Sunchoke Soup with Brussels Sprouts and Hazelnuts
Nutty sunchokes, also known as Jerusalem artichokes, give this soup deep flavor. Find them at farmers' markets and well-stocked grocery stores.
Fettuccine with Squash & Pistachio Pesto
Cooking with store-bought cubed squash saves time on weeknights. You can sub in almonds or walnuts for the pistachios.
Chicken Thighs Peperonata
Roasting the chicken and vegetables in the same pot makes for a rich, sweet-tart dish. Serve with crusty bread to sop up the juices.
Tangerine Beef and Broccolini
Inspired by the flavors of Chinese orange peel beef, this gutsy one-dish meal is made with fresh tangerine peel instead of the traditional dried. As you stir-fry, add 1 to 2 tbsp. water if the pan bottom starts to get dark.
Broccolini and Blue Cheese Frittata
With salad and bread, this vegetarian dish makes a hearty dinner or brunch, but you could also cut it into small pieces and serve it as an appetizer.
Roasted Broccolini with Anchovy Sauce
Imagine what the salty tang of anchovies does for Caesar salad, and you'll understand the draw of this classic Italian combination. Try it alongside a holiday roast or pasta dish.
Citrus and Smoke
Two kinds of Scotch and four kinds of citrus add up to a sophisticated cocktail, but the prep couldn't be easier. Mix a big batch and let guests pour their own.
Jacques the Elder
Sunset reader Deb Kessler of El Granada, California, played with floral and spicy ginger flavors to create her cocktail.
Chicken Bites with Tomato Mint Salsa
If gluten-free guests are on your invite list, make this mellow dunking salsa with a flour-free brand of chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, such as La Costeña.
Cleta Burden of Porterville, California, took traditional baklava and added everybody's favorite ingredient. The result: outrageous and addictive.
Chilled Mussels with Saffron Mayo
A spicy Provençal sauce called rouille inspired the mayo for this easy, elegant platter; you'll have enough extra for sandwiches.
Roasted Carrot Platter
Scoop up these spiced carrots and seasoned yogurt with freshly toasted pita chips.
Parmesan and Herb Cheese Puffs
These rich pastry bites can be baked right from the freezer so your guests can eat them warm.
Rice with Tomato and Onion (Arroz Rojo)
Cookbook author Marcela Valladolid serves this simple rice with tamales, and it's delicious with grilled meats and stews, too. If you're used to making rice in a pot, you'll be intrigued by this frying-pan method. We've adapted her recipe in Mexican Made Easy (Clarkson Potter, 2011).
Brothy Pinto Beans (Frijoles de la Olla)
Simple and nourishing, these beans (frijoles) are served straight from the pot (olla) to the plate, says cookbook author Marcela Valladolid. She loves them lifted out of their broth and into a warm tortilla too, with a drizzle of Mexican crema or sour cream. This recipe is based on one in her first book, Fresh Mexico (Clarkson Potter, 2009).
Basic Tamale Method
Cookbook author Marcela Valladolid showed us how to put on a tamalada--a tamale-making party--at her house near San Diego. She and her three aunts made these small, fluffy tamales, with plenty of filling in every bite. Use any leftover filling in tacos or eggs, and extra masa for sopes (crunchy fried bites). See the list below for information about ingredients.
Pork and Red Chile Tamale Filling
Cookbook author Marcela Valladolid showed us how to put on a tamalada--a tamale-making party--at her house near San Diego; this was one of the several tamales that day. Dried guajillo chiles have a rich, fruity flavor and mild heat. Look for chiles as supple as soft leather--they are fresher and better-tasting than dried-out crackly ones.
Chicken and Green Tomatillo Tamale Filling
Cookbook author Marcela Valladolid showed us how to put on a tamalada--a tamale-making party--at her house near San Diego; this was one of the several tamales that day. The tang of green tomatillos goes exceptionally well with chicken. Use fewer jalapeños and/or seed them if you want a mild filling.
Warm Tequila Punch
This fruity punch works for any holiday party. Cookbook author Marcela Valladolid and her aunts sip this as they make tamales--along with straight nips of Valladolid's own añejo (aged) tequila, Hacienda de la Flor, which she makes with her brother Antonio. This recipe is adapted from one in Valladolid's cookbook Mexican Made Easy (Clarkson Potter, 2011).
Deborah Biggs of Omaha, Nebraska, loves gingerbread so much that she decided to put its flavors right into her coffee. The result? A not-too-sweet drink that warms you from head to toe. If your holiday party falls on a rainy, cold night, consider serving it instead of eggnog.
Rudolph's Nose Punch
Reader Patricia Bloodgood of Escondido, California, came up with this bright, juicy, easy punch that practically screams, "Christmas party!" If you're making it ahead, prepare all of the ingredients and combine them at the last minute, with the ice.
Pom and Circumstance
"This cocktail was invented simply because I had leftover cranberry-orange relish from hosting Thanksgiving," says reader Trilby Parker of Redwood City, California. You can also use a combination of orange zest and store-bought cranberry sauce, as we've done here.
The Lighted Tree
Reader and teacher Kristin Leong of Seattle came up with this drink during her bartending days. "The taste is bright and lush, like a forest lit with Christmas lights." If you want a stronger pine taste, add a drop or two of pine liqueur--but it's delightful just as it is.
Crispy Shrimp Won Tons with Sriracha Mayo
Reader Jean Oh, of Cerritos, California, sent in this family recipe. We'd like to say that they're just as good baked, but honestly, they really are best fried. The Sriracha mayo puts it over the top. Won ton wrappers vary in size, so if you use smaller wrappers, you'll get more won tons.
Cashew-Lime Cilantro Hummus
Serve this hummus with fresh-cut vegetables, such as jicama, carrot, red pepper, and celery sticks.
Five-Spice Cranberry Relish with Goat Cheese
The beauty of this appetizer is that guests assemble the toasts themselves--so it's fuss-free for the host. Reader Rebecca Firth of Solvang, California, created the recipe, inspired by living in China for three years around the time of the Beijing Olympics. "We would try to do everything as close to our holiday traditions back home. On a whim, as I was preparing Christmas dinner, I threw in some five-spice powder to my usual cranberries, and I loved what it did to the flavor."
Christine Littell of Seattle explains how she created her winning recipe: "I was inspired after having a mixed pickle plate at a local wine bar with my best foodie friend. We were amazed by the array of different fruits and veggies, all pickled with different sweet and savory spices. Both of us are now addicted to pickled grapes." We are too! We especially like them, in place of cornichons, with cheese and salumi.
Pine Nut and Prosciutto Bruschetta
From Sitka, Alaska, come these delightfully rich toasts covered with crisp nuts and bits of salty prosciutto, contributed by reader Patrice Reinhardt. It's an old family recipe, says Reinhardt, who adds that the butter is crucial to its appeal: "No substitutes."
Fresh Corn Tamales
Cookbook author Marcela Valladolid showed us how to put on a tamalada--a tamale-making party--at her house near San Diego; this was one of the several tamales that day. These use corn flour rather than masa harina, with corn kernels mixed in. If you're choosing frozen corn, advises Valladolid, get the best you can find--juicy and sweet--and try not to add much, if any, water to the dough; otherwise it may ooze out of the cornhusk wrapper. See the "Tamalada Shopping List," below, for information about ingredients.
Cookbook author Marcela Valladolid showed us how to put on a tamalada--a tamale-making party--at her house near San Diego; this was one of the several tamales that day. They are sweet, and, unlike the savory tamales, they aren't filled; instead, the masa is mixed with fresh pineapple and moistened with pineapple syrup, and constitutes the entirety of the tamale. They're especially good for dessert, drizzled with crema--a slightly tangy Mexican-style cream. See the "Tamalada Shopping List," below, for information about ingredients.
Roasted Poblano Chile and Cheese Tamale Filling
Cookbook author Marcela Valladolid showed us how to put on a tamalada--a tamale-making party--at her house near San Diego; this was one of the several tamales that day. Charring the chiles over a gas flame, rather than a broiler, roasts just the skin, leaving the chile underneath fresh-tasting. Buy Oaxaca cheese from Latino markets in sticks or as strings woven into a ball, to unfold. Taste some before buying--the fresher and more buttery, the better.
"I created this recipe to serve at our November wedding," says reader Komron Shahhosseini of Santa Rosa, California. "It's fantastic to drink with your groomsmen but approachable enough to share with the bridesmaids." His sophisticated original version included a tincture of candy cap mushrooms, which taste like maple syrup; we've left it out, since candy cap mushrooms aren't easy to find. Here is his method, if you'd like to try it: Crush 1 oz. of dried candy cap mushrooms and mix with 6 oz. of vodka. Let sit 30 days, then strain.
All pork fat is not created equal. Look for these three types for making lard: kidney fat, which has the cleanest flavor, but is hard to find; neutral-tasting back fat, which you can order from a butcher shop; and pork belly, which produces lard with a distinctly porky flavor.