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HOLIDAY COCKTAIL: Christmas Martini Recipe

Christmas Martini

Christmas Martini

Pickled Cauliflower

Castelvetrano Olives

Fresh Dill

[1] [2] It’s a Christmas Martini (photos courtesy World Market). [3] You can find actual rose and purple cauliflower heads at farmers markets, but at this time of year, you may have to color your own with beet juice. Here’s a recipe for pickled cauliflower and beets from The Galanter’s Kitchen. [4] Castelvetrano olives are the greenest, for Christmas garnishing. [5] Fresh dill, along with rosemary, are the two most Christmasy herbs: They look like evergreens (photo courtesy Burpee).

 

Is there such a thing as a Christmas Martini?

According to us: Yes!

We’re not talking a peppermint “Martini” garnished with candy canes, but a real, savory vodka/gin-and-vermouth cocktail as its creators intended it to be (here’s the history of the Martini).

We adapted this Dill Martini recipe from WorldMarket.com and gave it more holiday spirit.

If you switch the evergreen-like dill to chive or other herb and perhaps make all the pickles red or pink, you can serve this as a Valentine Martini as well.
 
RECIPE: CHRISTMAS MARTINI

Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 1/2 ounce pickle brine*
  • Splash of dry vermouth
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • Large sprig of fresh dill
  • Beet juice
  • Ice
  •  
    For The Garnish

  • Cauliflower floret pickled in brine and beet juice†
  • Fresh grape tomato
  • Baby radish, pickled or not
  • Pimento-stuffed green olive or pitted Castelventrano olive (it’s bright green)
  • Whole baby beet (from can or jar, regular or pickled)
  • Cocktail pick
  •  
    ________________
    *If you make pickled vegetables, you can use your homemade brine.

    *If you aren’t using beets, you can buy a bottle of beet juice (delicious!) at a natural- or health-food store.
    ________________
     
    Preparation

    1. PICKLE the vegetables as desired and make the cocktail pick.

    2. COMBINE the vodka, pickle brine, vermouth mustard seeds, and fresh dill in a cocktail shaker. Shake and pour into a glass.

    2. ADD enough beet juice until you get the color you want (an assertive blush as in the photo is a good start).

    3. ADD ice to the shaker along with the contents of the glass. Shake well, strain into a coupe or Martini glass and garnish with the vegetable pick.
     
    HOW TO MAKE PICKLED VEGETABLES

    It couldn’t be easier to make “quick pickles”: just the vegetables, vinegar, spices and two hours to marinate.

    You can pickle just about any vegetable, and you can also pickle fruits: from grapes to sliced fruits.

  • Use your favorite spices in the brine. Look at your spices for inspiration: allspice, bay leaf, crushed red peppers, dill seed, juniper berries, mace, mustard seed, and peppercorns are all contenders. Pickled vegetables never met a spice they didn’t like. We often add a touch of nutmeg.
  • For the brine, use cider vinegar or other vinegar (you can use half vinegar and half salted water if you like). To color white veggies like cauliflower red, add beet to the brine. Be sure the brine covers the tops of the vegetables.
  • You can add sugar and or salt to the brine; but make a batch without them first. It’s healthier, and it will let the flavor of the spices shine through.
  • Pickles will be ready in just two hours; although you can keep them in the fridge for a few weeks (trust us, they will eaten quickly).
  •  
    Since these pickled vegetables aren’t sterilized in a water bath, they need to be kept in the fridge. Eat them within two weeks (more likely, they’ll be gone in two days).

    If you’re excited about pickling, pick up a book on the topic. The Joy Of Pickling, first published in 1999, is now in its second edition.

    You may find yourself making classic bread-and-butter and dill pickles, pickled beets and kimchi.

  • Check out our Pickle Glossary for the different types of pickles.
  •   

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    GIFT OF THE DAY: Bacon Curing Kit

    What can you get for the bacon lover?

    There’s the Bacon Of The Month Club, but that’s $400.

    There’s always an assortment of the finest artisanal bacon brands from small producers who craft premium bacon the old-fashioned way: hand-rubbed spices, slow curing methods and real wood smoke.

    They can be double or triple the price of supermarket bacon, so it’s a gift most people wouldn’t buy for themselves. Check out some of the best brands, below.

    But this year, we’re recommending a DIY Bacon Curing Kit from Urban Accents. Just add a pork belly from the nearest butcher shop, and the recipient can have homemade bacon in just seven days. This DIY kit has everything you need!

    Just pick up a five-pound pork belly from your favorite meat counter and put the meat, curing salt, maple sage seasoning (if you like) into the curing bag. Refrigerate for seven days and you’ll be cooking up your own homemade bacon.

    The kit is $17.15 at Urban Accents.

    A five-pound pork belly is needed to make the bacon. Depending on your area, you can pay about $3.00 to $6.00 a pound. Heritage breeds are pricier.

    WHAT ARE THE BEST BACON BRANDS?

    According to a review in Food & Wine, you should try, in this order:

  • Vande Rose Farms Artisan Dry Cured Applewood Smoked: well-marbled heritage breed from the Duroc pig.
  • Trader Joe’s Uncured Apple Smoked Bacon.
  •  

    Bacon Making Kit

    Raw Pork Belly

    [1] Make five pounds of bacon with this DIY kit (photo courtesy Urban Accents). [2] Pork belly not included (photo courtesy Slap Yo Daddy BBQ).

  • D’Artagnan Uncured Applewood Smoked Bacon. The company uses heritage breeds, such as Berkshire, Duroc, Hampshire, Landrace and Tamworth.
  • Tender Belly Dry Cured Maple Bacon: Made with Hampshire pork belly, known for its ideal meat-to-fat ratio, slow-smoked over cherrywood.
  • Applegate Farms Hickory Smoked Uncured Sunday Bacon: nitrate- and nitrite-free.
  •  
    Read the full review for more recommendations.

      

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    RECIPE: Pomegranate Cheese Ball

    Christmas Cheese Ball

    Christmas Cheese Ball

    Christmas Cheese Ball

    [1] The Christmas Cheese Ball, festive with cocktails. This recipe, from How Sweet Eats, is made with with white cheddar, mascarpone and sage. [2] The Café Sucre Farine is made with Monterey Jack, pecans, rosemary and thyme. Minced parsley accents the arils for an even better holiday effect. [3] Our original inspiration was this red and green cheese ball from Go Bold With Butter (recipe below).

     

    Deck the hall with this festive almond-Gruyère/Swiss Cheese cheese ball.

    Parsley colors the interior green, while the pomegranate arils create a crimson cloak.

    Bonus: Prep time is 15 minutes, and you can make it two days in advance. Thanks to Go Bold With Butter for the recipe.

    RECIPE #1: CHRISTMAS CHEESE BALL

    Ingredients

  • 1 cup pomegranate arils
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 8 ounces Gruyère/Swiss cheese, shredded
  • 3-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 [heaping] cup slivered almonds
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons horseradish mustard (recipe below)
  • 1 cup fresh parsley, chopped (or ½ parsley, ½ chives)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  •  
    For Serving

  • Bagel chips
  • Breads
  • Crackers and crisps
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PAT the arils dry with paper towels, ensuring removing as much moisture as possible. You can do this an hour or more in advance and leave the arils on paper towels on the counter to further dry.

    2. PLACE the cheeses and butter along with almonds, horseradish mustard, parsley and seasonings in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse for 1-2 minutes, scraping the bowl frequently until ingredients are well combined.

    3. SHAPE the mixture into cheese mixture into a large ball and refrigerate. can be made up to 2 days ahead, wrapped and stored in refrigerator. Before serving…

    4. ROLL the ball in pomegranate arils until fully coated. Gently press the arils into the heese ball to adhere. To serve, place on plate with breads, crackers and spreaders.
     
    RECIPE #2: HORSERADISH MUSTARD

    We tend to keep sugar away from where it doesn’t need to be—in savory foods. We just don’t enjoy sugary potato chips or wasabi-flavored mustard. (Honey mustard gets a pass.)

    Numerous recipes for cheese balls contain a sweetened condiment: honey, maple syrup, sugar brown sugar. It’s the same with horseradish mustard.

    We don’t mind a brief hint of sweetness; but if a cheese ball tastes sweet (and it isn’t a sweet style, e.g. with dried fruit, or a dessert ball), it’s too sweet for us.

    Since the cheese ball recipe requires just 1-1/2 teaspoons of the mustard, you can adjust the amounts below accordingly.
     
    Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup white prepared horseradish
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • Optional: sour cream, crème fraiche, mascarpone or plain yogurt
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Preparation

    1. DRAIN the horseradish in a fine strainer or cheesecloth, pushing down with the back of a spoon to remove the excess liquid.

    2. COMBINE with the mustard, mix well and taste. If it’s too strong for you, you can add a bit of sour cream to remove some of the spiciness.But remember, mixing the mustard with the cream cheese will temper the heat.
     
    Variation

    Make a mustard horseradish sauce for meat or poultry, simply by adding one cup of sour cream to recipe above.
     
    MORE CHEESE BALL RECIPES

  • Mini Cheese Balls With Green, Red and Golden Coatings
  • Pecan Pine Cone Cheese Ball (yes, it’s made in the shape of a pine cone)
  •   

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Christmas Crudites, A Gingerbread House Alternative

    Vegetable Christmas House

    Veggie Lodge

    Chocolate Holiday House

    [1] A good-for-you Christmas treat. [2] Start here (photos #1 and #2 courtesy Green Giant). [3] A chocolate house, made with molds from King Arthur Flour.

     

    How about a vegetable cottage instead of a gingerbread house?

    Created by Green Giant; we found it on

    It was originally posted on Green Giant’s Facebook page.

    Here’s the rub:

    The bloggers who re-posted provided the ingredients, but instructed the reader to “Click here for the directions From Green Giant’s Facebook Page.”

    Alas, clicking all those links delivers a “Page Not Found.”

    Conspiracy: Maybe there never were directions! At best, we have some step-by-step photos.

    So you’ll have to put it together yourself. Or delegate it to someone who likes to build.

    If you’re a great food crafter, please make it and send us the instructions.

     
    RECIPE: VEGGIE LODGE

    Ingredients

  • 6 8″ carrot logs (1 front, 5 back)
  • 8 5″ carrot logs (lodge sides)
  • 8 3″ carrot logs (front)
  • 1-1/4″ logs (by front door)
  • 4 1-1/2″ carrot logs (window opening)
  • 3 7″ carrot log rafters
  • 16 6″ roof celery stalks
  • Foam core board gable measures 8″x 6: x 6″
  • Carrot coins for stone path
  • Slice of turnip for window
  • Toothpicks & cream cheese mortar to fasten the cucumbers and celery
  • Bamboo skewers to stack chimney mushroom “stones”
  •  
    For The Surroundings

  • Artichoke “evergreen trees”
  • Broccoli floret “bushes”
  • Boiled baby potatoes
  • Hard boiled egg Santa snowmen (recipe)
  • Cremini mushrooms (brown tops) for more shrubbery
  • Yellow/red cherry or grape tomatoes
  •  
    For The Dip

  • 1 large red bell pepper or other dip holder
  • Dip of choice
  •  
    Ingredients
     
    Or, ditch the healthy house and make this chocolate version from King Arthur Flour.

     
    CAN YOU FOLLOW THESE PHOTOS & BUILD THE LODGE?
     
    Veggie Lodge Preparation

      

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    RECIPE: Lemon Cream Pie

    Lemon Cream Pie

    Zested Lemon

    [1] A yummy way to celebrate National Lemon Cream Pie Day (photo courtesy The Baker Chick). [2] You can use any extra lemon zest to garnish the pie, with or without the candied mint leaves (photo courtesy Sunkist).

     

    It’s November 29th: National Lemon Cream Pie Day.

    We adapted this classic recipe from one of our favorite bakers, Audra, The Baker Chick (who adapted it from Martha Stewart).

    We have two less classic recipes for your consideration:

  • Frozen Lemon Vodka Cream Pie, made with lemon sorbet, frozen lemonade and Greek yogurt
  • Lemon Cream Pie made with sweetened condensed milk
  •  
    For a seasonal touch, we garnished our pie with candied mint leaves (recipe below), an old-fashioned treat that was often served as a confection with afternoon tea.

    RECIPE 31: LEMON CREAM PIE

    Ingredients For 1 Nine-Inch Pie

  • 1 single layer pie crust (here’s Audra’s pie crust recipe)
  •  
    For the Lemon Filling

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ¾ cup fresh lemon juice (about 4 lemons)
  • Zest of one lemon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  •  
    For the Whipped Cream Topping

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon gelatin*
  • Optional garnish: candied mint leaves (recipe below)
  •  
    ________________
    *The gelatin stabilizes the whipped cream topping, so it doesn’t collapse after a few hours. If you plan to serve the pie immediately, you can skip this step.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 425°F. Roll out the crust and drape it over a 9-inch pie dish, trimming and crimping the sides. Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork and place it in the freezer while the oven preheats.

    2. LINE the chilled crust with foil and cover with pie weights or dried beans. Bake the crust for about 20 minutes, or until the edges are set. Remove the the foil and bake another 5-10 minutes. If the crust puffs up, just flatten it with a fork. Remove the crust from the oven and reduce the heat to 350°F.

    3. MAKE the filling. Whisk together the eggs, lemon juice, sour cream, salt, sugar and zest. Pour into the crust and carefully place back into the oven. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until the edges of the pie are completely set, with the inside still a bit jiggly. Let cool completely before proceding. If you’re in a hurry, you can place the pie in the freezer.

    4. MAKE the topping. If using the gelatin, dissolve it in cold water and then place in a saucepan over low heat, stirring until dissolved. Let cool slightly.

    5. WHIP the cream and sugar with a whisk attachment until soft peaks form. Add the liquid gelatin and continue to whisk until you have medium peaks. Spread whipped cream onto cooled pie and serve chilled. If using the mint leaves, add just before serving.

     

    RECIPE #2: CANDIED MINT LEAVES

    Also called crystallized mint leaves, crystal mint leaves and sugared mint leaves, we know that President Lincoln and his wife Mary enjoyed them on cakes, in salads and as sweetmeats, along with candied flower petals.

    You can candy edible flowers with the same recipe. Just be sure they’re organic—no pesticides.

    Use them to garnish beverages and desserts, including ice cream.

    The candied leaves must be made 24 hours in advance so they can dry.

    If you can find a specialty mint—apple mint, chocolate mint, lemon bergamot or orange bergamot mint—so much the better!
     
    Ingredients

  • 1 large egg white
  • 12 fresh mint leaves
  • ¼ cup superfine† sugar
  • ________________
    †You can pulse table sugar in a food processor or spice grinder to make it superfine.
     
     
    Preparation

    1. SELECT 12 attractive mint leaves of similar size (unless you want a range of sizes). Remove them from the stalk, keeping the stems with the leaves. Rinse in cool water and gently pat dry with a paper towel.

    2. BEAT the egg white until frothy. If concerned about raw egg whites, use pasteurized egg whites like Davidson’s Safest Choice.

     

    Fresh Mint

    Mint Leaf Garnish

    [3] Fresh mint (photo courtesy Good Eggs). [4] Candied mint leaves are a lovely garnish (photo courtesy VegSpinz).

     
    3. BRUSH a thin layer of egg onto the mint leaves, evenly coating both sides so the sugar sticks evenly. If the mixture is too runny, let it sit a minute before proceeding.

    4. TRANSFER the leaves onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving enough space between them so they don’t stick together. Let them dry for 24 hours, uncovered.

    5. STORE the leaves in an airtight container if not using immediately. If you don’t like the look of the stems, trim them before garnishing (the serve as a convenient handle until then).
     

    CREAM VS. CREME

    What’s the difference between creme and cream? Why do some people write “creme pie” instead of “creme pie?”

    Crème, pronounced KREHM, is the French word for cream. In America, French recipes were served at the tables of the wealthy, many of whom knew how to pronounce French properly.

    As these recipes entered the mainstream, people who did not know French began to pronounce crème (KREHM) as cream (KREEM). Some people dispensed with the accent mark, to provide a mashup of French and English, and either became acceptable.

    But to display your erudition, when discussing a French dish, e.g. Crème Brûlée, use crème; when discussing an American dish, e.g. Chocolate Cream Pie, use cream.

      

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