By Barbara Beltrami
This year, come Dec. 24, there is a holiday dinner most likely waiting some place in the wings for most of us. With all the past month’s hustle and bustle and preparation, we will finally don our finest or perhaps our most comfortable and sit down to a delicious dinner with family and friends.
When I think of a holiday dinner, I think of savory aromas wafting through the house and I always think of a roast and my uncle carving it in the kitchen while we kids snatched the small pieces that fell to the side of the carving board. I think of the first course that was always tomato juice, celery and olives. Then, borne on a platter came the aforementioned roast, the gravy straight from the roasting pan, the standard roasted potatoes and boiled vegetables. It was elegant and special, but in retrospect, it wasn’t very good!. Dessert? I honestly don’t remember.
Many years later here at my table there is still the obligatory roast. But we start with something like stuffed artichokes and go on to perhaps a potato rosti (a large plate-size potato pancake) and roasted root vegetables with lots of herbs and onions. And dessert is a delving into the bounty of holiday cookies accompanied by a homemade sorbet.
No matter what or when your celebration, I wish you a very happy holiday.
YIELD: Serves 8
8 large artichokes, washed, trimmed and stems removed, ½ inch of bottoms sliced off so chokes can stand upright
4 cups unseasoned bread crumbs
2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
4 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice of half a lemon
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
DIRECTIONS: Pry the artichoke leaves apart just enough so that you can stuff in between them. Combine the bread crumbs, cheese, parsley, garlic, oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Stuff bread crumb mixture in between leaves. Stand the stuffed artichokes in a large heavy saucepan and carefully pour in enough water to come halfway up the artichokes. Cover and simmer at least an hour until chokes are completely soft. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.
YIELD: Serves 8
2 pounds potatoes, peeled, washed and grated (use large holes of grater)
1 medium onion, grated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 to 3 tablespoons butter or extra virgin olive oil
DIRECTIONS: Mix the grated potatoes, onion and salt and pepper. Let stand a few minutes. Do not worry about discoloration. Drain and squeeze excess liquid from mixture. In a large nonstick skillet (8 to 9 inches), heat butter or oil. Add potatoes and with back of large spoon, spread mixture to sides of pan so it completely covers bottom. Tuck in any stray shreds so they don’t burn. Cook over medium heat until bottom is golden brown and potatoes on top are opaque, about 10 minutes. Turn off heat.
Slide the rosti onto a large plate; cover with another upside down large plate and flip so that bottom plate is on top. Gently slide rosti back into skillet with golden side up and cook over low-medium heat until bottom is golden, about 6 to 8 minutes. Test center to be sure it’s cooked through and potatoes are soft. Slide onto serving plate and serve hot or warm.
Roasted Root Vegetables
YIELD: Serves 6 to 8
½ pound beets
½ pound rutabaga
½ pound butternut squash
½ pound carrots
½ pound parsnips
½ pound turnips
2 medium red onions
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
Course salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 400 F. Peel and remove stems or seeds, wash and cut vegetables into 2-inch chunks. In a glass or ceramic baking dish, toss together the vegetables, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, herbs, salt and pepper until everything is evenly coated. Bake, turning vegetables occasionally with spatula, until they are tender inside and slightly crisp on the outside, for 45 minutes to one hour. Adjust seasoning, if necessary. Note: Vegetable amounts can be varied and need not be exact. For instance, if you like beets but don’t like rutabagas, adjust amounts accordingly.