Good cheese, excellent wine and decadent sweets. The holidays are the perfect time to indulge your inner epicurean. To please your senses—and those of your favorite foodies—plate local products.
Whether you’re hosting an intimate gathering for family and friends or a cocktail party for colleagues, you want to offer your guests the best. Look to local producers who put hard work and passion into creating their breads, beers, chocolates and other delicacies that will undoubtedly impress those who try them.
A responsible choice
Because the products don’t have to travel vast distances to reach your kitchen, when you buy local, you end up lowering your carbon footprint.
Additionally, by eating and drinking locally, you encourage your region’s economy. Instead of giving money to large corporations, you’ll help your neighbors make a living and foster employment in your area.
But altruism aside, one of the best reasons to buy food items locally is that they’re fresher—and tastier!—than those bought at the grocery store.
For these reasons, and so many more, serve and gift delicious eats and treats that were made close to home.
The surprisingly messy history of flag cake
When you picture a Fourth of July cake, there’s only one that comes to mind for most people — a rectangular cake with white whipped cream icing, red stripes made of strawberries, and a field of blueberries in the upper left corner.
Both Ina Garten and Martha Stewart claim to have invented it, but the truth is that nobody knows for sure where the iconic American flag cake, beloved of so many backyard barbecues, really came from.
Patriotic cakes are nothing new in America. Even before the Revolutionary War, innkeepers and industrious housewives baked spicy, yeasty “election cakes” to feed farmers who came to town to train as soldiers or, later, to vote in America’s first elections. In the early 19th century, Americans snacked on cakes that paid tribute to George Washington and other beloved heroes, though cake-baking, on the whole, hadn’t evolved enough for the cakes to actually resemble the father of America.
By the early 20th century, Americans were in love with patriotically decorated petit fours, tinted with blue and red dye from indigo and dried beetles. Other cakes paid tribute to Washington and Lincoln on their birthdays. One 1940 recipe suggested a Fourth of July cake with pink frosting and patriotic “ornaments.”
The iconic flag cake seems like it’s been around forever, but really, it was likely invented in the 1950s as a marketing push for cake mixes. Other manufacturers and fruit companies jumped on board to add their own spins and advertise their particular products. The rest is history, and perhaps you were alive to experience it all.
By 2016, Betty Crocker alone had at least 14 different flag cake recipes available online. So this year, if you’re in charge of making your grandma’s classic flag cake, take a few extra minutes to appreciate how long and how far the patriotic cake traveled to get to where it is today.
A salad fit for an emperor
When did humans first look at a bowl of leaves and decide that it would taste better with some vinaigrette?
It’s impossible to pinpoint where and when someone first came up with salad, but according to the Oxford Dictionary of Food and Drink in America, a dish we might recognize as a garden salad became popular during the Roman Empire when people ate piles of leafy raw vegetables with a salty, oily dressing. In fact, the word salad comes from the Latin word “sal,” meaning salt.
The modern Caesar salad might take its name from rulers of the Empire, but according to popular legend, the Caesar salad was invented in 1924 in Tijuana — nowhere close to Rome. Cesare Cardini, an Italian immigrant who left California and crossed the border to escape Prohibition, created the dish on American Independence Day when his restaurant was doing such brisk business that he found himself short on ingredients. So he improvised with some romaine lettuce, raw egg yolk, Parmesan cheese, and other odds and ends. The Caesar was an instant hit, and Cardini’s restaurant, Caesar’s Restaurante-Bar, is still in business today. But you don’t need to travel to Tijuana for a decent Caesar salad — with minimal effort and a few ingredients, you can make a Caesar salad that would make Cardini proud.
Classic Caesar salad
This version uses mayonnaise instead of raw egg yolk, which makes it safer to serve kids. If you’re feeling ambitious, try making an authentic Caesar dressing with olive oil and raw egg base. Don’t skip the anchovy paste in this recipe — it might be unappetizing out of the tube, but Caesar dressing isn’t the same without it.
About 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup crusty bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large head of romaine lettuce, washed, dried, and chopped into pieces
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup high-quality real mayonnaise
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon pepper, plus more to taste
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When oil shimmers, add bread cubes in a single layer and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Brown lightly on all sides, adding more oil if necessary. Remove and set aside. Whisk the garlic, anchovy paste, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, and Worcestershire sauce together in a bowl. Add the mayonnaise, Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper and whisk until incorporated. Taste and adjust salt and pepper or other seasonings to your preferences.
To serve, add the desired amount of dressing to a large bowl with all lettuce and croutons and toss until thoroughly coated. Serve immediately and refrigerate any extra dressing.
Creamy broccoli salad
This delicious summer broccoli salad makes eating your greens a breeze.
• 1 cup mayonnaise
• 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
• 3 tablespoons sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
• Salt and pepper, to taste
• 2 heads of broccoli, cut in florets and gently blanched
• 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
• 6 slices of cooked bacon, chopped
• 1/2 cup sliced almonds
• 1/2 cup red seedless grapes, cut in half
• 1/4 cup dried cranberries
1. In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, and celery salt. Add the salt and pepper and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, combine the broccoli, onion, bacon, almonds, grapes, and cranberries. Add the dressing and mix well.
Vegetable rolls with peanut sauce
These vegetable rolls and tasty sauce are bursting with freshness and make the perfect patio snack on a sunny day.
Servings: 4 rolls
• 4 leaves of lettuce
• 1 red pepper, julienned
• 1 yellow pepper, julienned
• 1 carrot, julienned
• 1 cucumber, julienned
• A few sprigs of fresh parsley
• 1/4 cup peanut butter
• 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
• 2 tablespoons mirin
• 1/4 cup lukewarm water
• 2 tablespoons chopped peanuts
• 1 lime, cut in half
• 1/2 teaspoon dried chili pepper flakes
1. Lay one lettuce leaf flat on a plate. Take one-quarter of the peppers, carrots, and cucumber and place them at one end of the leaf. Sprinkle with fresh parsley. Wrap the lettuce around the vegetables to create a roll. Repeat for the remaining three rolls. Set aside.
2. In a bowl, combine the peanut butter, rice vinegar, and mirin. Gradually add the water, stirring constantly until you achieve the desired consistency.
3. Serve the rolls on a small plate garnished with chopped peanuts, fresh parsley, and lime. Garnish the sauce bowl with chopped peanuts and dried chili pepper flakes.
How to make cake pops in 3 easy steps
Cake pops are the perfect treat to satisfy your sweet tooth while you’re on the go. Here’s how to make them at home in three easy steps.
1. Prepare the cake
First, you need a cake. Bake one yourself at home or use any store-bought cake. Crumble the cake and combine it with homemade buttercream or store-bought icing until the mixture holds together. Form into balls, and then place them on a cookie sheet and freeze for about 15 minutes.
2. Make the coating
To attach the wooden skewers firmly, dip one end into melted chocolate or icing and insert it into the cake ball. Place the skewered cake balls in the freezer for a few more minutes to harden. Then, dip each ball into a coating of melted chocolate or icing.
3. Decorate the pops
Before the coating hardens, roll each cake ball in a tasty topping like shredded coconut or sprinkles. To hold each completed cake pop securely, push the skewers through a piece of cardboard or Styrofoam. Let stand in the fridge or freezer until the coating sets.
Now your creations are ready to eat. Enjoy.
Food waste: a self-assessment
Despite best intentions, few individuals can boast of never wasting food. To improve your food usage balance sheet over the next few weeks, here are some questions to help you take stock of how much you throw in the trash or compost.
• Have any of your unopened perishables become wilted or moldy?
• Do you have to scrape food like uneaten spaghetti or milk-soaked cereal from your dishes before washing them?
• Do you dispose of food as soon as it passes the expiry date on the packaging?
Once you’ve evaluated what foods you throw away, you’ll have a clearer picture of your household’s habits. You may find you’re serving oversized portions or buying more perishables than you can eat. With these insights, you’ll be able to adjust your practices accordingly.
Before throwing away any food, ask yourself if it can be used in another dish. For example, leftover vegetables might work in an omelet. Additionally, you can turn a slice of dry bread into breadcrumbs. If you’ve prepared too much food that can’t be frozen, offer the extras to friends or coworkers. You can reduce your waste and make others happy at the same time.
Best if used by
Remember, the expiration date leaves room for flexibility. According to the Food and Safety Inspection Service, this date isn’t a guarantee of the safety of a product. Rather, it’s an index of the freshness and potential shelf life of foods that haven’t been opened. This means that after the date indicated, the food may no longer have the same freshness or nutritional value but may nevertheless be edible. Of course, sure signs of deterioration, like a foul odor or mold, don’t lie. You just need to be cautious.