Joyeux Noel, chere amiel!!
Ahhhh! It’s almost Christmas. I remember, as a kid, this was “the moooooost wonderful tiiiiiiiime of the yeeeeaaaarrr.” I still feel that way - maybe even more so now - as this will be the first year June is old enough to get it: Santa, reindeer, presents, etc. We’ve been talking about the whole thing nonstop: what kind of cookies to make Santa (gingerbread men), what kind of treats to leave the reindeer (carrots) and what we are going to have for Christmas dessert (haven't quite decided yet). This year was the first year she wrote Santa a letter - in which she asked for only two things: a rainbow wand (another one - she got this seizure-inducing flashing one from my brother for her birthday and I have to limit her usage so as not to cause permanent retinal damage) and a rainbow "walli-pop" (I cannot bring myself to correct her - my guess is she may head to college not knowing the correct word for lollipop).
I have pretty much concluded all of my shopping and even finished wrapping most of the presents (not to sound Scroogy, but for me this is the worst part of Christmas - I'm a terrible wrapper and so I just try to get it done ASAP so as not to drag out the pain). Santa photos were today, so all I have left to do is Christmas Eve dinner, Christmas breakfast and Christmas dinner. Check, check and check.
We are having small gatherings for all of the above, which is great because that lends itself to more intimate plates. I know the main dish is always a focus, but I thought I would throw out two of the side dishes I will be serving this year, in hopes that it may add to your Christmas table, should you need some ideas. They are from Yotam Ottoelnghi's new book, Plenty More, which I have been working my way through, page by page - it is just fabulous.
What will be on your table, now that you are settling yourself in Montana?
Sweet-and-Sour Leeks with Goat’s curd and Currants
(After essentially poaching the leeks, Ottolenghi has you fry them in a pan. To make them a little more hands-off during a busy meal prep, I’ve roasted them in the oven instead, then finished off as he did. You’ll see my changes to his recipe in italics).
8 small leeks, white parts only
2 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
scant 1 cup dry white whine
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 small red onion, finely chopped (2/3 C/100 g)
1 Tbsp cider vineghar
2 tsp superfine sugar
2 Tbsp sunflower oil
3.5 oz/100g goat’s cured or creamy goat cheese
1 Tbsp chervil or flat leaf parsley leaves
salt and black pepper
Cut leaks crosswise into two segments, each about 4 inches long and wash well. Lay leeks on the bottom of a large shallow pan and add bay leaves, garlic, wine aolive oil and about 1 cup of water, so that the leeks are half covered in lquid. Add ¾ tsp salt and some black pepper and simmer gently, over medium heat, about 30 minutes, or until a knife can be inserted into the leaks with no resistance.
Remove leeks to a plate, using a slotted spoon. Strain the remaining liquid into a sauce pan and reduce until only 3 T remain, about 12-15 minutes. Remove from heat and add onion, currants, vinegar, sugar and ¼ tsp salt ad black pepper. Set aside to soften and marinate.
Heat the sunflower oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Carefully add the leeks and fry for 2 minutes on each side, until lightly golden. Transfer to plate and set aside to cool. Alternatively, place poached leeks in shallow baking dish and drizzle with 1-2 T oil. If leeks are particularly thick, halve first. Place in a 425 oven for about 10-20 minutes, until golden brown. Then finish as below.
To serve, top with onion and currant dressing, dots of cheese and fresh chervil.
Tomato and Roasted Lemon Salad
(This recipe calls for pomegranate molasses which has been popping up in more and more recipes lately. It's a great condiment, not too sweet but with rich flavor - great for adding to dressings or drizzling on top of roasted veggies. I use this brand here)
2 medium lemons, halved crosswise, seeds removed and sliced paper thin (9oz, 260 g)
2 T olive oil, divided
½ tsp superfine sugar
8 sage leaves, finely shredded
2 1/2 Cups/400 g baby tomatoes, any color, halved
Scant ½ tsp ground allspice
1/3 C/10 g flat leaf parsley leabes
½ C/15 g mint leaves
Seeds of 1 small pomegranate (2/3 C/120 g)
1.5 Tbsp pomegranate molasses
¼ small red onion, thinly sliced (about ½ C/50 g)
Salt and black pepper
Oven at 325.
Bring small saucepan of water to a boil, add the lemon slices and blanch for bout 2-3 minutes. Drain, then toss with 1 Tlsp olive oil, ½ tsp salt, the sugar and the sage. Mix, then spread on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place in oven and cook for 20 minutes, until lemons are kind of dried. Remove and let cool. Set aside.
In a bowl, combine tomatoes, allspice, parsley, mint, pomegranate seeds, pomegranate molasses, onion, remaining olive oil, ¼ tsp salt and freshly ground pepper. Add lemon slices and stir.
(No pic yet...maybe coming Christmas Day?)