Blue Christmas

I’ll have a blue Christmas without you
I’ll be so blue just thinking about you
Decorations of red on a green Christmas tree
Won’t be the same dear, if you’re not here with me

And when that blue corn starts popping
That’s when those blue memories start dropping
You’ll be doin’ all right, with your Christmas of white
But I’ll have a blue, blue blue blue Christmas

That is how the song goes, right? Elvis always said it best, but he didn’t quite get in all the right words. He was a notable foodie in his day, and I know he must have been thinking about his next meal, even if the lyrics didn’t quite match.

There aren’t that many naturally blue foods out there, so I feel fairly confident that the King of Rock and Roll was talking about blue corn. Tamales, the quintessential corn-based staple of Christmas, must have been on his mind. At least, that’s the first thing I was thinking of after listening to the oldies. Crooning on for all eternity every holiday season, it just hits a bit different this year. Physically distant from friends and family this is a particularly blue celebration for many.

Embrace the blues with me and go in for seconds, too. Tender masa made with brilliant blue cornmeal, further enhanced with the intense indigo pigment from butterfly pea tea. Seasoned blue potatoes are the only suitable filling for a such brilliantly saturated dish of course. I’d be tempted to pair it with blueberry salsa, if only they were winter fruits.

It’s okay to feel the blues, and in this case, eat your feelings. Making blue tamales can provide a positive emotional outlet along with a healthy, comforting meal. Now that’s something worth celebrating.

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Plenty of Knish in the Sea

What defines a feast? Is it the number of dishes, the volume of the servings, the size of the crowd? It’s a curious term with particular significance when dinner parties are discouraged, or downsized at best. The answer lies somewhere in the annals of history, while remaining firmly rooted in this present moment.

Let me explain. Years ago, I first learned of the Feast of Seven Fishes. The origins are hazy, details are scant, but the basic idea is that Roman Catholics would eschew meat before holy days, such as Christmas, eating fish instead as a form of fasting. That’s simple enough, but why seven? Theories abound, but none hold water. Some say it represents the seven sacraments, seven cardinal virtues, the seven sins, or seven days of the week. When it comes to the celebratory meal, however, you may just as well find 10 different fish dishes on the table, or even 12. Others might take a shortcut by combining everything into one big stew. All bets are off for this helter skelter celebration. The “feast,” built upon the principles of abstinence, could be decadent or downright austere.

As you might have guessed though, my curiosity about the concept has nothing to do with seafood. The mere title started forming new, unorthodox neural connections in my food-obsessed brain. What if we replaced the fishes with… Knishes?

Now that’s something I can make sense of. Call it a Jewish hand pie, empanada, baked bao, kolache, or breakfast pastry; none are too far off the mark. Typically stuffed with mashed potatoes or toasted buckwheat, it’s humble fare with universal appeal. One knish could be a substantial snack, while two make a hearty meal. Three knishes might be somewhat extravagant, but seven? Seven would definitely constitute a feast.

Thus, I present to you a new holiday tradition: The Feast of Seven Knishes! Stemming from a single master mashed potato filling, it may be a bit time-consuming to complete, but not complicated. Traditional inclusions are typically very simple, humble ingredients, so I tried to stay true to the art with a few of the basics.

Caramelized onions make everything delicious, so they’re a fool-proof way to get this party started. My secret ingredient is a pinch of baking soda to speed the process along. Sure, they get a bit softer that way, but texture isn’t so critical when they’re wrapped up in a crisp pastry shell anyway.

Spinach is also a classic all-seasons addition, adding a verdant vegetable into the mix, even if it’s just frozen and thawed. Such is the case here to make light work of the process, though you could certainly wilt down a fresh bundle if you had some handy. Likewise, kale, collards, swiss chard, or any other dark leafy greens would be right at home here, too.

It’s hard to beat the rich umami flavor of even plain button mushrooms, but a dab of truffle oil definitely bumps it up to the next level. Just a drop will do, lending volumes of bold, earthy, savory taste to every satisfying bite. You could omit the extra flourish in a pinch, though it’s well worth the investment, even for a small bottle.

Departing now from the beaten path of knish history, tender red beets brighten the next filling with a bright, rosy hue. Kissed with the woodsy notes of liquid smoke, it’s the kind of thing I’d gladly eat straight out of the mixing bowl. Look out, plain mashed potatoes; this one might just beat you to the table next time.

Inspired by another one of my favorite potato pastries, samosa spices enliven this curry-scented knish polka dotted with toothsome green peas. Truth be told, if you merely wrapped the dough differently and tossed them in the deep fryer, they’d be identical with the Indian appetizer. Now that’s fusion fare I can get behind.

Finally, defying the odds, and perhaps common sense, I couldn’t leave you without a sweet treat to end the meal on. Yes, you can have knishes for dessert, too! Buttery brown sugar batter riddled with gooey chocolate chips evokes the nostalgic flavors of cookie dough. Mini chips ensure equal distribution of the chocolatey goodness, though you could also chop up your favorite dark chocolate bar for a variety of different sized chunks.

No matter how you define a feast, or what your personal interpretation looks like, there should always be room on that table for at least one knish. If seven varieties is too grand for this unique season, feel free to multiply just one filling that strikes your fancy by seven. There’s no shame in loading up on only your favorite flavors. That could still be considered a plentiful feast, too.

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Next-Level Latke

Scaling down holiday plans for socially distant celebrations will require a number of sacrifices, but certain things are not negotiable. If nothing else, there absolutely must be latkes. Trimming a standard recipe down to two or three servings would be simple enough, but the trouble is the amount of effort the process still demands. My parents go through great pains to make the very best latkes, which strikes me as an entirely overwhelming ordeal to go through for one solo meal.

I’m taking it easy for Hanukkah and making a single, giant latke that takes far less work than your typical potato pancake. Frozen hash browns are the real power players here, cutting prep time and reducing the number of dishes by at least a quarter. Using a liberal amount of oil to properly honor the biblical miracle, the whole mixture goes into the skillet all at once.

Practically cooking itself without any fuss, it takes only one decisive flip, searing to a darkly golden, impeccably crispy finish on both sides. Tender potatoes flecked with onion bind together in this grande galette, which might alternately be considered a torte, rosti, or a jumbo hash brown. At least for me, it strikes the pitch-perfect notes for latke nostalgia.

Slice into wedges to serve as a side, or use the whole thing as a base to pile high with all the toppings your heart desires. Beyond the main festive event, it would be great as a breakfast option, lavished with some carrot lox. You could even serve it a bit later in the month as New Year’s hors d’oeuvres, sliced into elegant, thin fingers and crowned with vegan caviar.

There is one good thing to come of these solitary celebrations… No need to share.

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Let It Snow

It’s the icing on the cake, the spoonful that helps the medicine go down, but sometimes, it’s better when sugar doesn’t instantly disappear from view. Rather than hiding in the background, doing all the heavy lifting behind the scenes, certain recipes can benefit from a delicate dusting of powdered sugar, gracing the surface of crackle-top cookies, coffee cakes, and flaky pastries like freshly fallen snow.

Sucre neige, also known as “snow sugar,” is scientifically formulated to be impervious to moisture or temperature. That means it won’t melt or dissolve on top of doughnuts, cookies, fruit tarts, and or any sweet treat you can throw at it. A light sprinkle will look as fresh as a pristine mountain peak, even after a day in the sun. Though it looks identical to conventional confectioner’s sugar, it’s made from dextrose rather than sucrose, which is considerably less sweet. The tiny particles are coated in a thin layer of palm oil, which acts sort of like a culinary raincoat. Titanium dioxide is usually added to keep it shining bright and perfectly white.

Considered a specialty item found in professional restaurant supply stores rather than the average supermarket, it’s frustratingly difficult to find at a moment’s notice. Happily, there is a way to make your own! It won’t have quite the same refinement as the impeccably processed commercial variety, but it will contain considerably fewer chemical additives, and cost a good deal less. Now you can have a brilliantly white Christmas, any day of the year.

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Drop Acid

‘Tis the season for excess. Extra dollops of whipped cream, second helpings of stuffing, more generous pours of gravy; the general consensus is that if your dinner plate doesn’t look like your final meal, trying to cram all things edible into one last hurrah, you’re not living your best life during the holidays. I’m all for seasonal indulgence, especially when celebratory moments feel far and few between, but sometimes that extravagance comes back to bite you later.

Heartburn, acid reflux, indigestion, and bloating are all symptoms of a revelry gone awry. Call it a “food hangover” that doesn’t wait until the next morning to hit, taking swift revenge on immoderation. Little can be done to alleviate the pain until it passes, unless you have a homeopathic helper on your side.

Boiron Acidil meltaway tablets are made with plant-based active ingredients and can be taken on a full or empty stomach. Gentle and natural, there are no side effects nor drug interactions to worry about.

It’s important to note that as is the case for any supplement like Boiron Acidil, every person will have different results, because everyone’s body and digestive system is different. As an over-the-counter medicine, it’s not a gastrointestinal panacea, but a promising option that’s helped ease the suffering of many. There’s nothing to lose, since the key players A-galacto, Carbo Vegetabilis, and Lycopodium Clavatum have been proven safe and effective.

Finally, you can dig deep into your favorite comfort foods without any discomforting symptoms afterward! For me, that means another bowlful of Mac and Cheese, or if we’re getting fancy, an extra-large serving of Truffled Brussels Sprouts Gratin. You’ve got nothing to fear, except a food-induced nap later on! Enjoy the moment, the holidays, the memories, and the food, to the fullest.

This review was made possible as a collaboration with Moms Meet and Boiron. My opinions can not be bought and all content is original. This page may contain affiliate links; thank you for supporting my blog!