During the holiday season, what do you most look forward to? For many of us it is big family meals, sharing family stories, visiting those we love, and creating lasting memories. During the holiday season, I find that it reminds me of what I am grateful for. The holiday season is a time of year when we give, share, reflect, and express appreciation for the life that we have been given.
The holidays are filled with the warmth of family, friends, decorations, food, and traditions. It can be a stressful time of year when planning seasonal foods, desserts and gathering events. When you think of the holiday season, what do you envision? It could be a house full of family and friends, a dining room table filled with a holiday feast, and the sounds of holiday music in the background. The holiday season offers a time to celebrate cultural food traditions. It gives us an opportunity to get into the kitchen and prepare old family recipes, try new recipes, and celebrate through the rooted culture and tradition of food.
The holidays, for both my wife and I growing up in Italian households, included a time of abundance and feasts. When our Italian families would sit down during the holiday season (Thanksgiving or Christmas), it included a feast of many courses. It was not unusual for the meal to be six or seven hours long! I recall my first Thanksgiving with my wife’s family. Family members would gather in the kitchen to prepare an incredibly large meal with an array of components. Before the turkey and side dishes even landed on the table, the entire Italian feast would begin with various offerings. It began with the antipasti (that included cured meats, cheeses, artichokes, preserved vegetables, olives, and a cold seafood salad.). The antipasti course would also include a soup being either Italian wedding soup or tortellini en brodo. The next course would be the pasta (sometimes several courses of that!) with pots of meatballs, sausage, and braciole.
The turkey would finally be brought out (weighing no less than 20 pounds) along with all the side dishes. Are you full yet? The dessert was also a treasured time. Although it might not seem possible that anyone could still be hungry, dessert was considered as important as the meal. It would not be complete without strong espresso with added sambuca. The Christmas Eve and Christmas Day feasts were similar being based around family, friends, and food. What I have come to realize over the years, is that this was the way our families showed their love – through the gift of food.
Embrace you love of food this holiday season. We each have different holiday traditions that differ from culture to culture with having different customs. In many ways though, each are similar in that they revolve around family and food. This holiday season, show your love and thanks for what others do. Show gratitude during family meals and help clean the dishes; give lots of hugs; cook a surprise meal for a significant other; eat food that makes you feel good from the inside out; use Thanksgiving as a day to give thanks both to yourself and those around you; hand deliver holiday gifts; eat comfort foods and feel shameless about it; and of course, give compliments (especially to the chef!)
Celebrate the holiday season through your family, friends, and drawing upon the traditions that have been handed down for generations or build new ones for future generations. Stop by Compliments to the Chef, your Neighborhood Kitchen and Cutlery store located at 33 Railroad Place. Pick up the culinary gifts, and tools that can help you celebrate with food. Consider the gift of new cookware, knives, or a much-needed gadget that someone needs. Maybe offer the gift of having their knives sharpened. Let us assist you with your culinary needs. Remember my Foodie Friends, “Life Happens in the Kitchen.”
John & Paula
MASCARPONE CANNOLI CHEESECAKE
1. Preheat the oven to 350 Degrees F.
2. Pulse the biscotti to fine crumbs in a food processor. Drizzle in the butter, add the salt and pulse until the mixture has the texture of wet sand. Press into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan.
3. Bake for 8 minutes, until the crust smells toasted and is beginning to brown. Set aside to cool while you make the filling.
4. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.
5. In a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese, mascarpone and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally with a rubber spatula. Add the salt, vanilla and lemon zest; beat on medium speed until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition until just combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again. Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the chocolate chips.
6. Pour the cream cheese mixture over the crust and spread evenly. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the center of the cake still moves just slightly.
7. Allow the cheesecake to cool on a wire rack for 1 hour. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. Run a knife around the edge of the pan before releasing the collar.
8. Top each slice of cheesecake with a spoonful of cherries, if using.
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