Delicious Holiday Dishes

by Rona Berg

’Tis the season to gather in the kitchen, prepare delicious holiday dishes, and savor the results.

If there is ever a time to indulge, the holidays are it. We loosen our belts, enjoy time with family and friends, and give ourselves permission to eat foods that may be richer, sweeter, creamier or more indulgent than we normally allow. It’s also a good time to try preparing slightly more ambitious dishes now that there is time to relax in the kitchen. But we want to make sure that it’s worth it!

That’s why we are sharing these delicious holiday dishes from some of our favorite cookbooks that came out this year. They taste great, look beautiful and, though they may be a bit richer than what you’re used to, they are not completely over the top.  Enjoy!

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Sweet Potato/Amaretti Gnocchi, Sage Butter

“Although these surprising gnocchi are made with sweet potatoes and crumbled Italian cookies, their success is still dependent on the russet potatoes in the batch,” according to Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough, authors of Vegetarian Dinner Parties: 150 Meatless Meals Good Enough to Serve to Company (Rodale Books). “Those will add enough starch to hold the dumplings together.”

“The gnocchi’s natural sweetness is balanced with a fairly classic butter sauce, laced with sage for a Thanksgiving-ish take on the palate. All in all, this dish is pretty indulgent, even if the portions are moderately sized. It probably shouldn’t end a meal—or at least not come right before dessert. Instead, consider these a first (or second) plate with a larger main-course event in the offing.”

Serves 8

2 pounds orange-fleshed sweet potatoes

1 pound russet (baking) potatoes

4 large egg yolks

5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

½ cup finely ground amaretti cookies*

1 teaspoon salt

16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into chunks

2 tablespoons minced fresh sage

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

 1. Position the rack in the center of the oven and heat to 375°F. Roast the sweet and russet potatoes on a large baking sheet until tender, about 1 hour. Cool on a wire rack until easily handled, about 30 minutes. Peel the potatoes and put them all through a potato ricer and into a large bowl.

2. Stir the egg yolks into the potatoes until creamy. Add 4 cups of flour, the ground amaretti, and salt. Stir to form a soft dough, adding more flour as necessary to get the dough to cohere, probably a cup more, maybe even more than that depending on the day’s humidity, the moisture content of the flour, and even the residual moisture content of the baked potatoes.

3. Dust a clean, dry work surface with flour. Divide the dough into 8 equal balls. Roll one under your palms into a rope about 12 inches long. Cut the rope crosswise into 1-inch pieces, like small pillows. Continue making the remainder from subsequent ropes.

4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Drop one-third of the gnocchi in and boil until tender, about 5 minutes. (Working in batches prevents crowding and mitigates drastic temperature fluctuations.) Use a slotted spoon to lift them out of the water and drain completely in a colander. Repeat with the two remaining batches, one at a time.

5. Divide the butter between two large skillets and melt each over medium heat. Divide the sage, pepper, and nutmeg between the skillets. Stir well and add half the gnocchi to each skillet. Fry, tossing occasionally, until lightly browned and crisp on at least one side, about 3 minutes.

6. To serve, divide all the gnocchi among serving plates, scraping any dribs of buttery sauce in the pan over each serving.

*Amaretti are tiny, hard, Italian macaroons, made with bitter almonds and/ or apricot pits. Look for them in specialty stores among the international cookies.

Reprinted from Vegetarian Dinner Parties by Bruce Weinstein & Mark Scarbrough. Copyright (c) 2014 by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough. By permission of Rodale Books. Available wherever books are sold.

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 Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Apples and Mustard Seeds

“Brussels sprouts, like cauliflower, rank high on my list of favored winter vegetables,” says Kimberley Hasselbrink, author of Vibrant Food: Celebrating the Ingredients, Recipes, and Colors of Each Season (Ten Speed Press). “It took a long time to come around to a slaw-like preparation, though, because I’m happy with them golden and caramelized in a hot pan with just salt and pepper. When my stepmom started making shredded Brussels sprouts at Christmas, I was finally convinced. It’s a hearty, simple side, and the mustard seeds offer a pleasing crunch.”

Serves 4

½ cup raw pecans

16 ounces Brussels sprouts

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon honey

1 tablespoon brown mustard seeds

1 small shallot, minced

¾ teaspoon fine sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 sweet-tart red apple, such as Braeburn or Pink Lady, cored and diced

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F

2. Arrange the pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet. Toast until golden brown and fragrant, about eight to 10 minutes. Set aside to cool for about five minutes, then coarsely chop.

3. Thinly slice the Brussels sprouts crosswise into ¼-inch rounds. Remove any of the woody stem that remains and, using your fingers, break up the sprouts into thin ribbons. Set aside.

4. To prepare the dressing, whisk together the cider vinegar, honey, mustard seeds, shallot, salt, and pepper to taste. Set aside.

5. In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the shredded Brussels sprouts and sauté, stirring, until soft but still retaining some crunch, about five minutes. Add the dressing and cook for one to two minutes longer, stirring to combine. Remove from the heat to avoid wilting the sprouts. Toss the apples and pecans with the Brussels sprouts. Serve immediately.

Reprinted with permission from Vibrant Food written and photographed by Kimberley Hasselbrink (Ten Speed Press, © 2014).

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Pumpkin Cheesecake with Apple Cider Reduction

“Be sure to save room for this fantastic cheesecake, a creative dessert that uses classic Thanksgiving ingredients—pumpkin, apple cider, cinnamon and nutmeg,” according to Joy Pierson, Angel Ramos and Jorge Pineda, authors of Vegan Holiday Cooking from Candle Cafe: Celebratory Menus and Recipes from New York’s Premier Plant-Based Restaurants (Ten Speed Press). “The cake and frosting can be made up to two days ahead of time.”

Serves 8 to 10

4 cups vegan cream cheese

2 cups agave nectar or maple syrup

2 cups plain unsweetened soy milk

1 cup pumpkin puree

1½ cups (12 ounces) silken tofu

1 cup arrowroot powder

1 tablespoon agar powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Apple Cider Reduction

4 cups apple cider

1 cup unrefined sugar

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

½ recipe Vanilla–Cream Cheese Frosting, optional

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Wrap aluminum foil around the bottom and halfway up the sides of a nine-inch springform pan to prevent any leaking.

2. Combine the cream cheese, agave, soy milk, pumpkin, tofu, arrowroot, agar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large mixing bowl and stir together. Transfer to a blender and blend until smooth and ingredients are fully integrated. This may have to be done in batches. Pour the mixture into the prepared springform pan.

3. Put the cheesecake in a large baking pan and fill the pan halfway with hot water. Bake for about two hours, until lightly browned. Remove, let cool, cover, and refrigerate. The cheesecake can be made up to two days ahead of time.

4. To make the cider reduction, combine the cider, sugar, and nutmeg in a pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is reduced by half and is syrupy, one to one and one-half hours. The reduction can be made and refrigerated up to two hours ahead of time. Bring to room temperature before serving.

5. To serve, remove the foil from the pan. Run a knife around the outer edge of the cheesecake and release the springform pan clamp. Put the cake on a plate or cake stand. Pipe or spread the top of the cheesecake with the frosting. Drizzle the reduction over the cheesecake. Cut into wedges and serve.

Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 cup Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread, softened

½ cup baby Thai coconut meat or creamed coconut

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup vegan cream cheese

1. To make the frosting, mix together the confectioners’ sugar and buttery spread in a large bowl. Set aside.

2. Combine the coconut meat and vanilla extract in a blender and blend for two minutes. Transfer to a stand mixer or to a bowl and use a hand mixer. Add the confectioners’ sugar mixture and cream cheese and mix thoroughly until a smooth frosting is formed.

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Reprinted with permission from Vegan Holiday Cooking from Candle Cafe (Ten Speed Press) by Joy Pierson, Angel Ramos and Jorge Pineda. Photo Credit: Jim Franco

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