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HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM JESS FARADAY
The Holidays are a time of sharing, so this year, I wanted to share with you a few of my favorite recipes. Only one is a traditional Christmastime dish, though chances are, it’s not traditional where you are. The recipes may not look like they have a lot in common, but they share three important characteristics. Read through to find out what they are, and to enter my holiday giveaway!
1) Roasted root soup
I have to admit, the inspiration for this soup came from MasterChef, to which I am addicted. I just can’t get enough of the combination of good food and Swearing Chefs. The original soup was carrots only, with a chicken stock, but I’ve done some additions and subtractions, and I think my version is rather nice.
1 lb. of combined raw, cleaned carrots and parsnips
1-2 ears of corn cut off the cob, or from a can
Salt and pepper to taste.
Ginger (fresh or powdered) and curry powder to taste.
8 oz. vegetable broth
1) Cut the carrots and parsnips into small chunks, coat in olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast in a 375-degree F (190.5 C) oven for half an hour, or until tender.
2) If corn is on the cob, boil it until tender (about 10 minutes) and cut from the cob. After boiling (but before cutting), you can also oil the corn and roast it in the oven with the veg for 10 minutes or so, if you want to give it a roasted flavor.
3) Purée roasted vegetables (minus corn) in a food processor.
4) In a saucepan, add vegetable purée, corn, and spices to vegetable stock, and heat until almost boiling. Serve immediately with fresh, warm bread.
2) Green corn tamales
I grew up in the Southwestern United States, about half an hour from the Mexican border. Tamales are a traditional Mexican dish served at Christmastime. This vegetarian recipe uses mild chilies for a filling, but you can also fill them with beef, pork, or chicken.
For 12 tamales (serves 6 average appetites or 3 very hungry people), you will need:
24 ears of corn. Save the husks to use as wrappers. If you’re living in the Southwest, you can also buy husks packaged specifically for tamale-making.
1/2 lb cornmeal
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup half-and-half or milk
1 teaspoon salt
12 ounces cheddar cheese cut into 12 strips
1 24-ounce can of whole green chilies, cut into strips
1) Cut the ends off the corn. Remove the husks and save them for wrapping. (Soaking them in water will make them more flexible.) Cut the corn kernels from the cobs.
2) Grind the corn in a food processor. Add the cornmeal and grind some more. Set aside.
3) Beat the shortening and butter with electric mixer until creamy. Add the half-and-half and salt. Mix in the corn mixture and blend well.
4) For each tamale, do the following:
- Spread a few tablespoons of the corn mixture onto two overlapped corn husks.
- Place one strip of cheese and 1-2 chili strips on top of the corn mixture. You can add the chili seeds as well, if you want a spicier taste. Some people also like to put a single (pitted) olive inside like hidden treasure.
- Top with a few more tablespoons of corn mixture.
- Close the edges of the corn husk around the filling, then fold the edges over to cover the filling. You can tie with twine, or with thin strips of corn husk. Wrap in aluminum foil.
5) Place tamales upright in a steamer or a large pan with a steamer basket. Steam for 45 to 50 minutes. These freeze well.
No story or tradition here–I just love Baklava. Who doesn’t? And it’s ridiculously easy to make.
1 16-oz. package phyllo dough
1 pound chopped walnuts or (unsalted) pistachios
1 cup butter, melted (may require more if you’re using more than one pan)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (more if you want a stronger cinnamon flavor)
3/4 cup water
1/ 4 cup rose water or orange flower water (This is optional. You can use all plain water plus 1 teaspoon of vanilla instead. But rose water and orange flower water impart such a distinctive flavor, I really recommend them, if you can find them.)
1 cup white sugar
1 /4 cup honey
1 /4 cup raw agave syrup (You could skip the agave and use all honey, but agave adds a caramelly-nutty note and also lowers the considerable glycemic load of the dessert. I don’t recommend skipping the honey altogether, as it’s an important flavor component, and anyone who thinks baklava in any form is health food is deluding themselves.)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Butter the bottoms and sides of a 9×13 inch pan (or two pans, if you want thinner baklava).
- Chop nuts and toss with cinnamon. Set aside. Unroll phyllo dough. Cut the whole stack to fit your pan(s). Place one sheet of dough in the pan and brush with butter. Repeat until you have 8 sheets layered.
- Sprinkle with a layer of nuts. Top with two sheets of dough, butter, nuts, layering as you go. The top layer should be 6 – 8 sheets deep.
- You can cut before you bake or afterward. Bake for 50 minutes for one pan, 25-30 for two pans, or until baklava is golden and crisp.
- Make the syrup while baklava is baking. Boil sugar and water until sugar is melted. Add vanilla or rose water; honey, and agave syrup. Simmer for about 20 minutes.
- Remove baklava from oven and immediately spoon syrup over it. Let cool and serve. It’s delicious warm, but also freezes for a sticky, tasty, cold treat. If you’re feeling really wicked, you can serve it with vanilla ice cream =)
Now here’s what they have in common:
1) They all have a reputation for being labor-intensive, but are actually a lot easier than one might think.
2) They’re all-vegetarian, and can be made vegan with a few tweaks.
3) They are all extremely PRETTY, and will impress just about everyone at your holiday table.
Advent Calendar Giveaway!
And now for the giveaway. Please leave a comment here, and I will randomly choose one lucky winner to receive an electronic copy of my editing debut, Death on a Cold Night, an anthology of eight spine-tingling mysteries by eight talented authors, from Elm Books.
Good luck, and Happy Holidays!
The BONUS BUMPER PRIZE QUESTION (don’t answer this - just save them up for Christmas Eve.)
24. What festive food describes eyes in Cockney Rhyming Slang?
NOW – you have all 24 – or you should – put them in one email and email to them erastes at erastes dot com with BUMPER QUIZ in the header and good luck!