Traditions vary from culture to culture, but there are striking similarities in what’s consumed in different parts of the world for a new year. Whether you want to create a full menu of lucky foods or just supplement your meal, here are the lucky foods to include:
New Year’s revelers in Spain consume twelve grapes at midnight—one grape for each stroke of the clock. This dates back to 1909, when grape growers in the Alicante region of Spain initiated the practice to take care of a grape surplus. The idea stuck, spreading to Portugal, as well as former Spanish and Portuguese colonies in Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, Ecuador and Peru.
Cooked greens, including cabbage, collards, kale and chard, are consumed at New Year’s in different countries for a simple reason — their green leaves look like folded money and are symbolic of an economic fortune.
Legumes including beans, peas and lentils are also symbolic of money. Their small, seed like appearance resembles coins that swell when cooked so they are consumed with financial rewards in mind. In Italy, its customary to eat cotechino con lenticchie or sausages and green lentils, just after midnight. In the Southern United States, it’s traditional to eat black-eyed peas in a dish called hoppin’ john.
The custom of eating pork on New Year’s is based on the idea that pigs symbolize progress. The animal pushes forward, rooting itself in the ground before moving. Pork is also consumed in Italy and the United States, where thanks to its rich fat content, it signifies wealth and prosperity.
Cod has been a popular feast food since the Middle Ages because it could be preserved and transported, allowing it to reach the Mediterranean and even as far as North Africa and the Caribbean. The Danish eat boiled cod, while in Italy, baccalà or dried salt cod, is enjoyed from Christmas through New Year’s. Herring, another frequently preserved fish, is consumed at midnight in Poland and Germany. Germans also enjoy carp and have been known to place a few fish scales in their wallets for good luck. The Swedish New Year feast is usually a smorgasbord with a variety of fish dishes, such as seafood salad. In Japan, herring roe is consumed for fertility, shrimp for long life and dried sardines for a good harvest (sardines were once used to fertilize the rice fields).
Cakes and other baked goods are commonly served from Christmas to New Year’s around the world, with a special emphasis placed on round or ring-shaped sweets. Italy has chiacchiere, which are crispy fritters dusted with powdered sugar. Poland, Hungary and the Netherlands also eat donuts and Holland has ollie bollen, puffy, donut-like pastries filled with apples, raisins, and currants.
In certain cultures, it’s customary to hide a special trinket or coin inside the cake—the finder will be lucky in the new year. Mexico’s rosca de reyes is a ring-shaped cake decorated with candied fruit and baked with one or more surprises inside. Sweden and Norway have similar rituals in which they hide a whole almond in rice pudding—whoever gets the nut is guaranteed great fortune in the new year.
Make your New Year’s Day dinner lucky with these recipes.
Salt Cod in Tomato Garlic Sauce
- 1 pound center-cut skinless boneless salt cod (bacala), rinsed well and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
- 8 large whole garlic cloves, peeled
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 (14-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, drained
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- 6 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
- 1 tablespoon water
Soak and poach cod:
Cover the cod pieces with 2 inches of cold water in a large bowl. Place in the refrigerator and soak, changing the water 3 times a day, up to 3 days (see note, below).
Drain the cod, transfer to a 3-quart saucepan and add 6 cups water. Bring just to a simmer and remove from the heat. (Cod will just begin to flake; do not boil or it will become tough.) Gently transfer cod with a slotted spatula to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain. Cover with a dampened paper towel and chill while making the sauce.
Cook whole garlic cloves in oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately low heat, turning occasionally until golden, 10 to 15 minutes. Add tomatoes and sugar and cook, stirring frequently, until tomatoes break down into a very thick sauce, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Mash thebgarlic cloves into the sauce and add salt and pepper to taste. Spread the sauce into a 3-quart gratin dish or other flameproof shallow baking dish and arrange fish over the sauce.
Preheat the broiler.
Whisk together the mayonnaise, crème fraîche and water and spread over each piece of fish. Place the dish under the broiler and broil the fish 5 to 6 inches from the heat just until the mayonnaise mixture is lightly browned, about 2 minutes.
Note: Brands of salt cod differ in their degree of saltiness: A less salty variety may need only 1 day of soaking, while another could require up to 3. To test it, simply taste a small piece after 1 day; you want it to be pleasantly salty but not overwhelming.
Sausage and Lentils with Fennel
- 1 cup dried lentils
- 4 1/2 cups cold water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 medium fennel bulb, stalks discarded, reserve fronds
- 3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 carrot, cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 1/4 pounds sweet Italian sausage links
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar, or to taste
- Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
Bring lentils, water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a 2-quart heavy saucepan, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until lentils are just tender but not falling apart, 12 to 15 minutes.
While lentils simmer, cut fennel bulb into 1/4-inch dice and chop enough fennel fronds to measure 2 tablespoons. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a 3 to 4 quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then stir in onion, carrot, fennel bulb, fennel seeds and remaining teaspoon salt. Cover pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very tender, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, lightly prick sausages in a couple of places with tip of a sharp knife, then cook sausages in remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until golden brown and cooked through, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board.
Drain the cooked lentils in a sieve set over a bowl and reserve the cooking water. Stir lentils into vegetables with enough cooking water to moisten (1/4 to 1/2 cup) and cook over moderate heat until heated through. Stir in parsley, pepper, 1 tablespoon vinegar and 1 tablespoon fennel fronds. Season with additional vinegar and salt, if needed.
Cut sausages diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Serve lentils topped with sausage slices and sprinkled with remaining fennel fronds. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil.
Creamy Winter Greens
- 1/4 stick unsalted butter, divided
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 tablespoons minced shallot
- 1 bay leaf
- 6 black peppercorns
- 3 1/2 pounds mixed winter greens such as collards, mustard greens and kale
- 6 ounces slab bacon, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices, then cut crosswise into 1/4-inch sticks
- 1 cup finely chopped onion
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon cider vinegar, or to taste
Make béchamel sauce:
Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat, then add flour and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add milk in a stream, whisking, then add shallot, bay leaf and peppercorns and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Simmer for 5 minutes, whisking occasionally. Strain béchamel sauce through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, discarding solids and cover the surface with plastic wrap.
Discard stems and center ribs from the greens, then coarsely chop leaves.
Cook bacon in a wide 6 to 8 quart heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden-brown but not crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain, then pour off the fat from the pot and wipe clean.
Heat remaining 2 tablespoons butter in the pot over medium-low heat until browned and fragrant, about 2 minutes, add onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes.
Increase heat to medium-high, then stir in greens, 1 handful at a time, letting each handful wilt before adding more. Add béchamel sauce, garlic, red-pepper flakes, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook, uncovered, stirring, until sauce coats greens and the greens are tender, about 10 minutes.
Stir in bacon, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.
Almond Good Luck Cake
The person who finds the whole almond inside the cake will have good luck during the upcoming year.
- 1/2 cup chopped almonds
- 1 tablespoon plus 2-1/3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
- 1/3 cup butter, softened
- 1/3 cup shortening
- 1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
- 3 eggs, separated
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 whole almond
- 1/2 cup apricot preserves
- 1 tablespoon orange juice
Heat the oven to 350°F. Combine the chopped almonds and 1 tablespoon flour; sprinkle into a well-greased 10-inch fluted tube pan. Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream the butter, shortening and 1 cup of the sugar. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in lemon juice, peel and extracts.
Combine the baking powder, salt, baking soda and remaining flour; add to the creamed mixture alternately with milk.
In a small bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Beat in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until stiff. Fold the egg whites into the batter.
Pour into prepared pan. Insert whole almond into batter.
Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing the cake from the pan to a wire rack.
For the glaze:
Melt preserves in the microwave or saucepan and stir in orange juice; drizzle over warm cake. Yield: 12 servings.
Treat family and friends to homemade candy this holiday season with these recipes adapted from King Arthur Christmas Candy recipes.
Cranberry Nut Chocolate Bark
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 3/4 cup toasted diced pecans
- 2 2/3 cups chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
- 2 2/3 cups chopped white chocolate
Mix the cranberries and pecans together. Set them aside.
Melt the dark chocolate and spread it into an 8″ x 12″ oval on parchment paper placed on a baking sheet.
Allow the chocolate to set, but not harden completely.
Melt the white chocolate and mix it with 3/4 cup of the cranberries and pecans.
Spread this over the dark chocolate.
Sprinkle the rest of the nuts and fruit on top, pressing them in gently.
Allow the candy to cool until hardened; then break it into chunks.
Dark Chocolate Buttercrunch
- 1 cup (2 sticks, 1/2 pound) butter*
- 1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar
- 3 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
- 2 cups (8 ounces) diced pecans or slivered almonds, toasted
- 1 pound semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped or chocolate chips, (you’ll need about 2 2/3 cups)
*If you use unsalted butter, add 1/2 teaspoon salt to the mixture.
In a large, deep saucepan melt the butter. Stir in the sugar, water and corn syrup and bring the mixture to a boil. Boil gently, over medium heat, until the mixture reaches the hard-crack stage (300°F on an instant-read or candy thermometer).
The syrup will bubble without seeming to change much for a while, but be patient; all of a sudden it will darken and at that point you need to take the temperature and see if it’s ready. (If you don’t have a thermometer, test a dollop in ice water; it should immediately harden to a brittleness sufficient that you’ll be able to snap it in two, without any bending or softness). This whole process should take about 10 to 12 minutes.
Do not leave the mixture unattended – too long on the heat and the syrup will burn.
While the sugar mixture is gently bubbling, spread half of the nuts in a closely packed, even single layer, on a lightly greased baking sheet (a half sheet pan works well here). Top with half the chocolate.
When the syrup is ready, pour it quickly and evenly over the nuts and chocolate. Immediately top with the remaining chocolate, then the remaining nuts. Wait several minutes, then using the back of a spatula, gently press down on the chocolate-nut layer to spread the chocolate around evenly.
While the candy is still slightly warm, use a spatula to loosen it from the baking sheet and move to a piece of parchment paper on the counter top. When cool, break it into uneven chunks. Yield: about 24 big bite-sized pieces.
- 8 teaspoons (2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) vanilla extract
- 2 cups (1 pound) unsalted butter
- 4 cups (1 quart) half & half
- 2 cups light corn syrup
- 4 cups granulated sugar
- 2 cups light brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- Coarse flake sea salt for topping, optional
Butter two 8″ x 8″ or 10 1/2″ x 6 1/2″ pans.
Measure the vanilla into a small container and set it aside for later.
Cut the butter into 1″ chunks, to help it melt faster.
Combine the cut-up butter, half & half, corn syrup, sugars and salt in a heavy-bottomed, 5- to 6-quart saucepan.
Heat the mixture over medium-low heat until everything has melted, stirring constantly. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan.
Cook slowly, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 248°F, or until a small amount dropped in cold water forms a firm ball.
Remove the pan from the heat and carefully stir in the vanilla; the mixture will bubble and boil.
Quickly pour the caramel into the prepared pans. Don’t scrape any of the residue from the bottom of the pot onto the pans.
Wait 30 minutes, then sprinkle with coarse-flake sea salt, if desired. Cover the candy securely, and refrigerate.
Allow the candy to warm up a bit or it’ll shatter when you bang the pan. Remove the candy from the pan by loosening its edges with a knife or offset spatula and banging the pan on a cutting board until the slab releases from the pan.
Cut the caramel into squares and wrap in waxed paper. Store in the refrigerator for the longest shelf life. Wrapped caramels can also be frozen. Yield: about 10 dozen 1″ caramels.
- 1 1/4 cups skinned hazelnuts
- 1 1/4 cups whole blanched almonds
- 3 cups candied mixed peel (or a mixture of candied orange peel and candied lemon peel)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2/3 cup honey
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Confectioners’ sugar, for topping
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Line an 8″ round cake pan with parchment (or foil) and grease the parchment. Set the pan aside.
Toast the hazelnuts and almonds for 20 minutes, until they’re a light golden brown on separate baking pans. It’s best to do this in separate pans as the nuts toast at slightly different rates and you may want to take one pan out of the oven before the other. Remove the nuts from the oven and set them aside to cool. When you can handle them, chop them coarsely.
Put the nuts, candied peel, spices, salt and flour in a mixing bowl. Stir to combine.
Combine the sugar, honey and butter in a saucepan and place an instant-read or candy thermometer on the side of the pan. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently, until it reaches a temperature of about 245°F. This happens very quickly, so don’t walk away; it should take about 2 minutes (or less) from the time the syrup starts to boil.
Immediately pour the boiling syrup over the fruit and nuts in the bowl. Stir to combine and pour into the prepared cake pan, smoothing the top with a spatula. You need to work fast, as the mixture will start to stiffen up. Place the cake pan on a baking sheet.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes; it won’t seem firm, but will set as it cools. Remove the pan from the oven and after 45 minutes loosen the edges with a table knife or heat-proof spatula. Turn the warm panforte out of the pan onto a piece of parchment or foil. The bottom is now the top.
Sprinkle the top of the panforte heavily with confectioners’ sugar, gently rubbing it in, if desired. Let it cool completely before wrapping airtight.
Store the panforte, at room temperature, for up to 2 months. To serve this rich cake, cut it in thin wedges.
Yield: about 20 servings.
To make chocolate panforte:
Add 2 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa to the nuts/peel/flour mixture. Melt 1/2 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips; stir them into the nuts/peel/flour mixture along with the honey syrup. Bake as directed in the recipe above.
- 1 cup heavy cream, divided
- 1 tablespoon espresso powder
- 2 tablespoons corn syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups chopped white chocolate
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened baking cocoa
- 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
- Wooden sticks or stir sticks
Line an 8 x 8 pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil and spray lightly with non-stick baking spray.
Place 1/2 cup cream in a medium saucepan. Add the espresso powder, corn syrup, salt and sugar. Stir over medium heat until the espresso powder and sugar are dissolved and the mixture begins to boil.
Cover the pan and let boil for 3 minutes. Uncover the pan and check the temperature; it should be 235°F to 240°F (soft ball stage). If it is, remove from the heat; otherwise let it boil for a minute or two more.
Once the mixture reaches 235°F to 240°F, add the vanilla. Be careful; it will splash and splutter when it hits the hot liquid. Set the mixture aside for about 10 minutes to cool.
Meanwhile, place the remaining 1/2 cup cream into another saucepan. Heat until it’s just beginning to steam.
Remove from the heat and add the white chocolate. Let sit for about 5 minutes to melt. Then whisk vigorously until the mixture is shiny and smooth.
Add the sugar mixture to the chocolate mixture; stir to combine.
Combine the cocoa and ½ teaspoon espresso; sprinkle the chocolate with half the mixture. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, to set.
Turn the chocolate out of the pan and flip it over; sprinkle with the remaining cocoa/espresso powder blend.
Cut into 1 inch cubes. Stack two or three on a wooden stick and wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap to store.
Yield about 64 blocks, 21 servings.
Christmas is by far the most important holiday of the year in Italy—the festivities lasting from December 24th through January 6th. Family gatherings are the most important part of Natale. This is the time of year when families reunite from whatever corners of the world they may have scattered and, it is around the table or a tavola, that Italian families come together. As we all know, these holidays can sometimes be anything but serene; nonetheless, Natale allows parents and children, siblings and in-laws, friends and sweethearts—and sometimes a grandfather (nonno) or grandmother (nonna), or an old beloved aunt (zia)—the opportunity to see one another after long separations, spending significant time together over festive food and drink.
Natale is one of the few occasions of the year in which family traditions are revered above all else; skills, memories and team work all come together to create very elaborate banquets and fabulous dishes. What will be eaten during the festa is a kind of ritual; very often each single course is prepared in the same way it has been for generations. Days are spent in the kitchen—everyone pitching in—with lots of long, languorous hours between meals, spent relaxing and digesting and chatting—the long-awaited family conversations punctuated by the sound of walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts being cracked open and the shells tossed into the fireplace.
The first course is often preceded by a classic antipasto with slices of cured meat, garnished with olives, cheese and, of course, hearty bread.
- 2 cans (28 oz. each) Italian tomatoes
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
- 1/4 cup dry red wine
- 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon dried basil, crushed
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano, crushed
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1 pound ground beef or Italian sausage, cooked and drained
- 4 cups Ricotta Cheese
- 1 1/2 cups shredded Parmesan Cheese, divided
- 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
- 1/2 pound lasagna noodles, cooked and drained
- 3 cups shredded Mozzarella Cheese
For Classic Tomato Sauce:
Drain tomatoes, reserve juice. Finely chop the tomatoes and set aside. In a large saucepan, cook carrot and onion in olive oil until tender. Add garlic; cook 1 minute. Add reserved juice, tomatoes, tomato paste, red wine, parsley, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
In a medium bowl, combine tomato sauce and cooked beef or sausage.
In a separate medium bowl, combine Ricotta cheese, 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese and parsley.
Pour 3/4 cup tomato mixture in the bottom of 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Layer one-third of the noodles, half the Ricotta mixture, one-third of the remaining tomato sauce and 1 cup Mozzarella cheese in the baking pan. Repeat layers. Top with remaining noodles, tomato sauce and 1 cup Mozzarella and 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese.
Cover with foil and bake at 350°F for 50 minutes; uncover and bake 15 minutes more. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
Italian Roast Chicken with Potatoes
- 3 lbs chicken pieces
- 3/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
- 20 fresh sage leaves
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 12 cloves garlic
- 5 potatoes (1 ½ lb), peeled and quartered
- 1 cup dry white wine
Season chicken with 1/2 each of the salt and pepper; set aside. Finely chop 4 of the sage leaves; set aside.
In a large ovenproof skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat; saute garlic cloves and remaining whole sage leaves until garlic is lightly browned, 1 minute. With a slotted spoon, set sage aside for garnish. Remove garlic and set aside. Brown chicken, in batches, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
Add potatoes to the pan; sauté until browned, about 7 minutes. Pour off fat. Return chicken and any accumulated juices to the pan. Add wine, remaining salt and pepper, garlic cloves and chopped sage; bring to boil.
Place pan in the oven preheated to in 425°F (220°C) and roast, basting 2 or 3 times, until the sauce is thickened and juices run clear when chicken is pierced, about 30 minutes. Serve garnished with reserved fried sage leaves.
Italian Tossed Green Salad with Olive Oil Vinaigrette
For the Dough:
- 3 1/3 cups (400 g) flour
- 4 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon anise liqueur
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- The zest of half a lemon, grated
- The zest of half an orange, grated
- 1 pinch salt
For the struffoli:
- Olive oil for frying
- 3/4 pound (300 g) honey
- 3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- Colored sprinkles
- 4 candied cherries, halved
Combine the ingredients for the dough, knead it well and let rest for at least an hour, covered. It does take a while for the dough to absorb the eggs.
Pluck off a piece, roll it out under your fingers to form a snake about as thin as your pinkie and cut the dough into quarter-inch long pieces. Fry the pieces a few at a time in hot oil until brown and drain them on absorbent paper. Repeat with remaining dough.
In another pot, preferably round-bottomed, put the honey, sugar and water in it. Boil the mixture until the foam dies down and it begins to turn yellow. At this point reduce the heat as much as possible and add the struffoli. Stir to distribute everything evenly through the honey and turn the mixture out onto a plate. Using your fingers shape the mixture into a wreath with a hole in the middle or in a dome shape, dipping your hands frequently into cold water so you don’t burn yourself.
Sprinkle with colored sprinkles and arrange the cherry halves evenly. Struffoli will keep a week or more, if covered, and the dessert improves with age.
Mary’s Secret Ingredients is a limited edition culinary surprise box containing unique gourmet, artisanal ingredients along with small kitchen products.
Every season, a limited number of themed boxes are filled with innovative surprises to inspire your cooking and they are delivered right to your door.
I ordered two surpise boxes this past year and enjoyed creating recipes with the ingredients. I also liked the idea that the project supports Feed the Children. The video below shows you the contents of the winter box.
Not only will this box help to feed you and your family, but you will also be standing with us as a proud supporter of Feed The Children. No one should go hungry.
Get A Box and use the following promo code HOLIDAY20 which will give you 20% off on your purchase when you order.
Order now for $25.95
The value of the box will be at least $30.
Includes shipping in the Continental USA.
It makes a great gift!
Choose your seasonal box(es) and Mary will ship to your door!
There are four seasonal boxes available. Please choose your month(s) or choose all four!
Sponsored Post: THE ART OF CHEESE WITH CASTELLO AGED HAVARTI
Castello Aged Havarti is a creamy, finely textured cheese made from traditional methods dating back over 130 years, when Hanne Nielsen first made Havarti cheese. Castello Aged Havarti is allowed to mature for at least 12 months to encourage a unique and rich flavor. Castello Aged Havarti is the perfect cheese for your cheese board. The taste and flavor standout. As a snack, it is delicious with nuts, fruit and wine.
We are in the midst of the holiday season and I love this time of year with all the fun things there are to do. You only need a few really good ingredients to create festive and delicious holiday food. Go for a mix of shapes and colors and your guests will love how beautiful everything looks.
While overindulgence is often the hallmark of holiday celebrations, your guests will appreciate party food that is nourishing and healthful as well as appealing. I like to arrange an appetizer tray with a mix of foods that can meet different dietary choices: vegetarian, gluten-free, low-calorie, etc.
Whether you want to host a few friends or have a big, open-to-all affair, the best way to make sure your guests enjoy themselves is to enjoy the party yourself—a relaxed, unruffled host makes guests feel welcome and at ease. With this in mind, do a little preparation ahead of time.
At a recent get-together at my home, I arranged appetizer trays filled with Castello Aged Havarti Cheese cubes at room temperature, homemade crackers, Prosciutto di Parma wrapped pears, mixed green olives, Mission figs/roasted red peppers/Castello cheese kabobs and homemade cranberry sauce for topping Castello cheese squares. What remained after the party were just a few crackers – everything else – gone. I had many compliments on the food and my friends loved the Castello cheese and asked where they could buy it.
Here are my recipes for you to recreate for your next party. I guarantee they will be a big hit.
Sweet Potato Crackers
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
- 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 1 cup of sweet potato puree (from 1 cooked sweet potato)
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
Roast the sweet potato in a 400 degree F oven for about 45-50 minutes; then let it cool, remove the skin and purée using a hand blender until smooth. You will need 1 cup of sweet potato purée for this recipe; use any leftover potato for another use. Set the purée aside.
Place the flour, baking powder, rosemary, paprika and salt in the bowl of a processor. Pulse a few times to mix. Add the butter and pulse until is the size of small peas. Add the sweet potato puree and honey. Pulse until a dough forms.
Roll the dough into a ball and divide it into 4 pieces. For easier rolling, wrap each in plastic wrap and chill for a 1/2 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cut parchment paper to fit two jelly roll pans or cookie sheets. Use the paper to roll out the dough.
Roll the dough 1/4″ thick and cut into 2″ squares, using a pizza, pastry wheel, a bench knife or a plain knife. Prick each cracker with a fork.
Lift the parchment onto the baking sheet. Separate the crackers a bit, leaving about 1/4″ between them, so they crisp evenly. If you’re not using parchment, transfer the crackers to the baking sheet, leaving about 1/4″ between them.
Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough. You will need to bake a second batch after the first finishes baking.
Bake the crackers for 12 to 16 minutes, until their edges are starting to brown. Switch pans after 10 minutes.
Remove the pans from the oven and slide the parchment onto the kitchen counter. Repeat baking with the second batch of crackers.
Store cooled crackers in an airtight container or tightly wrapped in plastic.
Castello Aged Havarti Cheese/Mission Figs/Roasted Red Pepper Kabobs
- 7 oz block of Castello Aged Havarti Cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- Mission figs, cut in half
- Roasted Red Peppers, jarred, drained and cut into one inch cubes
Drain the peppers on paper towels. On each toothpick skewer one piece of cheese, one fig half and one piece of red pepper. Repeat until all the cheese cubes are used.
Arrange the kabobs on an attractive serving platter.
Prosciutto di Parma Wrapped Pears
- 2 pears, each cut into 8 wedges and cored
- 8 thin slices (4 oz.) prosciutto di parma, cut in half lengthwise
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
- Pinch of kosher salt
Wrap each pear wedge with a half slice of prosciutto and set on a serving plate. Combine the oil, vinegar and salt. Drizzle over the pears.
Gluten-Free Almond Poppy Seed Crackers
- 1 3/4 cups Almond Meal Flour (Bob’s Red Mill or King Arthur are brands I use)
- 2 egg whites
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Sea Salt
- 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
- Cracked pepper
- Dried Italian seasoning
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Cut parchment paper to fit two jelly roll pans or cookie sheets. Use the paper to roll out the dough.
Mix together the almond meal flour, olive oil and beaten egg whites. This will make a crumbly mix that shapes quickly into a ball.
Divide the dough into two pieces and shape each into a rough square.
Roll out one piece of dough at a time, keeping the piece you’re not working with covered to prevent drying.
Roll out on the parchment cut for the pan.
Roll the dough 1/4″ thick and cut into 2″ squares with a pizza, pastry wheel, a bench knife or a plain knife. Prick each cracker with a fork.
If you’ve rolled out the dough on parchment, simply lift the parchment onto the baking sheet. Separate the crackers a bit, leaving about 1/4″ between them, so they crisp evenly.
If you’re not using parchment, transfer the crackers to a baking sheet, leaving about 1/4″ between them.
Repeat with the remaining piece of dough.
Bake the crackers for 12 to 16 minutes, until their edges begin to brown. Switch pans after 10 minutes.
Remove them from the oven, cool right on the pan and then move to an airtight container to keep crisp and fresh.
Port Wine Cranberry Sauced Havarti
This appetizer is great with the Almond Crackers.
Makes about 1 3/4 cups
- 1 1/3 cups sugar
- 1 1/2 cups port wine
- 2 packages fresh cranberries
- 4 long strips orange zest
- 7 oz block of Castello Aged Havarti Cheese, room temperature
In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar and port wine and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves and the wine has reduced slightly, about 4 minutes.
Add the cranberries and the orange zest. Simmer until the cranberries soften and the sauce thickens, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat; remove and discard the zest.
Set aside to cool for a few several minutes. Place the cheese in an attractive serving dish and spoon the warm sauce over the cheese.
Recipes updated and reblogged from December 2013.
Italian Breakfast Sweet Bread
- 1 cup warm milk (70° to 80°)
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons butter, softened
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1 egg, for egg wash
- 1 tablespoon water
- Sugar for topping
Place the first seven ingredients in large mixer bowl with paddle attachment and mix until combined.
Switch to the dough hook and knead dough until smooth and elastic.
Turn dough onto a floured surface and divide in half. Shape each portion into a ball; flatten slightly.
Place each ball of dough in a greased 9-inch round baking pan. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.
Beat egg and water; brush over the dough and sprinkle lightly with sugar. Bake at 350°F for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool.
Yield: 2 loaves (16 slices each).
SCHIACCIATA CON ZIBIBBO (ITALIAN SWEET BREAD WITH RAISINS)
Double the ingredients to make two loaves and put one in the freezer.
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 1 cup warm (105 to 115 degree) water
- 1 cup raisins
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon grated orange peel
- 1 egg
- 3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour
Dissolve the yeast in warm water in a large bowl of an electric mixer with a paddle attachment. Stir in raisins, sugar, oil, orange peel, egg and enough flour to make a soft dough.
Switch to the dough hook and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Place in a greased bowl; turn greased side up. Cover; let rise in warm place until double, about 1 hour.
Punch down dough. Shape into a round, slightly flat loaf about 9 inches in diameter. Place on a greased cookie sheet. Cover; let rise 45 minutes.
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake until bread is golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from cookie sheet; cool on wire rack. 1 loaf.
Italian Braided Sweet Bread
- 2 teaspoons yeast
- 1/2 cup warm water ( 110 degrees F)
- 3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 egg
Mix yeast and warm water and let sit so that the yeast can react. The yeast should begin to foam.
Mix dry ingredients together.
In a small saucepan, heat milk, butter and egg. Be careful not to let the egg cook and become solid.
Mix yeast/water with dry ingredients in large bowl of the mixer with a paddle attachment. When thoroughly incorporated, mix in milk/egg mixture until a dough is formed.
Switch to the dough hook and knead dough, then cover and let rise about 20 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in size. (Times vary depending on warmth of environment.)
Punch down the dough and divide in half to make 2 smaller loaves. Divide each half into three equal pieces and braid the ropes together and tuck in the ends. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, cover and let double in size. Bake bread at 350 degrees F. for about 20 minutes.
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon dark rum
In a small saucepan, combine sugar and the water over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Continue cooking, without stirring, until mixture reaches a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook 5 minutes more. Remove pan from heat and stir in rum. Let cool to room temperature.
Brush all over bread as soon as it comes out of the oven. Let bread cool before slicing.
Rustic Raisin Walnut Bread
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 3/4 cup raisins
- 2 cups lukewarm water (105° to 115°)
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 1/2 – 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 cup walnut halves, coarsely chopped
In a large electric mixing bowl with the paddle attachment, stir together honey and 1/2 cup of the lukewarm water. Add yeast and stir to dissolve. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Stir in remaining 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water.
Stir in the whole wheat flour, 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour and salt. Mix until well combined. Keep adding the rest of the white flour until dough leaves the sides of the bowl.
Be sure not to add too much flour.
Switch to the dough hook and knead 5 to 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Lightly oil a large bowl. Place dough in the bowl and turn to coat. Cover with a damp cloth and set aside in warm place to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.
Place a piece of parchment paper on a large baking sheet. Preheat oven to 425°F.
Punch the dough down and place it on a floured board. Gently knead the raisins and walnuts into the dough. Shape (round, long, square,) into 1 large loaf and place on the prepared baking sheet.
Cover with damp cloth and let rise in a warm until almost doubled, about 30 minutes.
Using a spray bottle, spray loaf with water. Bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F and bake 30 minutes or until nicely browned. Cool on rack before slicing.
Ricotta Crumb Cake (Italian Breakfast Cake)
- 2/3 cup toasted almonds, ground
- 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 6 tablespoons cold butter
- 1 beaten egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
Directions for the Crust:
Mix the almonds, flour, baking powder and brown sugar in a bowl. Using a pastry blender cut in the cold butter with the dry ingredients. Pour the egg and vanilla over the butter mixture and toss together just until moistened. Spoon half of the crumb mixture into a 10 inch springform pan and set the other half aside.
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 2/3 cup slivered almonds
- 3 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
- 2 tablespoons rum
- 3/4 cup sugar
Directions for the Filling:
Put 1/3 cup sugar and the almonds in the processor and pulse 5 or 6 times to grind the almonds into small pieces. Do not ground too fine.
In a bowl mix together the ricotta, rum and 3/4 cup sugar until blended. Stir in almond/sugar mixture. Spoon ricotta mixture over crumb crust in the springform pan.
Spoon remaining crumb mixture over the ricotta filling and pat down to make top flat.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake for 45 minutes, Let cool and sprinkle top with powdered sugar.
Sweet Bread from Valtellina (Bisciola)
Makes 1 (8-inch) oval loaf
- 1 tablespoon grappa or rum
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup hazelnuts
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
- 1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
- 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup rye flour
- 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 egg, for egg wash
- 15 dried figs, stemmed and roughly chopped (3/4 cup)
- 3/4 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts, roughly chopped
Heat oven to 350º F with oven rack placed on the middle shelf. In a small bowl combine raisins, grappa or rum and water; set aside.
Spread hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake until fragrant and lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Let cool completely, then roughly chop.
In a small saucepan, heat milk over medium heat until just warm, then remove from the heat. Transfer warm milk to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; dissolve yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in the milk. Let mixture stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, start over with new yeast.)
In a medium bowl, whisk together remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, all-purpose flour, rye flour and salt. With mixer at medium-low speed, add half of the flour mixture to the yeast mixture. Mix until well blended, then add remaining flour mixture and butter. Reduce speed to low and mix 5 minutes more.
Drain raisins; discard liquid. Add raisins, hazelnuts, figs, walnuts and pine nuts to the dough; mix on low until just incorporated. Switch to the dough hook and knead dough to form a stiff, wet dough.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On prepared baking sheet, form dough into a 8-inch-long oval loaf. Cover loaf with a lightly dampened clean dishtowel and let rest, in a draft-free place, 2 hours.
Heat oven to 350º F. with oven rack in the middle.
Brush dough with beaten egg, then bake, rotating pan once halfway through, until bread is deep golden, about 30 minutes. Let bread cool completely on pan on wire rack.