Sunday, December 16, 2007

2007 Holiday Open House and Tree Trimming

Yesterday was our annual Holiday Open House, to which we added a tree trimming.

I'm too lazy to decorate my own tree. I'm just not into it this year... but now that it's up I like to put the lights on and just stare at it.

Because of the nor'easter predicted this weekend* we didn't have quite the turnout we expected. But that's okay--I understand the need to batten down the hatches and not wanting to be out when it hits. We had fun with those that were able to attend.
Every holiday I decorate my chandelier. I love dangly decorations that hang low over the table... it takes the place of a centerpiece, and looks so lovely. Even Thundercat thinks so. I can tell because she's climbed it twice. (I have yet to discover how well she likes the tree.) Here she is, forcefully declaring at the party that this is HER chair, no matter WHO puts their purse on it.

I served some Eggnog Punch that was a real Sandra Lee move on my part... I should be ashamed. But I'm not--I'll tell you why I did it. We have a local dairy chain called Byrne Dairy that makes THE BEST eggnog you've ever tasted. To die for. Anyway, it's almost $5 for a two-quart container. That's too high for me to fill a whole punchbowl. Add to that a bit of a raw-egg phobia and that I didn't want to go to the trouble of making a custard then mixing it in... too much work. So instead, I got a two-quart container of eggnog and mixed it with two gallons of vanilla ice cream, some half-and-half to thin it, and added freshly ground nutmeg to the top. It was fabulous--the eggnog flavor was carried by the ice cream, which kept everything nice and cold.

Here is the complete menu:

Coffee, Tea, Eggnog (cheer available on the side)

Caponata with Farmgirl Susan’s Beyond Easy Beer Bread**

Store-Bought Oatmeal Cookies with Hot Apple Pie Filling Spread

Fresh Fruit

Cheese and Salami Tray

Mrs.W’s Cheese Ball

Assorted Crackers

Assorted Cookies and Fudge

Caribbean Jerk Meatballs

Pigs in Blankets with BBQ Sauce

Curried Pumpkin Samosas

For today I’ll give you my recipe for Caponata. It is just so delicious as a spread, but also great over pasta all by itself. Moreso, it’s full of veggie goodness, and a perfect way to sneak veg into your life or the lives of your picky loved ones. I like to use dollops of it in my pasta sauces or anything with an Italian flavor.


1 large eggplant, roughly chopped
1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
1 large red bell pepper, roughly chopped
Olive oil
2 tablespoons tomato or spaghetti sauce or 1 tablespoon tomato paste
Cherry peppers to taste

Notes: This recipe is very versatile. You should use at least one red bell pepper, but can add green if desired. Roasted garlic is an excellent addition… I just didn’t have enough garlic for that. If you look up other recipes for caponata on the internet, many suggest including raisins--I find that completely unnecessary, because the bell pepper adds lots of sweetness to this spread.

Combine eggplant, onion and red bell pepper in a large bowl and drizzle generously with olive oil. Toss to coat and transfer to a sheet pan. Roast in a preheated 350*F oven for 30-45 minutes, or until soft and turning brown around the edges. Remove from oven and cool.

In a large bowl, combine roasted vegetables with tomato sauce or paste and cherry peppers (if using). Using a hand blender, puree to desired consistency. Some people like it chunky—I like it pretty well pureed.

Serve with baguette slices, vegetable dippers, beer bread or any other way you wish. Once you try it, you’ll be addicted.

*The nor'easter arrived around midnight. I woke up at about 1am to find snow blowing with very strong winds. Out my front window I could see that the only way the street was distinguishable from our front yards was the lump left from snowbanks left from last week. Then I awoke at about 6am to the sound of freezing rain beating at the windows; the plows have been out in force. Ghastly weather, I tell you.

**Susan's beer bread is awesome. I've made it several times and always to rave reviews. For this event, I made it with parmesan cheese, half dried oregano and half dried basil, and about 1/4 cup chopped pepperoni for a taste to complement the caponata.

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