New Years Eve

We had a lovely New Years Eve with, my sisters, brother in law and new baby nephew. The boys wanted meat, I wanted caviar and Jenya is not eating dairy because of the baby’s milk protein allergy. With all that in mind, we set about to make a rather delicious meal.

Before dinner we stopped down the hill to have “appetizers” with our parents and friends. Rose impressed us all by eating three raw oysters.

When we got home, we had more appetizers. Roasted fingerling potatoes topped with smoked salmon, creme fraiche (and some without for Jenya), and golden caviar. We also had a lovely cocktail called a Rose Royale which was made with rose syrup, gin, champagne and a pomegranate seed garnish.

The meat was prime rib, which they cooked as shown here but using olive oil instead of butter. We made the roasted asparagus with lemon oregano aioli from this recipe. Instead of using jarred mayonnaise, we made our own, which took several attempts but came out great in the end.

Dinner was served with crusty bread and an arugula, roasted yellow beet and pomegranate seed salad with Rita’s dressing. We also had baked potatoes because the potato appetizer wasn’t enough potato for Shane.

My sister Anna had the brilliant idea of Baked Alaska for dessert. For the cake base, she used the Great Yellow Cake recipe from the New Basics Cookbook, which is dairy free. The ice cream was dairy-free chocolate peanut butter from JP Licks and it was excellent.

My parents joined us for cake and midnight, because their friends had started to fall asleep over at the “grown-ups” party.

Even though we had a bit of a hard time staying up ourselves, it was perfect to be with some of my favorite and most beloved people as we said goodbye to 2012 and hello to 13.

Shrimp cooked on a pink salt rock

ShrimpOnSalt_IMG_5702My mom has a round pink slab of salty rock from Tibet. We heated it up on the range and then put it on the table and cooked our shrimp on it. It’s a bit of a slow process, definitely not for a large group, but a good bit of fun. The shrimp comes out salty and moist.

We also had lentils cooked with preserved limes, which gave them an interesting flavor that some of us liked, and some were not so sure about. Everything was complimented by a delicious Rita salad, with mixed greens, orange zest, pear, blueberries and orange dressing.

Rose decorated the dinner table with pink rose petals.

Salad, red rice, fish

IMG_5652Tonight we had a lovely green salad, red rice and Cod fish cooked the Adriatic Way. Previously, I posted that Cod is not an appropriate fish to cook the Adriatic Way. Evidently, Cod is not appropriate for me to cook the Adriatic Way, my mom does it just fine.


Somehow I neglected to mention the delicious, melt-in-your-mouth Kourabiethes we have for dessert every year at Christmas. Iris has made them for as long as I can remember, and is now helped by her daughter Johanna. Christmas would not be the same without them.


Beans_IMG_5649Kids are funny the way they respond to breaks in their routine. Rose started to get a bit edgy today, and I wondered if it was being away from home and her normal day-to-day that was doing it. So when she asked for beans for dinner, I said yes. Having something familiar for dinner seemed to turn her mood right around.

I made the beans from this recipe but with my usual substitution of the white and light green parts of one leek, cooked with the garlic, used instead of the scallion. We had the beans with rice, corn tortillas and my version Ronni’s guacamole, which wasn’t nearly as good as hers.

My mom made the most delicious escarole ever. She sauteed it in oil with garlic until it was wilted, then added broth and cooked “the living daylights out of it,” and then at the end added a “slab” of butter. I’ll try it myself soon, and give you specifics if it works out.

Salad & stuff

IMG_5647After a day of snacking, as folks departed, we decided on salad for dinner. Plus a few more leftovers, of course.

Bouillabaisse and baby

Bouillabaisse_IMG_5633Tonight we had leftover bouillabaisse, among other Christmas leftovers, and an adorable baby boy on the table. The food was great, but the most delicious thing was the babe. Not a one of us could keep our eyes off of him.


How do I even begin to tell you about Christmas? I think the easiest way is by captioning the photos below, which I’ve done (click on the photos for a larger, slide show view). You’ll also need some background, so here goes.

We’ve celebrated every year, for 30 or so years, at my parent’s house. There are usually between 26 and 30 guests for a sit-down dinner. It’s a production that takes many willing participants, and days to pull off. And it is all orchestrated by my mom, who I think is amazing (and a little bit crazy). I could never do what she does.

My mom keeps books in which she records every holiday meal she hosts, and other special events. The books go back more than a decade, probably two. In each, she notes the guest list, and (often inaccurate) count. She draws out the seating chart, how the tables were arranged and in which room. She records the menu, with illustrations. And finally she makes notes about how Christmas went that year.

The notes are extensive, she talks about the menu, serving and seating, what worked and what didn’t. But she also notes the emotional tone of the holiday, why we all felt good or didn’t. Who we missed, or who was at Christmas for the first time.

In 2000, I brought Shane to Christmas for the first time and we started the tradition of Christmas Lottery. It is not a yankee swap. Shane and I buy one very big gift (such as an entire prosciutto) and a smaller gift that hints at what the big gift will be. At dinner, between courses, we hold a lottery drawing, to see who will win the gifts. Most years, the lottery numbers are somehow worked into the table setting.

The lottery has become a much anticipated source of entertainment at dinner over the past decade plus. We make kind of a hammy production of it. Since she was two months old, we’ve been incorporating our daughter, Rose, into the performance. The Lottery provides a welcome break between courses, and helps to pace the meal.

With that I leave you with the captioned photos below (click on the photos for a larger, slide show view). Merry Christmas!

Christmas Eve

Our Christmas Eve tradition is to have a tree-decorating dinner party at my parents’ house. The dinner is buffet and much more casual than the sit-down for 30 or so, that we have on Christmas day.

Tonight we had veggies with a delicious miso dip from Whole Foods that I need to find out how to make because there isn’t a Whole Foods that’s really convenient to me. There were two types of chicken wings, spicy without seeds and not spicy, with seeds. And, my mom’s classic salad with Boston lettuce, fennel and her signature dressing.

The thing that really sealed the meal for me though, was the vegetarian chili. It was the most delicious I have ever had with sweet potato, black beans, roasted peppers, just the right amount of heat and no special vegetarian ingredient trying too hard to pretent to be meat. Mom, can you post a link to the recipe in the comments section?

After, we had an assortment of desserts brought by guests and pink sparkling wine.

Before bed, Rose put out snacks for Santa and the Reindeer and my sister Anna read an ancient copy of The Night Before Christmas, which she does every year, regardless of whether there are children present.


Lamb curry

IMG_5448We’re in Boston with family, gearing up for the big day. Josh made lamb curry tonight. Everyone said it was delicious. I missed out on most of it because I’m still feeling under the weather, and also because of being a vegetarian.