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.
Lobster mac and cheese
Take advantage of lobster season with this high-end take on the ultimate comfort food: mac and cheese!
Start to finish: 45 minutes
Servings: 6 to 8
• 2 cups milk
• 3 tablespoons butter
• 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon nutmeg
• 1 teaspoon garlic powder
• 1 teaspoon mustard powder
• 1-1/2 cups grated Gruyère cheese, divided
• 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese, divided
• Salt and pepper to taste
• 17 ounces cooked lobster meat, diced
• 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
• Fresh parsley
1. Cook the macaroni in salted boiling water for 2 minutes less than indicated on the package. Drain and set aside.
2. Heat the milk in a small pot over low heat. Take care not to let it boil.
3. In a large pot, melt the butter. Add the flour and then cook over medium heat for 2 minutes, whisking constantly. Add the milk and continue whisking until it reaches a thick and creamy consistency (about 5 minutes).
4. Add the spices, 1 cup of the Gruyère and 1/2 cup of the sharp cheddar to the mixture and stir well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix the remaining cheese together and set aside.
5. Remove the cheese sauce from the heat. Add the lobster meat and macaroni. Stir well to combine. Adjust seasoning as desired.
6. In a small, non-stick pan, toast the breadcrumbs until golden. Watch carefully to prevent burning.
7. Put the macaroni mixture into an oven-safe dish. Spread the remaining grated cheese on top, covering the whole surface. Dust the breadcrumbs on top of the cheese.
8. Set your oven to the lowest broil setting. Place the dish in the oven for 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted and nicely browned.
9. Garnish with a sprig of parsley and serve.
The macaroni in this recipe can be substituted with any short pasta including fusilli, penne or shells.
4 delicious ways to enjoy asparagus
Whether it’s green, white or purple, asparagus is a delicacy best indulged in when it’s in season — during mid to late spring. Take advantage of the availability of asparagus this month by incorporating it into all of your favorite dishes. Here are four great ways to prepare it.
1. Grilled. Toss your asparagus in olive oil, season it with salt and pepper and then grill it on your barbecue. Place the spears across the grill grates, or use a grill basket so you don’t lose any.
2. Roasted. Baking or roasting asparagus in a hot oven allows the sugars within to caramelize, thereby enhancing the latent flavors.
3. Blanched. Simmer your asparagus in boiling water for a few minutes. Once the spears are sufficiently cooked, remove and then plunge them in ice water. You can now serve your blanched asparagus on a crudités platter, or use them later in other recipes.
4. Pickled. Put the asparagus in a jar with green onions and brine made of water, salt and sugar. After a few days, you’ll have a delicious snack that keeps for months.
What to pair with asparagus
Asparagus is a great addition to many dishes. Add it to a salad, include it in a risotto or try it as a pizza topping. For a sophisticated side dish, top with Parmesan cheese, slivered almonds or balsamic vinegar.
Asparagus has a limited local growing season, so don’t miss out on indulging in this delicious veggie while it’s fresh.
Did you know?
White asparagus isn’t a genetically modified variety of green asparagus. Instead, the pale hue is induced by shielding young asparagus shoots from the sun. Typically, farmers pile soil over the emerging spears, which prevents them from photosynthesizing and turning green. Purple asparagus, on the other hand, is a genetic variety, but the violet color dissolves once the vegetable is cooked.
The difference between male and female lobsters
Served hot out of the shell or in your favorite recipe, lobster is a mild and slightly sweet delicacy to be savored and enjoyed. But did you know that some shellfish aficionados claim that female lobsters are superior to males?
One reason for this is that female lobsters produce roe. Also called coral, lobster eggs are dark green but turn a brilliant red when cooked and are considered a gourmet food item.
Additionally, female lobsters have wider, fleshier tails than males. While the tail meat doesn’t have a distinct taste, many prefer its texture and its appeal in terms of plate presentation.
Identifying the sex of your lobster
Under their tails, all lobsters have small appendages, called pleopods, or swimmeretes, which help them to swim. On a female, these limbs are soft and feathery, while on a male, they’re hard and bony.
Male versus female lobsters
Which lobster you choose is a matter of personal taste. If you prefer claw meat, go for a male. If you favor tail meat or love the roe, a female is the best option. No matter your preference, you’re certainly in store for a decadent and luxurious meal.
Quick ‘cream’ of asparagus
This soup is easy to make and so delicious you’ll forget it’s good for you. Using potatoes means there’s no need for heavy cream, making it perfect for people watching what they eat.
Start to finish: 30 minutes
Servings: 6 to 8
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
• 2 bunches of asparagus (about 4 cups), trimmed and chopped
• 2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
• 4 cups chicken broth
• Salt and pepper to taste
1. In a large pot, sauté the onions and garlic in the oil over medium heat, until they start to become golden. Add the asparagus and potatoes and sauté for another two minutes.
2. Add the chicken broth and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Simmer over medium heat for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft.
3. Purée until smooth with an immersion blender, or in several batches in a regular blender. Taste and adjust the seasoning as desired.
4. Serve and enjoy.
The best way to trim asparagus is by holding the stems in one hand and the bottoms in the other and bending. The stalks will snap at the perfect place, just where they begin to get hard and woody.
Cookie cheesecake dessert tops off grilled dinner
Spring is an amazing time to grill outside in the fresh air enjoying time with friends and family.
After the ribs or steaks, here’s a light dessert to finish the meal and delight the kids.
This skinny cheesecake recipe can be served in a bowl and eaten with a spoon. But, you can also use it as a fruit dip for spring berries.
This recipe uses nonfat Greek yogurt as a base, providing a boost of protein that doesn’t include a lot of extra fat and sugar. As a bonus, the kids can help in the kitchen by crushing up the cookies.
Just throw the cookies in a sandwich bag before letting the children take a whack at them!
1 cup nonfat vanilla greek yogurt
2 tablespoons instant cheesecake pudding mix (regular or sugar-free)
1 cup fat-free or sugar-free Cool Whip
4 thin chocolate sandwich cookies (or 2 regular-sized cookies)
1. Stir the yogurt and pudding mix (just the dry mix, not prepared pudding) until they are smooth. Fold in the Cool Whip, then stir in the crushed cookies.
2. Chill until ready to serve or eat, garnishing with crushed cookies if desired.
Crunchy peanut butter and chocolate truffles
With a surprisingly crunchy texture and a rich chocolate coating, this dessert is sure to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Start to finish: 2.5 hours (30 minutes active)
• 1 cup creamy peanut butter
• 2 cups puffed rice cereal
• ½ cup unsalted grilled peanuts
• ½ cup pretzel sticks
• 1-½ cups semi-sweet chocolate, melted
1. In a bowl, mix the peanut butter and cereal until fully combined.
2. Using about 1 tablespoon of the mixture, form into balls with your hands. Put them on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Freeze for 30 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, place the peanuts and pretzel sticks in a plastic freezer bag. Crush with a rolling pin until reduced to a coarse powder. Put mixture in a shallow bowl and set aside.
4. Remove the peanut butter balls from the freezer, and dip them in the melted chocolate so they’re completely covered. Put them back on the cookie sheet.
5. Wait until the chocolate has partially hardened, about 30 minutes, then roll each ball in the peanut and pretzel mixture. Put them back on the cookie sheet and refrigerate about one hour or until they’ve hardened.