Time is of the essence during the holiday season. Whether you're hosting a party or just cooking for your family, chances are you have a million things to do and very little time to do it. Here are some quick dishes that will impress guests, taste delicious and add some color to your spread.
1. Tomato Mozzarella Basil Toothpicks - If someone says they don't like the combination of tomato, mozzarella and basil, they're lying. It's a fact, this combination is welcomed at all times. Putting the ingredients on the toothpick makes it easy to eat and adds a touch of sophistication.
2. Pretzel M&M Treats - With only three ingredients - m&m's, hershey kisses, pretzels - and only a few minutes in the oven, these are extremely cheap and easy to make. And there's just something about that salty/sweet combination makes them insanely addicting. Recipe here.
3. Soufflés - Don't worry, I'm not telling you to make a soufflé from scratch, we'll leave that to the experts. Lucky for us, many of the Whole Foods in the Boston area carry Chef Yves' Souffles - frozen pre-made souffles that come in five different sweet and savory varieties. Just pop 'em in oven.
4. Prosciutto Wrapped Anything - Think of it as a modern take on a holiday ham. Melon, cheese, asparagus, it all works. Just head over to any specialty food store (South End Formaggio and American Provisions are personal favorites) and pick up their thin cut Prosciutto di Parma.
5. Homemade Salsa - salsa is a crowd pleaser at any time of the year, and it looks festive too! I recently discovered The Pioneer Woman's recipe for Restaurant Style Salsa and I make it at least once a week. Soula's Salsa is another great option if you don't have time to cook!
Every year around this time the same thing happens to me, between Thanksgiving and Christmas I find myself eating so many heavy foods and sweets so often, that I start to crave something lighter and healthier. (Last year I turned to Halibut for a holiday detox soluation.) Usually when you get used to eating heavier foods (thanks to all those holiday parties and Christmas cookies) eating a light salad hardly fills you up at all. That's where the beets come in. They add substance to the salad, simultaneously filling you up and working wonders for your digestive system.
I used Montasio cheese because that's what I had in the fridge. Montasio was great because it has this earthy / grassy flavor that paired well with both the arugula and the beets. However, you can use any cheese you like, this recipe is simple enough to replace it with Parmigiano, Pecorino, or even soft goat cheese.
Roasted Beet and Arugula Salad
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wash the beets thoroughly, leaving the skins on, remove the greens.
2. Toss the beets with 2 tbsp of the olive oil and place in baking dish. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until you can easily insert and remove a fork.
3. Once beets cool down, remove the skin from the beets and dice.
4. Combine diced beets with arugula, salt, pepper, cheese, oil and vinegar. You can use any vinaigrette that you like here - but I like to keep it simple with just oil and vinegar.
Between Cinquecento, Estelle's and BoMA it's hard to keep up with the restaurant openings in the South End these days. The first to open of this bunch was BoMa, which took over the old Pho Republique space on Washington St.
The menu concept is American small plates, which my initial judgement didn't deem too exciting, but after trying a few dishes I was pleasantly surprised--everything was well-prepared, perfectly-portioned and easy to share. The dishes were filling but light enough so we didn't leave feeling too full. They put a huge emphasis on seasonal and local ingredients so everything was really fresh as well.
Here are some highlights from a dinner at BoMA:
BoMA is a very promising addition to the South End. Even though we loved all the dishes we tried, we didn't have as much success with the cocktails. If you go, I recommend going for a beer or glass of wine.
1415 Washington St
As a self-proclaimed lover of all things cheese, the cheese selection at Eastern Standard has always been a favorite of mine. The restaurant recently updated it's offerings after hosting a cheese competition where the staff sampled over 40 varieties of cheese before narrowing down their absolute favorites.
Cheeses came from all over the world and were ranked based on qualities like aroma, flavor, visual appearance and texture. In the end, the team was able to narrow it down to the top five, which can be all yours for the tasting for just $25 at Eastern Standard.
(listed in order from left to right)
1. Brebis Haut-Bearn from France (Pyrenees-Atlantique). It's a semi-firm cheese made from raw sheep's milk. You'll find hints of herbs, hay, sweet nuts and cream. Scoop up some for yourself at Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge.
2. Twig Farms in West Cornwall, Vermont puts out some of the best goat's milk cheese in the United States, which is where this semi-soft goats milk cheese is from. Known as the "Square" this cheese is aged for 80 days, and formed in a tied cloth that gives it it's square shape, and ultimately it's name. With a flavor profile highlighted by hints of sesame seed, grass and toasted bread, it's no wonder the modest farm is so well known.
3. The Marieke Gouda from Holland's Family Farm in Thorp, Wisconsin is a raw cows milk cheese. Made in traditional Dutch farmhouse style, the farm imports all it's equipment, cultures, herbs and spices from Holland. This style of Gouda, which is classically referred to as "boerenkaas" is firm and offers up flavors of caramel and nut.
4. The Taleggio D.O.P. from Lobardy, Italy is pretty much to die for. Pasteurized cow's milk and a washed rind lend itself to this Italian classic's soft milky interior and earthy exterior.
5. Cambozola Black Label straight out of Allgau, Germany. It's a bloomy rind creamy blue cheese that's all sorts of spicy, savory, buttery and delicious! Made with pasteurized cow/s milk, half the fun is eating the rind off this brie-style blue cheese.
*Note - If you're throwing together a cheeseboard for any holiday event you'd be a fool not to take this information into consideration.
About the authors
Michelle Zippelli is a Boston based hedonist who is committed to finding the best food that Boston has to offer. She has lived in Boston for 6 years and works in online marketing. Michelle loves meatballs, live music, exotic cheeses, Mexican food, spur of the moment dance parties, and all things pickled.
Jacki Morisi is a self-proclaimed bon vivant extraordinaire. A Boston native whose waking hours are exclusively focused on travel, music, food, and fare ... emphasis on food and fare. She's a firm believer that just because you're living on a young professional's budget doesn't mean you have to sacrifice taste, and carries this mantra into each and every dining endeavor.