugar in a large pitcher.
2. For each drink, fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice, add 1/2 cup Cosmo mix, and shake until the shaker turns frosty and cold. Dip the rim of a martini (or highball) glass into water and then in sugar (to “sugar the rim”). Strain the drink into the martini glass (or over fresh ice in the highball glass). Garnish with a twist of lime zest, if desired.

TIP: Note: We use bottled ginger juice (pressed gingerroot) to add the taste of fresh ginger without the work of mincing or grating. Use it to flavor drinks, stir-fries, marinades or anywhere you’d use fresh ginger. Find it in specialty stores or online at gingerpeople.com.

MAKE AHEAD TIP: Prepare through Step 1 and refrigerate for up to 1 day.

Raspberry Spritzer

A refreshing and low calorie alternative to sugar-laden sodas.




Makes 2 servings

ACTIVE TIME: 5 minutes

TOTAL TIME: 5 minutes

EASE OF PREPARATION: Easy

2 cups seltzer
2/3 cup frozen raspberries
2 sprigs fresh mint
3 ounces raspberry-flavored syrup or Chambord
Ice cubes

Combine seltzer, raspberries, mint and raspberry-flavored syrup (or Chambord) in a small pitcher. Pour over ice.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Healthy and Yummy Salads for the Holidays


Seasons Greetings to everyone. Enjoy this delicious salads. Holidays need not always mean unhealthy eating habits. Just remember to add alot of these great salads and reduce on those really sweet and fattening deserts, cookies and meals.

Bold Winter Greens Salad

For this cousin of the Caesar salad use a combination of winter greens, such as radicchio and escarole; the anchovies and lemon juice temper their bitterness. Vary the amount of garlic and anchovy according to your preference.

Makes 10 servings, about 1 1/4 cups each

ACTIVE TIME: 20 minutes

TOTAL TIME: 20 minutes

EASE OF PREPARATION: Easy

2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, or to taste
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
3-4 anchovy fillets, rinsed and chopped
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
12 cups chopped mixed bitter salad greens, such as chicory, radicchio and escarole
3 large hard-boiled eggs (see Tip)

1. Place garlic to taste in a large salad bowl and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add lemon juice and vinegar; let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in anchovies to taste. Whisk in oil in a slow steady stream until well combined.
2. Add salad greens and toss. Shred 3 egg whites and 1 egg yolk through the large holes of a box grater (reserve the remaining yolks for another use or discard). Sprinkle the salad with the grated egg.


TIP: To hard-boil eggs: Place eggs in a single layer in a saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and cook at the barest simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, pour out hot water and run a constant stream of cold water over the eggs until completely cooled.

MAKE AHEAD TIP: Prepare the dressing (Step 1), cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day.

Crispy Potato Latkes
Crispy Potato Latkes

It is a holiday tradition to fry latkes in hot oil, but here shredded potato-and-onion pancakes get a coating of matzo crumbs, are pan-fried in a small amount of oil and finished in a hot oven for a few minutes. The golden-crisp results have only 4 grams of fat and 100 calories per serving—truly a miracle.

Makes 12 latkes

ACTIVE TIME: 50 minutes

TOTAL TIME: 1 1/2 hours

EASE OF PREPARATION: Easy

1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes (about 2), shredded
1 medium white onion, shredded
2 medium shallots, minced (about 1/4 cup)
1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 pieces whole-wheat matzo (6-by-6-inch), broken into pieces
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
3 tablespoons peanut oil or extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1. Toss shredded potato, onion, shallots and salt in a medium bowl. Transfer to a sieve set over a large bowl; let drain for about 15 minutes. Squeeze the potato mixture, a handful at a time, over the bowl to release excess moisture (don’t oversqueeze—some moisture should remain). Transfer the squeezed potato mixture to another large bowl. Carefully pour off the liquid, leaving a pasty white sediment—potato starch—in the bottom of the bowl. Add the starch to the potato mixture. Stir in egg.

2. Put matzo pieces in a sealable plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin into coarse crumbs. Sprinkle the crumbs and pepper over the potato mixture and toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate until the matzo is softened, 20 to 30 minutes.

3. Preheat oven to 425°F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.

4. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir the potato mixture. Cook 4 latkes per batch: place 1/4 cup potato mixture in a little of the oil and press with the back of a spatula to flatten into a 3 1/2-inch cake. Cook until crispy and golden, 1 1/2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer the latkes to the prepared baking sheet. Continue with 2 more batches, using 1 tablespoon oil per batch and reducing the heat as needed to prevent scorching. Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and bake until heated through, about 10 minutes.

Gingered Cranberry-Raspberry Relish



Unlike cranberry sauce, a relish involves no cooking. Here, plump raspberries add a juicy freshness, while crystallized ginger provides sweetness and warmth. It is best served cold. Hold the mayo on your post-holiday sandwiches—use this relish instead for a real treat.

Makes about 4 cups

ACTIVE TIME: 10 minutes

TOTAL TIME: 3 hours 10 minutes (including chilling time)

EASE OF PREPARATION: Easy

1 12-ounce package fresh cranberries
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup minced crystallized ginger (choose soft nuggets over disks, if possible)
3 cups raspberries (2 pints), fresh or frozen (not thawed)

Pulse cranberries in a food processor until coarsely chopped. Transfer to a medium bowl. Stir in sugar and crystallized ginger. Gently stir in raspberries—it's fine to crush some of them. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours to let the flavors combine.

MAKE AHEAD TIP: Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Green Bean Casserole
This is not the no-mess, super-easy recipe of yore, but it is low in fat and high in flavor. To go one step further, substitute 1/2 pound fresh green beans for frozen. Simply trim and cut into 1-inch lengths. Then blanch the beans for 1 to 2 minutes in boiling water, refresh under cold water and spread in the baking dish.

Makes 6 servings

ACTIVE TIME: 45 minutes

TOTAL TIME: 1 hour

EASE OF PREPARATION: Moderate

Onion topping
1/2 teaspoon canola oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs

Sauce & green beans
2 cups skim milk
6 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
Pinch grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon canola oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 pound mushrooms, trimmed and sliced (3 cups)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 9-ounce package frozen green beans (2 cups)

1. To make onion topping: Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over low heat. Add sliced onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until very tender and golden, about 30 minutes. Set aside.

2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread breadcrumbs on a baking sheet and toast, stirring once, until lightly browned, 5 to 10 minutes. Set aside.

3. To make sauce: Combine milk, peppercorns, bay leaf and nutmeg in a medium saucepan and heat over low until steaming. Remove from heat, let stand for 5 minutes and strain into a measuring cup. (Discard peppercorns and bay leaf.)

4. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add chopped onion and cook, stirring often, until golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Add mushrooms and garlic and cook, stirring, until tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Sprinkle flour over the vegetables and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Slowly pour in the milk, whisking constantly. Bring to a boil, stirring. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from heat. Whisk in sour cream, salt and pepper.

5. To assemble and bake casserole: Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Spread green beans evenly over the bottom of a shallow 2-quart baking dish and pour the sauce over the top. Toss together the reserved onions and breadcrumbs in a small bowl and spread over the beans. Bake until bubbling, 15 to 25 minutes.


MAKE AHEAD TIP: The onion topping, toasted breadcrumbs and sauce can be prepared ahead and stored in separate containers, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.


North African Spiced Carrots



The trinity of North African seasonings, cumin, coriander and paprika, lends exotic appeal to this simple carrot preparation.

Makes 6 servings, 1/2 cup each

ACTIVE TIME: 10 minutes

TOTAL TIME: 20 minutes

EASE OF PREPARATION: Easy

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
3 cups sliced carrots (4 medium-large)
1 cup water
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, paprika, cumin and coriander; cook, stirring, until fragrant but not browned, about 20 seconds. Add carrots, water, lemon juice and salt; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until almost tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Uncover and simmer, stirring often, until the carrots are just tender and the liquid is syrupy, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in parsley. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Red & White Salad
Red & White Salad


Bitter, sweet and peppery flavors marry well in this confetti-like salad of wintery fruit and vegetables.

Makes 8 servings, about 1 3/4 cups each

ACTIVE TIME: 25 minutes

TOTAL TIME: 25 minutes

EASE OF PREPARATION: Easy

4 cups thinly sliced hearts of romaine
2 heads Belgian endive, cored and thinly sliced
1 bulb fennel, trimmed, cored, quartered and thinly sliced
1 15-ounce can hearts of palm, drained, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1/2 head radicchio, cored, quartered and thinly sliced
1 red apple, cored and cut into matchsticks
1 cup thinly sliced radishes
Champagne Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Toss romaine, endive, fennel, hearts of palm, radicchio, apple and radishes together in a large salad bowl. Add vinaigrette and toss to coat. Season with pepper.

MAKE AHEAD TIP: Prepare salad without dressing, cover and refrigerate for up to 4 hours. Toss with vinaigrette just before serving.