Holiday Goodies

petrossian1.jpgIt was the day after Christmas, we’d had too much sugar and a fair share of post-modern stress so, it was probably a bad idea to try to go “sale” shopping. 

We couldn’t even get into the parking lot at Saks, it was 5 of 11 and the 70% discount ended at noon and neither of us had even had a cup of coffee.... (I sometimes think my daughters and I should wear signs around our necks that say “Please feed before attempting to interact with us.”) 

And then sort of Saks was off the table but we were already out and we poked our heads into a shop on Melrose Place which was too expensive and besides the point and Anna said she just wanted to go home.  Neither one of us had really had coffee.

“No, let’s take a walk,” I insisted.  “We’ll find someplace to eat.”

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salmonpeas.jpg The “old timers” in Maine always eat salmon and peas for their fourth of July family feast. This tradition was started a long time ago when salmon still came “up river to spawn” and people still rushed in the Spring to plant their peas so they would have the first peas of the year, hopefully by the 4th, if the weather was good.  (I still have customers that plant their peas in the fall so they sprout when they are ready come Spring.)

The old tradition is to bake a center cut chunk of salmon at 350 degrees till it is less than moist, (so all the relatives like it) than nap it with a white sauce, better known as a béchamel sauce to which you add in chopped hard cooked eggs.  And peas, lot of peas cooked with butter, salt, pepper and a little water. The rule of thumb was to cook them till when you blew on a spoonful they wrinkled.

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Overnight-Panettone-Eggnog-French-Toast-Holiday-brunchIs everyone familiar with panettone, a sweet, Italian bread loaf, full of candied orange peel and raisins? It comes in a very tall, lofty box we only see at holiday time. 

I am always excited to get my first one of the season. It's the perfect accompaniment to my afternoon coffee. The texture is reminiscent of my mom's babka recipe, another taste I love. I wish it was so easily accessible all year round. But then I guess it wouldn't be special.

Anyway, it is always nice to have Christmas morning or New Year's Day brunch prepped the night before. It makes life so much easier, especially if you have a house full of guests.

When you slice into the panettone, you will see it is very light-colored and airy. Once cooked, the top is very crunchy while the bottom remains soft and custard-like. Serve with warm maple syrup and something salty like bacon or sausage.

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From the L.A. Times

marshmellows.jpgConsidering everybody on your holiday gift list – friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, your kids' teachers – you might be needing a stimulus package before you even get to the big-ticket items this year. So why not take a page from your grandmother's playbook and make the smaller gifts yourself?

Not only are homemade gifts less expensive, they also capture the spirit of holiday giving in a way that purchased gifts simply can't. And if you consider the ubiquitous traffic and holiday crowds, a leisurely morning spent baking breadsticks or whipping up a batch of homemade marshmallows seems positively Zen-like by comparison.

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panforteWhen I worked in a gourmet retail store as a teenager, I got a chance to try many delectable things. I sampled high quality chocolates imported from Europe, pistachios from Iran, Alice Medrich's mammoth truffles, and panforte made by Margaret Fox of Cafe Beaujolais. I'll never forget those heavy round thick loaves, wrapped in dark red or green cellophane. Thin chewy slices served with or tea or alongside cheese seemed so sophisticated. It was definitely the best fruitcake I ever tasted. 

My parents made panforte too and last year I realized it would be the perfect thing to make with a surplus of candied lemon peel. My recipe uses rice flour instead of wheat flour, which means it is gluten free! If you have nuts in your freezer, and they weren't bought this season, they are probably from last season and now is a good time to finish them off.

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