The holiday season has arrived, with all of its glitter, musical soundtracks and traditional favorite family dishes. Love it or dread it, you’re probably going to host—or be invited to—many festive gatherings this month. Whether creating holiday menus of your own or contributing to potlucks and parties at the homes of friends, why not escape from the same old cheesy artichoke dip or pastry-wrapped brie and try some fresh, new recipes this year?
Here are a few ideas for starting your holidays—and your parties—off on a healthy, lighter note. And there’s not a carrot stick in sight.
1. Individual endive leaves make perfect vehicles for a variety of fillings—think about them as mini individual salads in their own edible cup and then let your imagination run wild. Beets and toasted hazelnuts with blue cheese, tiny cubes of parmesan cheese tossed with walnuts, celery and aioli or a farro salad studded with toasted pecans, dried cherries, lemon and olive oil. Depending upon the fillings you choose, endive spears are also an easy way to make sure you have a gluten-free, dairy-free or vegan appetizer option on the table.
2. Like endive spears, firm polenta can be a vehicle for a variety of toppings. Just cook polenta according to package directions and then pour into a shallow pan and refrigerate until firm. Once firm, polenta can be cut into squares or circles, warmed in the oven, and then topped with wild mushrooms sautéed with fresh thyme or braised leeks or even your favorite slow-cooked pork or beef brisket. See a recipe here.
3. Instead of slaving away in the kitchen making individual appetizers, set up a bruschetta bar with a variety of toppings and let your guests build their own little open-faced sandwiches. Bruschetta can be much more than tomato and basil. Put out bowls of braised chickpeas tossed in an anchovy vinaigrette, garlicky ribbons of kale drizzled with good olive oil, or oil-packed tuna tossed with olives, capers and spicy preserved peppers. Serve the toppings with lightly toasted bread—just slice a crusty baguette on the diagonal, drizzle with olive oil and toast in a hot oven until golden. See a recipe here.
4. Forego the usual tray of crudités, and try a twist on this classic with a platter of roasted vegetables—fingerling potatoes, broccoli, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, delicata squash. Choose from a variety of winter vegetables, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and then roast in a 450 degree oven until caramelized. These are delicious hot or at room temperature, served on their own or with something to dip them in.
5. And speaking of dips, there are limitless opportunities to create new and interesting dips and spreads for crackers, bread or vegetables. Try blending roasted eggplant with garlic and olive oil, mashing beets with lemon juice, roasted shallots and olive oil, or creating a creamy sweet potato spread by blending smashed sweet potatoes with roasted garlic, olive oil and herbs. Here's a recipe for an eggplant dip.
Happy Holidays! We hope you're sharing this holiday with the people who nourish you through and through.