Well, thus far we’ve made it past the first day of winter, through Christmas, and are now heading toward that final countdown on New Year’s Eve. As usual, I’m unable to understand where it all went so fast, but ‘twas ever thus.
By the time you’re reading this, you’ve no doubt made your New Year’s resolutions list, and are, of course, resolved to keep them all. Sure, and if you look out the window, you’ll see a pig flying by. Personally, my primary resolution is only to get up every morning and keep moving. Other than that, I’ll just keep doing what needs to be done and enjoy friends and family as much and as often as possible.
Frankly, I’m not sad to see the end of 2014; the year held a few unpleasant surprises, a couple of which I’m still dealing with, so as far as I’m concerned, 2015 will be a clean slate and a fresh start. Not that I’m a Polyanna who thinks it’s all going to a bed of roses (after all, roses have a lot of thorns), but putting the unpleasant stuff behind and making an effort to begin 2015 in the company of people I love and planning our ongoing get-togethers will be a good way to begin.
As you’ve no doubt guessed by now, if you are a regular reader of this column, any gathering in our house will also involve food; always food. It is the tie that binds, the glue that holds us together, and I can’t recall any event in all of my decades on this earth, that a gathering of friends and/or family has not also included a meal of some sort. Some may be hastily thrown together, others carefully planned weeks ahead, but there shall be food.
And, come to think of it, that’s as good a resolution for the New Year as any other I can come up with, so I hereby resolve that come what may, there shall be tasty, nutritious, interesting, plentiful food at all gatherings of two or more people in which I am involved.
Happy New Year to all our Record readers and, as we’re doing that countdown New Year’s Eve, let’s raise our glass of cheer in a toast to good health, good food, beloved family and good friends.
You probably have your own fat file of favorite holiday recipes, but I’ll share a couple of mine anyway. And since we’re talking party time, I can’t think of anything I’d love to see on my New Year’s Day party buffet table more than this Gorgonzola cheesecake, two of my favorite things combined.
SAVORY GORGONZOLA CHEESECAKE
¾ cup walnuts, toasted and ground
1/3 cup finely crushed zwieback
2 T. butter, melted (no substitutions, please)
1 carton (15 oz.) ricotta cheese
¼ cup milk
6 oz. (about 1 ½ cups) Gorgonzola cheese, finely crumbled
1 t. snipped fresh basil
1 t. finely snipped fresh rosemary
Rosemary sprigs, for garnish (optional)
For the crust: Combine the walnuts, crushed zwieback and melted butter. Press onto the bottom of an 8-inch springform pan.
For filling: In a bowl with an electric mixer on low to med. speed, beat together the ricotta cheese, eggs and milk just until combined. Add the Gorgonzola, basil and rosemary, beating at low speed just until nearly smooth.
Place springform pan in a shallow baking pan to catch any drips. Pour the filling into the pan and bake in a preheated 325 degree oven about 40 min., or until the center appears nearly set when gently shaken.
Remove from oven; cool for 15 min. on a wire rack, then loosen the crust from the sides of the pan and cool 30 min. more. Remove sides of pan, cover and refrigerate the cheesecake at least 3 hrs., or overnight (which makes this an excellent do-ahead appetizer). To serve, cut into wedges and if desired, garnish with fresh rosemary. Makes 20 servings (unless you cut the wedges too thick).
Note: Can be made ahead, wrapped in freezer wrap and frozen for up to 1 month. Thaw overnight in refrigerator before serving.
Here’s another very special party appetizer that you can make ahead, and this one is full of crab meat, which makes it outstanding.
CREAMY CRABBY BRIE DIP
½ cup diced onion
5 t. olive oil, divided (see instructions)
¼ cup dry white wine
¾ cup canned artichoke hearts, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream (c’mon; it’s a special holiday dish)
1 wheel (13 oz.) Brie cheese, rind removed, cubed
1 t. Dijon mustard
1 t. lemon juice
Minced zest of half a lemon
½ t. Worcestershire sauce
Cayenne pepper, to taste (don’t make it too hot)
2 T. minced fresh parsley
2 t. minced fresh tarragon (or 1 t. dried)
6-8 oz. lump crabmeat, drained (or fresh if you’re lucky enough to have it)
½ cup panko crumbs
Thinly sliced toasted baguette or crackers, to serve with the dip
Coat a 1 qt. baking dish with nonstick spray and preheat oven to 400 degrees. Saute onion in 3 t. of the olive oil over med.-high heat until soft, about 5 min. Deglaze the pan with wine, simmer until nearly evaporated, then stir in the artichokes and cream. Simmer 1 min., reduce heat to med.-low, add Brie in batches, stirring until melted and smooth.
Off heat, add Dijon, lemon juice and zest, Worchestershire, cayenne, parsley and tarragon.
Spread crabmeat in prepared baking dish; top with Brie mixture. Toss panko and remaining 2 t. oil together in a bowl, then sprinkle over the cheese. Bake until dip is bubbly and the topping is golden, about 15 min. Serve with the baguette slices or crackers of your choice.
Note: The dip can be assembled and chilled for up to 1 day before cooking and serving.