I’m always searching around for foods that symbolize good luck in the coming year as New Years approaches. I’ve covered a number them on Recipes for Health – favorites like my delicious salad made with black eyed peas in a cumin vinaigrette. This year I had a lot of fun playing around with ring-shaped pastries. The rings symbolize the year’s coming full circle, and also eternity. Donuts come to mind, but that doesn’t quite fit the Recipes for Health profile. I made wonderful 100 percent whole wheat bagels and a couple of delicious, moist Bundt cakes, one with poppy seeds and lemon and the other with walnuts and dried apricots. I also made two of my favorite Mediterranean snacks, sesame-covered rings popular in Greece, Turkey and Egypt called simit, and taralli, small, hard twice-baked ring-A Southern Italian ring-shaped snacks flavored with pepper or fennel, and fragrant with olive oil. They are irresistible, and I made so many that I am bound to have a productive New Year. I hope all of you do as well.
My 16-year old son Liam came home from boarding school for holidays last week, and he appears to be more hungry than usual – which was already pretty hungry. Unlike most of us, he tells me he is trying to put on weight – muscle, that is. He’s spending a lot of time at the gym and it shows. Love having somebody around the house to do the heavy lifting!
I meanwhile am trying to keep up with feeding Liam and his friends. This week I’ve devoted Recipes for Health to do-ahead casseroles – a couple of lasagnas, a couple of Provençal style gratins (three green, winter squash), and a wonderful Macaroni and Cheese made with terrific whole wheat noodles from MagNoodles, with an olive oil-based béchamel and some broccoli thrown into the mix. I tested the recipes a few weeks ago and froze them. They are coming in very handy this week as I am so busy getting ahead on Christmas, going to parties, and testing recipes for upcoming Recipes for Health. Of course, they go more quickly when the eaters are 16 year old boys just home from the basketball court; luckily I’m also working on hearty soups, coming soon….
One of the perks of testing 5 new recipes every week for Recipes for Health is that I can freeze those dishes that freeze well and pull them out when I need them, for hungry boys home from school for Thanksgiving, for a quick dinner for myself, for a dinner party or for Thanksgiving itself.
I did just that last week for the Thanksgiving dinner I go to every year. A few weeks earlier I had made a delicious salmon spread – Salmon Rillettes – made with steamed fresh and smoked salmon, coming up next week on Recipes for Health as one of 5 different recipes for fish rillettes. It was so good, and there was a lot of it, so I decided to freeze it right away and bring it as an appetizer for Thanksgiving dinner. The spread was a great hit, and did not suffer in the least for being frozen.
Rillettes is a rustic French pâté that is traditionally made by cooking pork belly or shoulder slowly in abundant fat, allowing it to cool in the fat, then raking the mixture into a spreadable paste. Other meats – game and rabbit primarily – are also made into rillettes, and lately I’ve been seeing seafood rillettes on lots of menus in Paris and New York. Fish rillettes don’t require the quantity of fat that is needed for meat rillettes. The fat is stirred into the cooked or smoked fish, and you can substitute Greek yogurt for ingredients like butter or crème fraîche if you want to reduce fats and calories. I worked with smoked trout and salmon, smoked sardines and tuna, and couldn’t resist crabmeat as well, as it breaks down so nicely. You can serve the rillettes with bread or crackers, but also as a delicious accompaniment to lentils, or on top of endive leaves or inside mini peppers or cherry tomatoes. If you want to get ahead on healthy hors d’oeuvres for your Christmas parties, these will fit the bill. Recipes will be posted on Recipes for Health the week of December 22.
Martha Rose Shulman
Welcome to my blog, where I’ll keep you up to date on what I’ve been up to in my kitchen as I test recipes for my Recipes for Health feature on the New York Times; what I’ll be up to with my online classes at Craftsy and my actual classes at other cooking schools; my new books and latest publications; and any other upcoming appearances and events.
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