During the holidays, all the food blogs and websites feature recipes and ideas that are "festive," and special enough for gatherings and parties. Immediately following New Year's Eve, they all switch back to healthy, easy dishes designed to help people adhere to their resolutions.
Why does there have to be such a significant divide? New Year's is just another day, and there's plenty of food that's not overly indulgent yet still worthy of a holiday celebration. For my New Year's Eve menu, I also wanted to make sure that everything could sit out for a few hours without sacrificing taste and sanitation.
I should have gone to River City Cellars for my olives and cheese, but I was short on time and needed to go to Trader Joe's and Whole Foods for a few other items. The Whole Foods olive bar is extensive, and they have a wide variety of cheeses to choose from. I got a baby swiss, a Spanish cheese similar to Manchego, and drunken goat, along with a mix of olives (pictures courtesy of Shannon Lentz).
Our Christmas ham, purchased in Central Pennsylvania, was eighteen and a half pounds, so we had plenty of leftovers to use for ham biscuits. I got potato rolls, sliced the ham, and assembled several sandwiches (half with mustard and half without).
Most of the recipes I made were past successes, but one was brand new. I'm consistently drawn to Ina Garten's recipes, but they're often too decadent for every day meals. Her Orzo with Roasted Vegetables appealed to me as a hearty, vegetarian option. I omitted the eggplant - big surprise, I know - and doubled the amount of peppers and orzo. I could tell by looking at the amounts that there would be too much of the dressing if I doubled it, so I used three lemons and about 1/2 cup of olive oil.
Ina called for 3/4 pounds feta, which would have been 1 1/2 pounds doubled, so I bought the full amount but only used a pound. No one would have tasted anything besides feta if I'd added all of it. The roasted peppers and onions softened the tangy flavors of lemon and cheese, and the pine nuts gave every bite the perfect crunch. This dish, which is a type of pasta salad, would be appropriate at any time of the year and for a wide range of events.
Jezebel Sauce, one of my mom's favorite party recipes, also made an appearance on my New Year's Eve table. The version I made has just five ingredients, which are combined in a food processer.
1/3 cup prepared horseradish
1/4 cup dry mustard
10 oz. apple jelly
10 oz. pineapple preserves
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
It's a spicy and sweet dip served over a cooling block of cream cheese, and if you like horseradish, it's very hard to ignore.
This White Bean Dip is always one of the first things I think of for a party because it's easy to put together and is fun to eat. Another popular finger food is zucchini bites stuffed with mozzarella, which are breaded and baked, not fried, so they're moderately good for you. If you live in Richmond I've probably made them for you before, but feel free to ask for the recipe.
Some of the the ham went into Baked Chicken Meatballs, which are unexpectedly flavorful. Mine aren't as pretty as the ones pictured on Smitten Kitchen, but I imagine they taste just as savory and hearty.
Normally my favorite part of a meal is dessert, and I love baking, but I decided to take advantage of the occasion and get a chocolate layer cake from Costco. It may not be healthy, but I couldn't not have something sweet. After all, we were celebrating. Happy 2011!