I really hate shopping for gifts.
Don’t get me wrong, I love buying things for people. At the mere mention of something meaningful I will spend hours chasing down a childhood book, favorite food or memoir of a home town. But the thought of just having to buy something is torture.
Over the years I have learned an important lesson. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you give, but that a special someone has something to unwrap on the big day; on Christmas morning, you can hand them a brightly wrapped gift and say, “I love you. Enjoy.” Upon opening, the recipient can hug you saying, “thanks.” Sometimes, it is not the gift that counts, but the giving.
Holiday entertaining is the same. Sometimes holiday get-togethers are more about fellowship than food. That, however, is no reason not to impress.
There is a generosity in offering your guests the gift of luxury, in letting them spend a few hours living finely and fabulously. However, it is a gift doesn’t need to work your last frazzled, holiday nerve, nor does it need to be the last straw on a stretched budget.
Learn simple dishes that taste divine. Work with inexpensive ingredients and layer them with flavor: onions caramelized in butter, hand-whisked mayonnaise with bright herbs served alongside fresh, local crudités. Take a minute to think through the garniture for each one. Pipe a little sauce on top, arrange a whole parsley leaf, and crack some fresh black pepper. Light plenty of candles, buy inexpensive, fresh flowers and mass them in large vases, and play Bing Crosby’s classic holiday album.
Or try this. A favorite every time. Pretty, delicious, and easy. You’ll feel relaxed, have plenty of time to do your hair before your guests arrive, and they’ll think you had the evening catered.
Nothing out of a jar compares to the flavor of fresh parsley and garlic. No matter how much you think you hate anchovy paste, please go ahead and use it. You’ll never taste the anchovy and it does incredible things for the flavor of this spread.
- 1 cup whole pitted kalamata olives
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 2 tbs chopped basil
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan
- 1 tbs capers
- 1/8 tsp anchovy paste
- 2 tbs olive oil – the good stuff!
- Red wine vinegar
- Place olives, garlic, herbs, cheese, capers and anchovy paste in a food processor. Pulse 3-4 times for a rough chop.
- With processor running, drizzle in olive oil. Process to bind.
- Scrape tapenade into bowl and season to taste with vinegar and black pepper.
- Serve with crostini.
- Dress it up! Spread a tablespoon on crostini, top with a slice of buffalo mozzarella*. Broil for 1-2 min. to soften cheese. Top with a basil leaf.
There is no excuse for not making your own! Grab a baguette and slice on the bias into 1/4″ thick slices. Brush with olive oil and bake in a pre-heated 400 F oven until golden. Let cool and store in a sealed container for up to 5 days.