Thursday, December 20, 2012

Party Nuts That Aren’t Your Guests
What’s cooking? Caramelized Spiced Pecans

Just last week, the doorbell rang and it was my neighbor, dropping off the two pounds of pecans I ordered from her this year. She’s part of some organization that sells beautiful Texas pecan halves as a fund-raiser every December. I thought maybe I’d stick them in the freezer – which is a great way to store nuts, by the way – until I could figure out what to make with them. But when I pulled out the freezer drawer, I found last year’s two pounds still waiting for me to make something out of them.

I do this sort of thing way too often. Good intentions, but apparently my attention span is that of a 6-month-old baby these days. On an almost constant basis, I have to remind myself to stay on task.

So I decided to make something with those pecans RIGHT THEN AND THERE – or at least until I remembered what I was doing before my neighbor rang the doorbell.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Foodie Faves: Best Party Dip Ever
What’s cooking? Cheesy Black-eyed Pea Dip

Today’s post is a bit of a cheat in that I couldn’t really hold myself to the blogette format, but it is a Friday Fave. I’m talking about my best-selling party dish – a beany-cheesy dip that disappears so fast I have to make a double recipe if I want to have any left over. And sometimes, even that isn’t enough. It has no fancy ingredients and lots of butter; but at any size gathering, it’s the one people crowd over. And everyone asks for the recipe.

Eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day for luck is a long-standing tradition throughout the South, and especially so in Texas. My grandmother, who was a great woman but not a great cook, made a few dishes really well; I remember eating black-eyed peas cooked with bacon and onion at her house on many occasions. When my husband and I first moved to New Jersey 35 years ago, I didn’t think much about that tradition – it’s hard to get excited about black-eyed peas when most people just look at you funny if you mention the dish.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Foodie Faves: Great Gift Ideas

The longer I live, the more I appreciate gifts of food as Christmas presents. After all, they don’t have to be displayed or worn anywhere; they’re consumable, so, like candles, they can be welcomed year after year; and they can be shared with other members of your household.

The Wednesday Food Section of The New York Times this week shone a bright light on preserved food and food gifts. And, as you may recall, I spent the summer preserving the bounty of the New Jersey farmers’ market. That’s what I’m giving my friends here in Texas. In fact, I have so much – what was I thinking? – that I’ve invited them over for a glass of wine next week to choose more than one of these items. (Don’t tell, but they’ll also get one of these cute serving spoons that I brought back from South Africa.)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

’Tis the Season of Indulgence... or Overindulgence
Puréed Split Pea Soup

My contribution to the party.

At our neighborhood holiday party Sunday night, I was so busy chatting up old friends and getting to know people I hadn’t met before that I didn’t spend nearly enough time at the buffet. By the time I got home, the “feed me” messages were coming through loud and clear, and I’d had just enough champagne to trample whatever sensible thoughts I might have had for responding. I was too tired to cook, and the only thing I could find to eat that didn’t require cooking was peanut butter, so I had some. From the jar. About an inch of it. Let me just say here that no matter how hungry you are, an inch of peanut butter is too much. Especially on top of champagne.

So my stomach felt a bit odd the next day, and when that happens, I naturally turn to soup. Like many of you who are still working off the Thanksgiving leftovers, I had the remains of a big ham that had been waiting for me to do something creative – or at least useful – with it. (If you don’t, you should put a slab of ham on your grocery list, because I’ve got a nice recipe below.)