Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What’s cooking? Pasta with Collards and Sweet Italian Sausage

When we made our reservations for Christmas in New Jersey, we told ourselves, “It hardly ever snows before January.” At least, that was what I said. My husband was less sanguine. But our recently married son is working crazy hours as a first year law firm associate, and our med school student had time off and was looking forward to seeing his NJ friends. So up we came.

And then the Blizzard of 2010 hit. It was already snowing Sunday morning when I convinced my husband – as a time-saving measure only, as I’m sure if we ever decide to get a divorce it’ll be in the produce aisle – to go with me to the grocery store. What madness. Although New Jersey regularly gets its share of snowstorms, the people never seem prepared. They react to the forecast as if they’d be stuck inside for a couple of weeks, clearing the grocery shelves of everything but a few jars of anchovy paste and some cleaning fluids.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Party On!
What’s cooking? Champagne Cosmopolitans

The first holiday party was Sunday, and already I’m exhausted.

It was our neighborhood party, and in addition to being on the Social Committee (but of course), I volunteered to make my roll-out cookies. And as long as I was making one batch, it seemed like no big deal to make two and send one to two kids who are sons of families in my church and are stationed in Afghanistan.

As usual, no good deed goes unpunished. It took me TWO full days to decorate them all – two full days in which I blissfully immersed myself in a world of tiny gold and silver balls, squiggles of icing, and a full color palette of sanding sugars and edible glitter. And I’ve recently discovered a new line of edible metallic glitter – red and gold and copper and brass, so fine that you apply them by dipping an eye shadow brush into the powder and oh so delicately tapping on the brush. It’s a mind-numbing process, but the effect is so beautiful I spent waaay more time than I should have finding extra places where I could dab a little metallic glitter.

I was feeling particularly creative this year, adding designs of red and green stripes to the tiny stockings, embellishing the hats of the snowmen with minuscule flowers, and completely obsessing over the possibilities for my new ornament shapes.

My husband knew enough to steer clear of the kitchen island, where I had set up shop, and didn’t even mind that we had pizza two nights in a row. Needless to say, after the party that night, I slept NINE hours. But now that I’m fully rested, I'm thinking maybe I should make some for my sons,... Somebody just shoot me, please.

My other contribution to the neighborhood soirée was a most festive drink that we used to serve at our annual soup party in New Jersey. It was a little more dangerous to serve them in New Jersey, because those parties were catered by yours truly, and the dinner part was, well, often somewhat later than I planned, with the result that a few of the guests got a bit snockered by the time the food showed up. But for the neighborhood party in Texas, the food was mostly catered, and that danger didn’t present itself. So with the caveat that you should not overindulge on an empty stomach, I can heartily recommend these for a holiday gathering. They’re simplicity itself to make, beautiful to serve, and delicious.

Champagne Cosmopolitan (adapted from Gourmet magazine, December 1999)
Makes 10 drinks

1¼ cups Cointreau (or Grand Marnier or Triple Sec)
1¼ cups cranberry juice cocktail or pomegranate juice
½  cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
3 tablespoons superfine granulated sugar
chilled Champagne or other sparkling white wine

Stir together Cointreau, juices, and sugar and chill, covered 2 to 6 hours. Just before serving divide among 10 champagne flutes and top off with Champagne. Garnish with sugar-coated fresh cranberries or fresh raspberries or twists of lemon or lime. If you use pomegranate juice, drop a few fresh pomegranate seeds into the glass.

Kitchen Goddess Note: You can make a number of alterations to this without hurting the flavor: substitute pomegranate juice for the cranberry; use regular juice instead of cranberry cocktail; leave out the sugar for a less sweet drink; and substitute the cheaper Triple Sec for the Cointreau (Cointreau being just a high-end Triple Sec). It’s really best when cold, though, so if you’re serving a large group, keep the base ingredients chilled in a pitcher, then top off with champagne in a flute right before serving. I like to greet guests at the door with a tray of them – it gets people into a festive mood from the start.

Happy Holidays!!