SMOKED SALMON “PIZZA”
Makes 8 large pieces or 35 2-inch hors d’oeuvres
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for pan
Flour, for the work surface
1 pound pizza dough, homemade or store-bought, at room temperature
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces creme fraiche
3 tablespoons white horseradish
½ bunch chives, finely chopped (about 3 tablespoons)
½ pound smoked salmon, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon pink peppercorns, crushed
Sprigs from 8 dill branches
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place a rack in the lower third of the oven. Oil an 11-by-17-inch flat baking sheet. Alternately, the underside of a rimmed half sheet pan works well. Dust a clean work surface with flour, and using a rolling pin, roll out the pizza dough into an 11-by-17-inch rectangle, about ¼ inch thick. If it pulls back on itself too much, cover and allow it to rest 5 minutes before rolling again.
Transfer the dough to the prepared pan. Pierce the dough all over with a fork. Brush the top with 1 tablespoon of oil and sprinkle lightly with salt. Bake the crust 8 to 10 minutes for a softer, chewier texture or 10 to 15 minutes for a crispier crust (it will shrink as it bakes). Check after a few minutes. If the crust is bubbling, pierce the dough again and press down on it with the back of a metal spatula. Continue cooking to desired texture. Remove from oven and cool completely.
Place the creme fraiche in a medium bowl. Strain the horseradish, pressing the solids with a spoon to remove as much liquid as possible (discard the liquid). Fold in the horseradish, 1 tablespoon of the chives, and salt and black pepper to taste. Place the baked dough on a cutting board and spread the creme fraiche mixture on top. Cover with salmon slices, then garnish with remaining chives, pink peppercorns, and dill branches. With a sharp knife, cut into 8 large pieces or into 35 2-inch squares for hors d’oeuvres. The pizza can be assembled up to 2 hours before serving.
MAKE-AHEAD TIP: The pizza crust can be baked a day ahead and the creme fraiche mixture can be combined and stored a day ahead, too. Just before serving, top with the creme fraiche mixture, salmon, herbs, and peppercorns.
NUTTY, GARLICKY BRUSSELS SPROUTS
2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed
1½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup toasted pecan pieces
¼ cup dried cranberries
To a large pot of boiling salted water over medium-high heat, add the Brussels sprouts and return to a boil. Parboil 4 to 5 minutes until the centers are just tender (check by quartering one). Remove from heat, drain, and shock the Brussels sprouts in a cold water or ice bath. Once cooled, quarter all the sprouts lengthwise.
To a large saute pan over medium-high heat, add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the drained sprouts and season with 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste, and pepper to taste, then heat through, about 2 minutes. Add the vinegar, the pecans, and the cranberries and cook an additional minute. Serve immediately or at room temperature.
MAKE-AHEAD TIP: You can parboil and quarter the Brussels sprouts a day or 2 ahead, then finish the dish quickly when needed.
REHEATING TIP: Make the recipe, but don’t add the pecans and cranberries. Store in the refrigerator in a large covered microwave-safe container. Just before serving, microwave the covered Brussels sprouts for 1-minute intervals, stirring in between to ensure even reheating. Add the pecans and cranberries and toss to combine.
COUSCOUS WITH DRIED FRUIT
1 cup apple cider, plus more as needed
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup diced mixed dried fruit (prune, apricot, raisin, cherry, cranberry, etc.)
1¼ cups low-sodium chicken broth or water, plus a little extra if needed
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups whole wheat couscous
½ cup toasted sliced almonds
In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring the apple cider and cinnamon stick to a simmer. Remove from heat and add the dried fruit, then cover and steep for 15 minutes. Strain the fruit over a 2-cup heatproof measuring cup, reserving the fruit in a large bowl. Remove the cinnamon stick. Add enough stock or water to the measuring cup to bring the liquid to 2 cups, then add it back to the pan. Add the butter and 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat. Remove from heat, stir in couscous, and cover the pot. After 5 minutes, fluff couscous with 2 dinner forks. Transfer the couscous into the bowl with the rehydrated fruit and add the toasted almonds. If the couscous seems a little dry, add a few tablespoons of apple cider. Serve immediately or at room temperature.
REHEATING TIP: Make a day or several hours in advance, storing the cooked couscous in a covered microwave-safe dish. Just before serving, use the cover or seal the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and microwave for 1-minute intervals, stopping, stirring, and re-covering, until the couscous is warmed through. Add a tablespoon or 2 of apple cider if it seems dry. Re-fluff before serving.
CRAN-ROSE MERRY SPARKLER
1 2/3 cups sugar
13 8-inch rosemary branches
12 ounces (1 bag or 3 cups) fresh cranberries, picked through and rinsed
2 cups cranberry vodka, chilled
¾ cup lime juice (about 5 limes), chilled
8 cups ice cubes
3 cups sparkling water, chilled
1 750-milliliter bottle Prosecco, chilled
In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring 1 2/3 cups water to a boil. Add the sugar, stirring to dissolve, and bring to a simmer, about 1½ minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add 5 of the rosemary sprigs to the syrup. Simmer an additional 2 minutes (or longer for a more pronounced rosemary taste). Remove from heat and cool to room temperature (about 25 minutes), leaving the rosemary to steep in the syrup. Strain the rosemary from the syrup and store the syrup in the refrigerator until needed (yields about 2 cups).
Place the cranberries in a gallon-size sealable bag, leaving a very small gap in the seal. Place on a cutting board and pound with a meat tenderizer to muddle the cranberries, breaking the berries open. In a large bowl, combine the cranberries, vodka, lime juice, rosemary syrup, and ice. Gently stir several times, then strain through a sieve, pressing gently on the cubes and cranberries using the bottom of a bowl.
Stir in the sparkling water and Prosecco. Transfer to a large pitcher and serve in large martini glasses, garnishing each with a rosemary branch.
MAKE-AHEAD TIP: Make the syrup any time the week before. Juice the limes and muddle the cranberries a day or 2 ahead. Before the event, combine the muddled cranberries, vodka, lime juice, and syrup. At the event, ice the cranberry mixture, strain, combine with the sparkling water and Prosecco, then serve.
CRANBERRY TIP: Don’t want to throw out perfectly good cranberries? Add the strained cranberries and ice cubes in a saucepan with 1 cup sugar, and cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until slightly thickened, for an aromatic cranberry-rosemary relish. It can be stored for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator in a sealed container.
BABY SPINACH AND TRUFFLE CHEESE SALAD
1½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
10 ounces button mushrooms, wiped clean and cut into ¼-inch slices (about 3½ cups)
1 large red onion, diced
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 garlic cloves,
minced or grated
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon truffle oil
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
10 ounces baby spinach, washed and spun dry
6 ounces sheep’s milk truffle cheese (like Pecorino Tartufello or Cacio di Bosco al Tartufo), diced into ¼-inch pieces
In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. Add the mushrooms and cook, turning occasionally, until they are golden brown, about 3 minutes. Add the onion and cook an additional 3 minutes. Season with about ¾ teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes.
In a bottle with a tight-fitting lid, combine the garlic, truffle oil, vinegar, and a pinch of salt. Vigorously shake until the mixture is emulsified.
Place the spinach and the truffle cheese in a large serving bowl. Add the mushroom mixture to the salad, season with salt and pepper to taste, and dress with vinaigrette. Serve immediately.
MAKE-AHEAD TIP: Cook the mushrooms and onions a day ahead and make the vinaigrette. Refrigerate both overnight. Combine all the salad ingredients in their serving bowl and keep the vinaigrette in its mixing bottle. Right before serving, season the salad with salt and pepper to taste, shake the vinaigrette, then coat the salad with dressing to taste.
TRUFFLE OIL TIP: Not all truffle oils are created equal. Brands go from “wow” to “where’s the truffle?” Test yours by smelling and tasting; if it is so strong it will overwhelm the salad, cut it with olive oil to make the vinaigrette. With a “wow,” you may only need 1 tablespoon of truffle oil, using olive oil for the remainder. With a “where’s the truffle?” oil, the full amount or half truffle oil and half olive oil will work.
SPICED CHOCOLATE FONDUE
Makes about 2 cups
½ pound good-quality dark chocolate, chopped
1½ cups heavy cream, plus more for thinning
2 cinnamon sticks
1 to 2 tablespoons sugar, optional
1 quart strawberries
1 bunch just-ripe bananas
1 10-ounce poundcake, bought or homemade
½ tablespoon vanilla extract, or any liqueur
Taste a small piece of the chocolate and determine if you will need to use the optional sugar to sweeten the fondue. Place the chocolate in a large bowl and reserve. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the heavy cream, cinnamon sticks, and sugar, if using, and bring to a simmer, about 9 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook the mixture an additional 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, wash and hull the strawberries. Cut the bananas into ½-inch slices. Cube the poundcake in ¾-inch pieces. Pour the cream mixture through a sieve over the chocolate in the bowl, then whisk to combine. Add the vanilla and a pinch of salt. If the fondue seems a little thick, thin with 1 to 3 tablespoons of cream. Transfer the chocolate mixture to a fondue pot and serve with the skewers, fruit, and poundcake.
CHOCOLATE TIP: Chocolate morsels melt differently from pure chocolate, due to emulsifiers. If you are using morsels, you may need another ¼ to ½ cup cream to thin the fondue to the right consistency. It should be fluid, but not runny.
MAKE-AHEAD TIP: Make the fondue a day or 2 ahead, then cover and store in the refrigerator. Just before serving, uncover and warm the fondue in the microwave using 20-second bursts. Stir between each burst until it is warm and liquefied, but not bubbling.
SERVING TIP: If you don’t have a fondue pot or small crockpot, transfer the chocolate into a microwave-safe bowl and warm as directed above. Place the bowl on a towel-lined heating pad on a medium setting. Stir occasionally.
SHERRY-STEEPED FRUIT WITH VANILLA BEANICE CREAM
1 750-milliliter bottle cream (sweet) sherry
4 cups diced mixed dried fruit (prune, apricot, golden raisin, cranberry)
Zest and juice of 1 medium lemon
1½ quarts vanilla bean ice cream
Reserve ½ cup sherry. In a large pot over medium-high heat, bring the remaining sherry to a simmer. Add the fruit and ¼ teaspoon salt, reduce the heat to medium-low, and return the mixture to a simmer for about 8 minutes, or until the fruit is plump.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely. Gently stir in the remaining sherry, the zest, and the lemon juice. To serve, scoop a generous ½ cup of ice cream into a bowl and top with about ½ cup of the sherried fruits.
MAKE-AHEAD TIP: The fruit can be cooked up to two weeks in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It will solidify somewhat, with the fruit absorbing the extra liquid. Transfer to a bowl and loosen with a few tablespoons of water or sherry, then serve as above.Denise Drower Swidey is a frequent Globe Magazine contributor. Send comments to email@example.com.