Donatella Cooks by Donatella Arpaia [healthy meals]

  • Full Title : Donatella Cooks
  • Autor: Donatella Arpaia
  • Print Length: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Rodale Books
  • Publication Date: April 13, 2010
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1605296422
  • ISBN-13: 978-1605296425
  • Download File Format: azw3


Dubbed “the hostess with the mostest” by Zagats, Donatella Arpaia is a ubiquitous and striking presence on the national food scene. Literally raised in the business, she knows precisely what makes a guest feel welcome, whether in one of her wildly popular restaurants or one-on-one in her home. Yet every day she meets would-be home cooks—sophisticated, confident, successful women with discriminating palates—whose confidence evaporates at the kitchen door.

For these discerning diners, Donatella has written Donatella Cooks, a sassy, spirited guide to cooking and entertaining with flair. Writing with humor, wit, and practicality, she covers every element of a great evening, from super simple yet delectable food to the perfect music, drinks, and décor. Her foolproof recipes are brimming with bold flavor yet so easy to prepare even novice cooks can pull them off without breaking a sweat. Whether it’s a romantic dinner for two or a cocktail gala for dozens, Donatella Cooks has the winning formula for the perfect evening.


About the Author

DONATELLA ARPAIA is the co-owner of restaurants in New York City and Miami and a judge on Food Network’s Who Will Be the Next Iron Chef?

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

chapter one



Pecorino Fonduta with Lavender Honey

Bagna Cauda

Baked Buffalo Ricotta

Mixed Italian Salumi with Artisanal Jams

Sauteed Spicy Cracked Olives

Donatella’s Popcorn


Baked Figs with Prosciutto and Gorgonzola

Salmon and Caviar Crostini

Sicilian Tuna and White Bean Bruschetta

Simple Crostini

Bresaola Purses


Farinata with Fontina and Rosemary

Grilled Swordfish and Watermelon Skewers

Mini Caprese

Seafood Salad in Radicchio Cups


Zucchini alla Scapece

Greek Pizzettes

Pear and Cinnamon Compote with a Selection of Cheeses

Gorgonzola Dolce, Bacon, and Onion Crostini

Any great dish can be miniaturized. That’s probably the most important thing I learned when I was first faced with serving hors d’oeuvres. Even though I was in the restaurant business, the idea of creating the kind of passed canapes that are made by cooks with serious knife skills was daunting. So, at first I turned to the same tried, true, and tired cocktail party solutions–though let the record reflect I never, ever went as far as that horribly mealy shrimp ring that seems to be everywhere. As I began to work closely with chefs, I had a culinary epiphany: It wasn’t the ingredients that made a dish an hors d’oeuvre; it was the size. I could miniaturize just about any of the dishes I loved: arugula rolled in a salty strip of bresaola, swordfish steak cut into chunks and threaded onto a little skewer with fruit and cheese, a shot glass or teacup of soup, or risotto served in Asian soup spoons. With a little creativity, nearly any dish can be turned into an hors d’oeuvre.

There are a few rules, though. Technically, an hors d’oeuvre shouldn’t require a fork or plate and it shouldn’t take more than two bites to eat. I’m all for improvising, but these are important points to keep in mind. I know you know what it’s like to try to balance a small plate and a drink while engaging in riveting conversation–not fun. Or elegant. I also strongly suggest that you refrain from offering any seriously DIY dishes. Anything that requires more assembly than spreading some dip or placing a piece of cheese on a cracker falls into this category. After all, you’re not hosting craft night. As a corollary, avoid leaky, bulky, or otherwise cumbersome hors d’oeuvres that might wind up on a guest’s dress or tie.

As for premade items, I once read that Julia Child regularly served Pepperidge Farm goldfish crackers at cocktail hour. That’s confidence. You, too, can serve cheese crackers to your guests–once you’ve thoroughly mastered French culinary techniques as she did! Until then, you’ll need to do more than open a package of snacks and dump them into a bowl. I don’t mean that you can’t open a few containers and boxes of top-quality ingredients and assemble them artfully. In fact, I highly recommend it! If you can count the number of cocktail parties you’ve hosted on one hand, then 80 percent of your menu should consist of recipes you assemble. If you’re chronically time-strapped, that’s another perfectly valid reason.

Pulling together a spread of hors d’oeuvres with as little actual cooking as possible is really the way to go if you’re a novice–or nervous– hostess, because you need to focus on the rest of the meal. Spooning a partially prepared seafood salad (for which you make the dressing) into a radicchio cup or baking fresh ricotta in a foil packet can make you look like a genius in the kitchen. If you do use premade items for your hors d’oeuvre spread, don’t broadcast the fact that it didn’t come from your kitchen! Replate or decant every single thing onto a platter or into a container. I have a set of beautiful little wooden bowls with matching wooden spoons that I scoop purchased spreads and pestos into. With a quick drizzle of beautiful olive oil and a basket of sliced walnut bread, it appears to have come from my own kitchen. This isn’t about taking credit for other people’s work, but about making what you serve seem special and in keeping with the style that you want to convey.

There are two characteristics that separate really good hors d’oeuvres from the bad and the ugly: size and packaging. You can make the most delicious hors d’oeuvres in the history of cocktail parties, but if they’re thoughtlessly presented–wrong vessel or worse, wrong size vessel–there goes your entertaining cred. A basic rule of thumb: Go for a look of plenty without overcrowding. Putting 2 cups of olives in a 4-cup bowl makes them look skimpy; piling them in a 1 1/2-cup bowl gives an impression of abundance. Pull together a decent collection of platters, bowls, plates, trays, and serving utensils in varying sizes, then supplement with unusual pieces. Restaurant supply stores (check out are my go-to source for mini cast iron skillets, ramekins in every size, stands for holding paper cones (that you can fill with my over-the-top popcorn, page 14), and so much else. In fact, when I’m navigating the offerings online, I relent on my “no plastic utensils” rule a bit because some of the mini plastic items are adorable. Bamboo items are also plentiful; among my favorites are skewers (no more toothpicks!) and tongs (so cute). Asian soup spoons are another fabulous vehicle for holding pasta, risotta, etc…. Hit the bath, office, and storage departments at IKEA for unusual serving pieces, and don’t snub other mass retailers such as Crate&Barrel (great for plain white tableware), Pottery Barn (for an occasional decorative table accent) and The Container Store (for an excellent selection of serving vessels). Florist shops and even the hardware store (think slabs of glass, pieces of slate, ceramic tiles to use as platters) are also great places to stock up.

donatella do’s

* Dress up a cheese platter with an artisanal honey–chestnut, lavender, or acacia, for example for instant culinary credibility. Serve it with a honey spool or, if it comes on the comb, set it directly on the serving tray with a small knife for spreading.

* Indulge in a proper shrimp cocktail. Put peeled, poached shrimp in a huge bowl filled with crushed ice and lots of lemon wedges. Buy cocktail sauce (usually the fishmonger sells a nice one) and grate fresh horseradish into it to suggest it was homemade.

* Smoked fish is a no-brainer hors d’oeuvre. Skip the expected smoked salmon, and try smoked sturgeon or trout.

* Always taste purchased spreads–such as artichoke, sun-dried tomato, and olive– before serving them to guests. There are hundreds of brands to choose from, some far superior in taste and quality than others. My favorites are Bella Cucina for the artichoke spread and Colavita for tapenades.

* Use paper cocktail napkins if you’re serving a crowd; for any fewer than eight, use linen.

* Empty the garbage before everyone arrives. You don’t want to be dragging it out in front of guests!

* Help your guests to be as elegant as you are: If toothpicks or pits are involved, provide an obvious vessel in which to dispose of them. No one wants to spend the night with a fistful of napkins and pits! I set out small bowls and rattan baskets in various spots around the room for discreet disposal.

I often find an evening-long cocktail party is the most modern way to entertain. It’s partly a reflection of the small-plate trend on restaurant menus and also a matter of practicality: Many who are new to entertaining don’t have the gear or the real estate to seat more than eight people comfortably. For an evening-long cocktail party, a mix of light and substantial hors d’oeuvres is a must, as is a tantalizing spread of hors d’oeuvre-size desserts from your favorite patisserie. All of the same presentation rules apply–I have several glass slabs from Pottery Barn that I top with small cookies, chocolates, candies, and gourmet marshmallows. If the savories hadn’t already won over your guests, this sweet gesture will make you look like a fabulous host.

Pecorino Fonduta with Lavender Honey

This dish is my answer to baked brie and it’s soooo easy to make! At home, I put this on the menu when my guest list includes people who don’t know each other. It makes a great conversation starter because this appetizer is one you share.

In my mother’s day, a woman had to know how to make a perfect fonduta before her potential mother-in-law would agree to let her son marry. The trick is knowing when to remove it from the heat. There’s no guesswork here. Just be sure to ask the cheese seller for a young pecorino; if it’s more than 3 years old, it won’t melt properly. (See photo page 1.)


YOU’LL NEED: ovenproof dish tongs

8 ounces young pecorino cheese (aged no more than 3 years), cut into few sprigs for garnish small dice

3 tablespoons hazelnuts, toasted (page 49) and chopped

1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves plus a few sprigs for garnish

12 slices rustic Italian bread

1 teaspoon lavender or other artisanal honey

Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper


COMBINE THE CHEESE, nuts, red-pepper flakes, and thyme leaves in a large bowl. Transfer to a 2-cup ovenproof dish and bake until the fonduta is golden brown on the top and the cheese is fully melted.

MEANWHILE, USING TONGS, “grill” the bread slices on both sides over a gas flame or by placing the bread directly on the coils of an electric burner, taking care not to let them char.

PLACE THE WARM CHEESE DISH on a cutting board, drizzle with the honey, season with the salt and pepper, and garnish with the thyme sprigs. Surround with the grilled bread and serve.

Bagna Cauda

Everyone loves this dip–it’s chic and understated. And don’t be afraid of anchovies; they mellow in the hot oil and butter and make the dish. It’s as elegant as a dip gets (far preferable to leaden mayo-or sour cream-based versions) and ridiculously easy to make. For the vegetables, avoid any precut ones. They might save you time, but they’re more expensive and less fresh. Check out your farmer’s market for unusual vegetable varieties. And rather than piling the vegetables on a large platter, I arrange them in low cylindrical glass vases from the florist or beautiful little bowls. It’s a simple way to add a touch of glamour.


YOU’LL NEED: butter warmer

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

6 garlic doved, finely chopped

1 tablespoon anchovy paste or

3 anchovy fillets

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 £ds fresh veggies (such as radishes, fennel chunks, endive spears, and real baby carrots)

MELT THE OLIVE OIL AND BUTTER in a small saucepan over medium heat.

ADD THE GARLIC and cook for 2 minutes, or until softened. Add the anchovy paste, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 5 minutes (using a fork to mash the anchovy fillets, if using, into a paste). Add the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste and cook a few minutes more. Pour into an earthenware pot or flameproof casserole. Set the pot over a butter warmer or tea candle to keep warm.

arrange the vegetables in individual containers set on a tray around the bagna cauda and serve.

donatella clicks

I like my butter warmers more than almost anything in my kitchen. Having one on hand is perfect for keeping the bagna cauda warm throughout the cocktail hour. They’re great for fondue, chocolate dipping sauce, or any warm dessert sauce. The online catalog sells perfect white ceramic butter warmers. It also sells hundreds of things you absolutely don’t need but will want.

Baked Buffalo Ricotta

If you’re not already BFFs with the guy or girl behind the cheese counter, this dish should be the start of a lifelong friendship. I say this because it’s essential that you use high-quality fresh ricotta (preferably buffalo ricotta; if you can’t get it, go for sheep’s milk ricotta)–not the kind you get in a tub at the supermarket. It’s the principal ingredient in this dish, so it has to be the best.

I first tasted buffalo ricotta in Naples, my father’s birthplace, on a visit to Rita De Rosa, a well-known Neapolitan cook. I loved that she baked the ricotta in humble foil–and each time she made it she put different ingredients in the packet. Tomatoes, olives, fresh oregano, basil–whatever she had on hand was fair game. To this day, I make it in foil and serve it that way, too, to raves.


Extra-virgin olive oil

8 ounces fresh buffalo or sheep’s milk ricotta

4-5 cherry tomatoes, halved lengthwise

Fresh oregano leaves

Fleur de sel and freshly ground black pepper

8-12 slices rustic Italian bread


DRIZZLE A BIT OF OLIVE OIL onto the center of an 8″ x 11″ sheet of foil and spread it all over with your fingers. Spoon the ricotta onto the center, spreading it into a small square. Arrange the cherry tomatoes on top, followed by the oregano. Season with the salt and pepper. Oil a second 8″ x 11″ sheet of foil and place over the ricotta. Fold the foil into a packet, leaving about a 1/4″ border around the cheese. Remember, you’ll be serving directly from the packet, so neatness counts. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until piping hot throughout.

MEANWHILE, USING TONGS, “grill” the bread slices on both sides over a gas flame or by placing the bread directly on the coils of an electric burner, taking care not to let them char.

TO SERVE, USE THE TIP OF A KNIFE to cut an “X” into the top of the packet and fold back the points to reveal the cheese. Place on a wooden cutting board and serve with the grilled bread.

donatella clicks

If your cheesemonger or Italian specialty shop doesn’t carry fresh ricotta, beg him to begin, or order it online at

Mixed Italian Salumi with Artisanal Jams

Salumi is a general term for Italian cured meats, primarily pork, but occasionally made with beef as well. Buy the best-quality salumi available and present it beautifully (I prefer a cool slab of rough-edged marble to the ubiquitous rustic cutting board), keeping in mind balance, proportions, and flavors. Three to five varieties will do–at least one each of sweet, hot, and mild salumi. I always include prosciutto, since it’s universally beloved, but rather than go for the expected prosciutto di Parma, I prefer the more delicate prosciutto di San Daniele. Decant the jams in pretty little bowls with serving spoons and, if anyone is bold enough to ask, say that you made them.


4 ounces each finocchiona, sopressata, and/or chorizo

3-4 ounces prosciutto, Mortadella, coppa, Serrano, and/or bresaola

2 or 3 assorted flavors artisanal jams and/or chutneys

ARRANGE THE SAUSAGES on a large slab of marble or a decorative cutting board and cut a few thin slices, on the diagonal, from each one. Place a small sharp knife next to each. Intersperse the small bowls of jam among the sausages, each with a demitasse or small serving spoon, and serve.

Sauteed Spicy Cracked Olives



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1. Preheat oven to 250°F. Place bread in a single layer in a jelly-roll pan.

2. Bake at 250°F for 1 hour or until dried out, stirring occasionally. Cool completely (about 20 minutes). Transfer to a large bowl. Increase oven temperature to 350°F.

3. Meanwhile, remove and discard root ends and dark green tops of leeks. Cut in half lengthwise, and rinse thoroughly under cold running water to remove grit and sand. Drain; thinly slice.

4. Melt ½ cup of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add leeks and celery, and cook, stirring occasionally, 12 minutes or until softened and golden brown. Add to bread.

5. Melt remaining ½ cup butter in skillet over medium-high heat. Add all mushrooms, ¾ teaspoon of the kosher salt, and ½ teaspoon of the pepper. Sauté 10 minutes or until golden brown. Stir in sherry; cook 1 minute or until almost completely evaporated.

6. Add mushroom mixture, parsley, next 3 ingredients, and remaining ¾ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper to bread mixture. Toss until blended.

7. Whisk together broth and eggs. Pour over bread mixture; toss gently until blended. Let stand 10 minutes, stirring once (for bread to absorb liquid). Spoon into a greased 13- x 9-inch baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil.

8. Bake at 350°F for 40 minutes; uncover and bake 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

Tuscan Kale with Crispy Garlic and Pancetta


HANDS-ON 25 minutes TOTAL 25 minutes

Colors of red and green will make you think “Christmas” as soon as this dish hits the table.

4 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, cut into thin strips

2 tablespoons olive oil

6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

4 (½-pound) bunches Tuscan (lacinato) kale, stemmed and cut into bite-size pieces

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1. Cook pancetta in hot oil in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat 8 minutes or until pancetta is crisp. Transfer pancetta to a paper towel-lined plate, using a slotted spoon, reserving drippings in Dutch oven.

2. Increase heat to medium, and add garlic to hot drippings; cook 3 minutes or until browned (do not burn). Transfer to a second paper towel-lined plate, using a slotted spoon.

3. Increase heat to medium-high, and add kale to Dutch oven. Cook, tossing with tongs, until coated with oil. Cover and cook, tossing occasionally, 3 minutes or until wilted and tender. Add vinegar, and remove from heat. Stir in lemon zest, and season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Top with crispy pancetta and garlic, and serve immediately.

Cranberry-Juniper Chutney

MAKES about 4 cups

HANDS-ON 10 minutes TOTAL 3 hours, 40 minutes

Tart, woodsy, yet bright, this chutney is the poster child for ease and elegance. Make up to 1 week ahead and bring to room temperature before serving with Herb-Citrus Sweet Tea-Brined Turkey with Caramelized Onion and Fennel Gravy.

2 (12-ounce) bags fresh or frozen cranberries (about 5 cups)

¾ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

¼ cup fresh orange juice

6 juniper berries, crushed

1 garlic clove, minced

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1. Combine all ingredients in a 3½- to 5-quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW 3½ to 4 hours or until cranberries have burst and sauce has thickened slightly.

2. Cool completely (about 1 hour). Store in an airtight container in refrigerator up to 1 week. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Note: If you use frozen cranberries, rinse and drain them before placing in the slow cooker.

Herb-Citrus Sweet Tea-Brined Turkey with Caramelized Onion and Fennel Gravy

SERVES 6 to 8

HANDS-ON 1 hour, 40 minutes TOTAL 7 hours, 20 minutes, plus 24 hours for brining

Gone are the days of dry, flavorless turkey breasts and rubbery skin. With the succulently tender meat and unbelievably crispy skin, you won’t want to make turkey any other way again. If your turkey is frozen, begin thawing in the refrigerator 2 to 3 days in advance.


¾ cup kosher salt

1 gallon brewed sweet tea

¼ cup black peppercorns

3 tablespoons fennel seeds, crushed

3 tablespoons coriander seeds, crushed

10 garlic cloves, smashed

3 bay leaves

1 (12- to 14-pound) whole turkey

1 large fennel bulb, trimmed and cut into 1-inch wedges

1 large Vidalia onion, cut into 1-inch wedges

3 fresh thyme sprigs

2 fresh oregano sprigs

Kitchen string

Herb-citrus Butter:

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano

2½ teaspoons lemon zest

2½ teaspoons orange zest

2 teaspoons ground coriander

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Caramelized Onion and Fennel Gravy:

1 medium parsnip, cut into 1-inch pieces

3 celery ribs with leaves, cut into 1-inch pieces

½ cup gin

1 (32-ounce) container chicken broth

1. Prepare Turkey: Bring first 7 ingredients and 1 gallon water to a boil in a large stock pot. Let cool to room temperature (about 1 hour). Remove giblets and neck from turkey. Place turkey and brine in a very large food-safe container, and weight with plates, if necessary, to keep turkey submerged. Chill 24 hours.

2. Preheat oven to 325°F. Remove turkey from brine, and pat dry. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour.

3. Meanwhile, prepare Herb-Citrus Butter: Stir together butter and next 5 ingredients. Melt half of butter mixture in a small saucepan over low heat.

4. Stir mustard into remaining half of butter mixture, and spread underneath skin of turkey thighs, breasts, and legs.

5. Place fennel, onion, thyme, oregano, and ½ cup water in a single layer in a large roasting pan. Place turkey, breast side up, on a lightly greased roasting rack, and place on top of vegetables in pan. Tie ends of turkey legs together with string; tuck wingtips under.

6. Bake at 325°F for 3 hours and 15 minutes to 4 hours or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion of thigh registers 165°F, basting every 30 minutes with pan juices and melted herb butter. Shield with aluminum foil after 1½ hours to prevent excessive browning, if necessary.

7. Remove turkey from oven, and let stand 30 minutes. Transfer turkey to a serving platter. Pour pan drippings through a wire-mesh strainer into a bowl. Discard all solids except fennel and onion. (Do not wipe pan clean.)

8. Prepare Caramelized Onion and Fennel Gravy: Place parsnip and celery in roasting pan. Cook over medium heat 8 minutes or until a deep golden brown. Add fennel and onion; cook 2 minutes or until beginning to brown. Remove from heat, and stir in gin, scraping bottom of pan to loosen browned bits.

9. Return to heat, and cook 1 minute or until liquid has almost evaporated. Add broth, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until slightly thickened.

10. Process gravy in a blender or food processor until pureed. Return to skillet, and stir in reserved pan drippings. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve with turkey.

Bittersweet Chocolate-Chestnut Torte


HANDS-ON 20 minutes TOTAL 2 hours, 40 minutes, including cream

Look for high-quality French sweetened chestnut puree at specialty markets and online. You’ll need 1 (17.6-ounce) can to prepare the torte and the accompanying cream.

Parchment paper

4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate baking bar, chopped

½ cup unsalted butter, softened

½ cup sugar

5 large eggs, separated

1 cup sweetened chestnut puree

¼ cup all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon table salt

Chestnut Bourbon Cream

Chocolate shavings

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan; line bottom with parchment paper, and grease parchment. Dust lightly with 1 tablespoon of the cocoa.

2. Microwave bittersweet chocolate in a small microwave-safe bowl at HIGH 1 minute or until melted, stirring after 30 seconds. Let cool 5 minutes.

3. Beat butter and ¼ cup of the sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating until blended. Gradually beat in chestnut puree and melted chocolate until well blended. Combine flour, remaining 3 tablespoons cocoa, and salt; gradually add to butter mixture, beating just until blended.

4. Beat egg whites at high speed with an electric mixer until foamy. Gradually add remaining ¼ cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Fold one-fourth of egg whites into chocolate mixture; gently fold in remaining egg whites. Pour into prepared pan, and smooth top of batter.

5. Bake at 350°F for 40 to 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack (about 1½ hours). Run a sharp knife or offset spatula around sides of pan. Remove sides of pan. Transfer torte to a serving platter; top with Chestnut Bourbon Cream and chocolate shavings.

Note: We tested with Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bar.

Chestnut Bourbon Cream

MAKES about 2½ cups

HANDS-ON 5 minutes TOTAL 5 minutes

1 cup heavy cream

⅓ cup sweetened chestnut puree

1 tablespoon bourbon

Beat together all ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until well blended; beat at high speed until soft peaks form.

Note: We tested with Roland Chestnut Cream for sweetened chestnut puree.

Fresh Idea

For a true taste of the South, seek out chocolate for your recipes from one of the Southern chocolatiers popping up around the region, such as French Broad in North Carolina, Olive & Sinclair in Tennessee, or Paul Thomas Chocolates in Georgia.

Hanging of the Green Brunch

Symbols of eternity and everlasting promise because of their changeless nature, evergreens are an enduring part of the Christmas tradition. Mark the beginning of the season decorating with family and friends then sharing a midmorning meal.

The Menu












The Holly and the Ivy

Gather natural materials from the yard to mix with flower shop finds and deck the house inside and out. Look beyond pine, fir, and holly for evergreen materials that will add uncommon interest to an array of arrangements. A porch bed swing gets dressed for the holidays with pillows, a cozy throw, and garlands of conifer boughs, boxwood, and ribbon. Winterberry and cypress add color and texture to the lamppost, while seeded eucalyptus and brunia fill out wreaths on the garden gate. Pinecones, fruit, seeds, and berries make lovely accents for holiday packages.

Holiday Cheer

A spray of Christmas-red tulips and cluster of amaryllis beckon guests to the bar.

Spicy Bloody Marys

SERVES 4 to 6

HANDS-ON 10 minutes TOTAL 10 minutes

Bloody Marys are a classic brunch favorite. Make these easy by setting up your bar with homemade Bloody Mary mix and premium vodka so guests can mix their own. We suggest using Zing Zang Bloody Mary mix for the best results.

Stir together 1 (32-ounce) bottle Bloody Mary mix, juice and zest of 1 lime, 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, and ¼ teaspoon celery salt in a large pitcher. Serve over ice with a shot of premium vodka in tall glasses with an assortment of garnishes (such as pickled green beans, celery sticks, olives, and whole pickled okra).

Ginger Mangomosas


HANDS-ON 5 minutes TOTAL 5 minutes

Try this twist on the traditional mimosa featuring spicy ginger and sweet, rich mango flavors cut with your favorite bottle of bubbly. If you want a sweeter drink, use Moscato instead of Champagne.

Stir together 4 cups orange-mango juice and 4 tablespoons ginger juice in a large pitcher. Place small pieces of crystallized ginger in 6 Champagne flutes, and fill each with equal amounts of sparkling wine (or Champagne) and juice mixture.

Note: We tested with Naked brand orange-mango juice and Ginger People ginger juice.

Silver Bells

Potted trees, moss, pomegranates, pears, and garden clippings create a holiday wonderland. Candles and silvery accents add elegant sparkle to a room ready for a season of entertaining.

Winter Citrus Salad


HANDS-ON 20 minutes TOTAL 20 minutes

The fresh, bright flavors of winter citrus temper fennel’s sweetness and marry beautifully with the peppery bite of arugula and radishes. You can make the vinaigrette and slice the radishes, fennel, and grapefruit up to 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.

8 medium radishes, trimmed

1 medium-size fennel bulb, halved and cored

2 Ruby Red grapefruit

2 tablespoons minced shallots

1 tablespoon chopped fennel fronds

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon honey

½ teaspoon kosher salt

⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ cup olive oil

1 (5-ounce) package baby arugula

1. Cut radishes and fennel into very thin slices (about ⅛-inch thick), using a mandoline. Place in a medium bowl.

2. Grate zest from 1 grapefruit to equal 1 teaspoon. Cut peel and pith from both grapefruits; cut crosswise into ¼-inch slices.

3. Whisk together grapefruit zest, shallots, and next 6 ingredients in a small bowl. Gradually add oil, whisking constantly until blended.

4. Toss arugula with 3 tablespoons dressing; place on a large serving platter. Toss fennel mixture with 2 tablespoons dressing; place on top of arugula. Arrange grapefruit slices around arugula; drizzle with additional dressing. Serve immediately.

Holiday Helper

A mandoline makes the paper-thin slices of radishes and fennel here, but it is also a great tool to use with an array of vegetables for holiday canapés and garnishes. It makes prep fast, easy, and the finished results chef-quality.

Lemon-Rosemary Drop Biscuits

MAKES 14 biscuits

HANDS-ON 10 minutes TOTAL 25 minutes

Bright lemon and rosemary complement the richness of these classic drop biscuits and pair well with a number of toppings, such as sweet, creamy butter or raspberry preserves. Give them as a gift with little crocks of the savory-sweet Salted Brown Sugar Butter.

3½ cups self-rising soft-wheat flour

2¼ teaspoons baking powder

3 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

½ cup cold butter, cut into pieces

1 cup cold buttermilk

½ cup cold heavy cream

1 teaspoon lemon zest

Parchment paper

1 tablespoon butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 500°F. Whisk together flour, baking powder, 2 tablespoons of the sugar, and rosemary in a large bowl. Cut in cold butter with a pastry blender or fork until mixture forms a coarse meal.

2. Whisk together buttermilk, cream, and lemon zest; add to flour mixture, and stir with a fork just until dry ingredients are moistened.

3. Drop dough by ¼ cupfuls 2 inches apart onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets; brush with melted butter, and sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar.

4. Bake at 500ºF for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Note: We tested with White Lily self-rising wheat flour.

Salted Brown Sugar Butter

MAKES 1 (6-inch) log

HANDS-ON 5 minutes TOTAL 2 hours, 5 minutes

You will find endless dishes in which to use this butter, from topping cooked carrots and roasted root vegetables to slathering on dinner rolls and muffins.

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

¼ cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon flaky sea salt

1. Beat butter and brown sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer 3 minutes or until light and creamy; fold in sea salt.

2. Place mixture on a large piece of plastic wrap. Bring 1 side of plastic wrap over mixture. Hold down other end of plastic wrap. Place flat edge of a baking sheet or other sturdy, flat object next to butter on plastic wrap. Using your other hand, hold end of baking sheet, and push bottom of baking sheet away from you into base of butter mixture, forming a 6- x 2-inch log. Chill 2 hours or until firm.

Smoked Grits


HANDS-ON 20 minutes TOTAL 1 hour, 10 minutes

Smoky-flavored, creamy grits are a fantastic way to delight your guests at brunch. The smoking process is much easier than you might think. Simply use your stove to impart rich flavor into plain grits, making them a seemingly luxurious ingredient.

1 cup hickory wood chips

1 cup uncooked stone-ground grits

2 cups milk

1½ teaspoons kosher salt

1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Parmesan cheese

¼ cup butter

1. Pierce 10 holes in bottom of a 13- x 9-inch disposable aluminum pan. Arrange wood chips over holes. Place grits on opposite side of pan.

2. Place pan on stovetop burner with holes over burner; heat burner to medium-high until wood chips begin to smoke. Reduce heat to medium; cover pan with aluminum foil, and seal tightly. Cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat, and uncover; set foil aside.

3. Remove wood chips, using tongs, and place on foil to cool. Transfer smoked grits to a bowl. (Be careful to not include any wood fragments.)

4. Bring 3½ cups water, milk, and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Gradually whisk in grits. Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring often, 50 minutes or until thickened and tender. Stir in cheese and butter until melted. Serve immediately.

Note: You can also use regular (not stone-ground) grits for this recipe; just reduce the water to 2 cups. We tested with McEwen & Sons stone ground grits.


You can make the Sausage and Roasted Tomato Ragoût 1 to 2 days ahead through Step 3.

Sausage and Roasted Tomato Ragoût


HANDS-ON 30 minutes TOTAL 55 minutes

Roasting tomatoes and shallots brings out their natural sweetness and amplifies the savory aspects of them as well. To save yourself some valuable time, make this mixture a day or two ahead of time, and store in a container in the refrigerator, as the flavors will deepen over a few days.

2 pints cherry tomatoes

6 shallots, cut into ¼-inch slices (about 2 cups)

2 large fresh thyme sprigs

¼ cup olive oil

1 pound smoked hickory sausage, cut into ¼-inch slices

1 cup diced sweet onion

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1½ cups chicken broth

¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1. Preheat oven to 400ºF. Place first 4 ingredients in a medium bowl; season generously with salt and pepper to taste, and toss to coat. Pour onto a jelly-roll pan, and spread in an even layer.

2. Bake at 400°F for 25 to 30 minutes or until tomatoes are very tender and most of liquid has thickened. Remove from oven, and cool slightly.

3. Discard thyme sprigs, and transfer tomato mixture to a medium bowl, scraping oil and browned bits from pan into bowl.

4. Cook sausage in a large skillet over medium-high heat 6 minutes or until browned. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate, reserving 2 tablespoons drippings in skillet.

5. Add onion and chopped thyme to hot drippings, and sauté 4 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle with flour, and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Add broth, stirring to loosen browned bits from bottom of skillet. Cook until mixture thickens. Stir in sausage, tomato mixture, and any accumulated juices from tomatoes. Reduce heat to low, and simmer 5 minutes. Season with table salt and pepper to taste. Stir in parsley.

Note: We tested with Conecuh Original Smoked Sausage.

Baked Eggs in Garlic-Creamed Kale



Individual portions of baked eggs in a ramekin of creamy roasted garlic and baby kale are easy to make ahead and pop in the oven the


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