Holiday doings

We trim our tree with ornaments saved over the years, many homemade. Bud and Zoë groan when I insist on hanging the paper bird she made as a child. (Towards the top center.)

I’ve done a lot of cooking over the last month, making daily meals for Bud and me and concocting feasts for the holidays. Small feasts for the three of us in these unsettled times. Because of Covid, we were unable to have Thanksgiving with my sister Susan and her family, Charles, Corey and Liz. And our usual Christmas Eve guests couldn’t make it either. But we had a lovely time, just Zoë, Bud and I. We took walks, played Scrabble, watched movies and started a Liberty puzzle. And we cooked and ate. Here are a few of the dishes we enjoyed.

Avocado toast with ricotta, lemon, pepitas and pomegranate arils.

I learned a new word. I’ve noticed that current recipes call for pomegranate ‘arils’, seed pods inside the pomegranate, rather than seeds.

Salmon tart and butternut salad.

We had our annual Shark’s Ink. lunch with Evan, Alana, and Roseanne. I made a tart using a new recipe for the crust from Dorie Greenspan’s latest book, Baking with Dorie. I topped it with a cream cheese/yogurt/lemon/scallion mix, smoked salmon and arugula.

In the Cuisinart, pulse together 1 1/2 cups unbleached flour, 1/3 cup almond flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add 4 ounces unsalted butter and pulse several times until butter is in smallish pieces. Add 2-3 tablespoons minced herbs. I used dill and parsley. Add 1 large, cold egg and pulse just a few times until dough is moistened and starts to come together. Add dribbles of cold water if necessary but don’t make the dough wet. Dump onto counter and grab it together. Form into a disk. Roll between parchment sheets to 1/8 inch. It will be an irregular shape but that’s part of the charm. Prick and chill for 2 hours or freeze for one hour on the parchment, covered with parchment. Release the dough from the paper and place one of the sheets on the baking sheet. Lay the dough on it and cover with second parchment sheet. Bake at 400° for 18 – 20 minutes. This is the only baking so it should be lightly browned and cooked through.

Cool. Spread with cream cheese lightened with yogurt or sour cream and mixed to taste with chopped scallions, lemon zest and juice and black pepper. Top with smoked salmon and greens. Serve at room temperature. Bud used a pizza cutter to make rectangular slices.

I’ve been making a delicious butternut squash salad from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty. Of course, I changed a few things but essentially follow his recipe. I used red chilé as the spice. I’ve been hoarding a jar of Shed Red – a gift from Rodney Carswell.

Roast the peeled, sliced butternut squash, dusted with New Mexico red chile, olive oil, salt and pepper, at 400° for 20 minutes, turn over and roast 10-15 minutes longer until brown and tender. Let cool.

Meanwhile peel a lime, removing all white pith, quarter and cut each quarter into slices. Make the sauce. Combine 1/2 cup full fat yogurt, 2 tablespoons tahini, juice of a lime, 2 tablespoons water, and salt to taste. This should be pourable so add a bit more water if necessary.

Layer the squash on a platter and drizzle with the sauce. Scatter the lime slices and any juice over and garnish with cilantro leaves. I sometimes add pomegranate arils. Serve at room temperature.

On Christmas Eve we made tamales. I use a recipe for fresh corn tamales from Rick Bayliss’ Authentic Mexican. (Luckily I had one bag of Zweck’s corn in the freezer.) We made a production line for filling the corn husks.

For Christmas morning I made my family’s traditional bread – Nut Roll. As I mixed and rolled the dough I thought of my mom – and my sisters who were doing the same.

On to the new year. It finally snowed settling ten inches on Blue Mountain Road. The mountains have well over 100 percent of the annual snow pack so things are looking better for our drought situation. I count my blessings, among them you, my readers. Stay well and keep cooking.

December morning rainbow

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