A bubbly New Year’s Eve

2010 has been a pretty tough year given all the nasty political battles and continuing economic uncertainty.  I, for one, will be happy to bid it adieu Friday night.

To toast the arrival of 2011, I’ve come up with a new cocktail – one that brings together the old and the new with a dash of gin, a multitude of tiny bubbles and the lively spark of pomegranate.  It began as a French 75, the World War I favorite of the Lost Generation of Hemingway and Fitzgerald.

My family is calling this variation the Ruby Bullet.  Paired with hot, puffy gougeres, it’s bound to enliven any New Year’s Eve celebration. Continue reading A bubbly New Year’s Eve

Consider the celery root

Celery root may well be the most homely vegetable in the garden.  It’s a wonder anyone ever thought of eating anything so gnarled, lumpy and hairy.

Yet once you get past its ugly exterior, the humble celery root is the most affable of winter vegetables.  Best known as the key ingredient in the crunchy French salad, celery remoulade, it’s also perfectly suited for soups, purees and gratins, where its texture becomes soft and melting.  It’s a natural partner with potatoes, lending a pleasant aroma and herbal flavor to familiar comfort food.  At the same time, it lightens up otherwise heavy dishes because it contains little starch.

This year, celery root is my nominee for the perfect side dish for the holiday table.   Layered with fennel, potatoes and Gruyere cheese, it makes an impressive  gratin that would be happy alongside a platter of roast beef or ham.   The gratin could serve as a substantial vegetarian entree as well. Continue reading Consider the celery root

Last-minute gift from the kitchen

Candy has never been my strong suit.  With the exception of my family’s easy fudge, I tend to stay away from vats of boiling sugar.

So when I say these caramels from Jacques Pepin are amazingly simple to make and almost foolproof, you should take note. Just the thing for a last-minute gift from the kitchen, they require  less than half an hour of active work. Plus you’re likely to have all the ingredients sitting in your pantry and fridge.

They’re so good that you’re liable to find yourself whipping up a batch solely to indulge your sweet tooth.  The recipe does use a small amount of corn syrup to hold together all that glorious butter and sugar, but it’s not the high fructose variety that you find in processed foods.  Besides, no one would ever call this health food. Continue reading Last-minute gift from the kitchen

Cookbooks for giving

A cookbook needs to be more than a compendium of recipes to catch my eye these days.  My shelves already are overflowing with encyclopedic tomes and the Internet covers almost every culinary base if you make careful choices.

What I want is a cookbook with personality, one I can curl up with on a rainy afternoon as well as take into the kitchen for a marathon session with the pots and pans. It should offer a new way of looking at food and act as my trusted guide in the kitchen.

That’s a tall order and few new cookbooks measure up. So I’m not going to offer my own variation on The Ten Best Cookbooks of 2010 here.  Instead, I’m showcasing the handful of offerings that qualify as keepers in my kitchen. With the exception of Dorie Greenspan’s irresistible best seller,  I’ve focused on the works of Bay Area authors. Continue reading Cookbooks for giving