Tag Archives: entertaining

giant latke cake

A Crispy, Potato Latke Cake for a Hanukkah Crowd

A fresh and delicious take on traditional latkes, this pan-fried stack of potato pancakes is made for a Hanukkah crowd. While we love crispy, salty, bite-sized latkes, this larger version is just as delicious and impressive when layered with a sweet and savoury filling of smoked fishpomegranate seeds, shaved apple, fresh fennel and sour cream.  Or customize with your favourite toppings and fillings,  such as apple sauce, sour cream or goat cheese and chives. Sliced and served family style, this beautiful golden stack means less time standing at the stove and more time enjoying your company.

giant latke cake

Latke Cake

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Serves: 8 to 10

Ingredients:
3 lbs (about 4 large) russet potatoes, peeled, grated
2 medium onions, grated
1½ tsp salt, divided
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
¾ tsp ground black pepper, divided
1 cup vegetable oil, for frying
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 large fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced, fronds reserved
1 apple, cored and thinly sliced
1 cup (about 100g) flaked smoked trout or salmon or whitefish
½ cup pomegranate seeds
⅓ cup chopped fresh parsley
1¼ cups sour cream

Directions:
1. Heat oven to 200ºF. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a wire cooling rack.

giant latke cake

2. In a large bowl, stir to combine potatoes, onions and 3/4 tsp salt. Transfer to a cheesecloth- or kitchen towel-lined colander. Let sit for 10 minutes in sink or nested in large bowl. After 10 minutes, tightly twist cheesecloth or kitchen towel and squeeze firmly to remove as much moisture as possible. Discard liquid.
3. Add potato mixture to the same large bowl and stir in flour, eggs, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper.

giant latke cake

4. Heat 1/4 cup oil in large non-stick skillet over medium-high. Add 1/4 latke mixture to pan, spreading to a make a thin, 7- to 8-inch in diameter circle. Fry until deep golden on the first side, about 4 minutes, then flip fry for about 4 minutes longer, until deep golden on the second side. Remove to a plate lined with paper towel to absorb oil for 1 minute, then transfer to prepared baking sheet and place in oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining oil and latke mixture to make 4 latkes. Keep latkes warm in the oven while you prepare the toppings.

giant latke cake

5. For the salad, in a large bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, remaining 1/4 tsp salt and remaining 1/4 tsp pepper. Add fennel, apple, fish, pomegranate arils and parsley, tossing to combine. Set aside 1/2 cup of mixture for the final topping.

giant latke cake

6. In a medium bowl, stir sour cream with reserved fennel fronds.
7. To assemble, dollop cake stand or serving platter with 1 Tbsp sour cream mixture and then top with one latke. Top latke with 1/3 cup sour cream mixture, spreading to the edge, and then top with 1/3 of the salad mixture. Repeat layers finishing with the final latke. For the final topping, top with reserved 1/2 cup salad and a dollop of sour cream mixture. Serve immediately.

After a slice or two of latke cake, satisfy your sweet tooth with some deep fried Hanukkah desserts.

Lambrusco Sangria

Giada De Laurentiis’ Go-To Menu for Entertaining at Home

Why go out to a fancy restaurant to eat with friends when you can stay home, cook a quality meal and share a long and leisurely dinner party with your pals, instead? If you love to cook the way Giada De Laurentiis does, entertaining friends and family at home seems like a no-brainer. Unlike Giada, though, most of us scour the web for top-notch recipes and ideas in advance, stressing over how to make the perfect appetizer, main or themed cocktail.

Here, Giada shares her top tips, tricks and recipes for effortlessly elegant entertaining.

giada's holiday handbook

Before you head into the kitchen, consider the simple-is-best approach to entertaining. At least, that’s the philosophy the pros, including Giada, subscribe to. Rather than whipping out a bunch of fancy appetizers to put out for guests to munch on while she makes dinner, the chef tries to keep the number down to one or two items.

“I’m not big on making tons of appetizers, especially if I’m making dinner,” Giada says. “So I kind of vacillate between a few things. I do crostini with various toppings. [Or] I put lemon juice, a little bit of salt and some lemon zest in store-bought ricotta cheese and I top it with a variety of things such as pink peppercorns and peaches and then drizzle a bit of honey on top to finish it off.”

Simple and easy, right? Giada has a few other suggestions, like her go-to White Bean Dip with Pita Chips  or a Basic Parmesan Pomodoro Sauce served with crostini.

white-bean-dip-with-pita-chips-giada
Get the recipe for Giada’s white bean dip with pita chips. 

“I put my [Basic Parmesan Pomodoro Sauce] in ice cube trays in the freezer. Sometimes I just pop a couple of ice cubes, I let them defrost and then I heat up that sauce. I make some crostini and everybody dips it,” she explains. “I keep it super-duper simple… simplicity is the best way to go. People appreciate it.”

As for the main event, Giada is all about quality ingredients that speak to a variety of palates, like her Pan-Seared Salmon topped with a freshly prepared grainy mustard sauce, or grilled steak.

“I like to do a protein, a carbohydrate and a salad or some kind of greens. I’ll take a big rib eye and then I’ll grill it very simply with Herbes de Provence, salt and sometimes smoked paprika, put it on the grill, grill it up and then slice it over a bed of arugula and tomatoes and radishes,” she says. “For carbs I’ll make either an orzo salad or my lemon spaghetti – whatever goes better with the protein of choice.”

pan-seared-salmon-with-summer-succotash
Get the recipe for Giada’s pan-seared salmon with summer succotash. 

And what about those must-have greens?

“Sometimes I will do butter poached asparagus in a chili-lime vinaigrette,” Giada explains.

Of course, as any good host knows, a signature cocktail is always in fashion – but it doesn’t need to be complicated. In the summer months, Giada opts for an Aperol Spritz, a refreshing combination of bitter, sweet and effervescent. And in the winter, it’s a good old-fashioned sangria for her.

“I like to make a red wine sangria – I usually put berries in it, along with a little nutmeg and a cinnamon stick,” she says of her wintertime beverage of choice.

Lambrusco Sangria
Get the recipe for Giada’s lambrusco sangria. 

Sounds pretty festive to us.

“In sum, I keep it simple but very flavourful with different textures and flavours in every dish,” the host with the most says.

See more recipes from Giada’s Holiday Handbook that are perfect for entertaining.

Homemade Baileys

Homemade Irish Cream is Your 5-Minute DIY Christmas Gift

In coffee, on ice, in adults-only smoothies or as an eggnog add-in, homemade Irish cream is the gift that keeps on giving. You won’t believe how easy it is to make this holiday favourite right at home. Packaged in small glass jars, one batch will yield at least a dozen homemade gifts or enough to treat guests, friends and family during the holidays.

Homemade Baileys

Total Time: 5 minutes
Makes: Approximately 3 cups

Ingredients:
2 cups half-and-half cream
1 (300 mL) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup whisky
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp finely ground coffee or freeze-dried instant coffee
1/4 tsp salt

Homemade Baileys

Directions:
1.Add all ingredients in a blender and puree until fully combined. Pour into sterilized glass jars, seal and store in the refrigerator up to 1 month.
2. To serve, stir into hot coffee, serve on ice, blend into a milkshake, whisk into eggnog or whatever you can dream up. Irish cream also makes a great base for truffles, homemade ice cream and boozy custards for your holiday trifle.

Looking for more homemade gifts? Try 4 Genius Homemade Christmas Gifts from Anna.

halloween-porch-party-pumpkins

How to Host a Spooktacular Halloween Porch Party

Growing up in Australia, we didn’t celebrate Halloween. No jack o’lanterns, costumes or going door-to-door collecting candy from neighbours.

Now that I’m teaching at an elementary school in Canada, the growing excitement of Halloween is impossible to avoid, with kids planning their costumes weeks in advance of the big night. Living in a neighbourhood filled with families, it’s fun to see their creative costumes and hand out treats to all the little ghouls and goblins. These days, we make an evening of it – setting ourselves up on the front porch with snacks, drinks and dinner and play host to condo-dwelling friends who don’t have trick or treaters. It’s become an annual event that’s a fun, no-fuss way celebrate Halloween, enjoy time with friends and catch up with neighbours without leaving your front porch! Over the past decade, we’ve got the hosting of this porch party down to a fine art. If you’d like to throw your own front-porch soiree, here are our best tips for a spooktacular evening outside.

Spooky eye bark recipe

The Treats

Arguably the most important part. If you have the willpower buy treats earlier rather than later, you’ll get a better selection. Don’t leave it until 5 p.m. on Halloween night because often by then, stores are sold out or won’t have the treats you want.  Buy treats with the “nut free” symbol on it so they are safe for everyone.

Plan your treats accordingly –  if you’re ok with a few leftovers (i.e. you haven’t already been eating treat-sized candy for weeks!) buy candy you enjoy.  The best way to avoid leftovers is to buy the right amount of treats – if you’re unsure, ask neighbours how many they typically hand out on Hallowe’en.

If you have guests joining your porch party, have them bring some treats too (make sure they buy something different so you have a good selection).

And hey – if you’ve got leftover candy, you can always make this cute candy bark.

Check the Weather and be Prepared

Sometimes, Halloween evening can be pretty chilly, especially after the sun goes down. Make sure you are dressed properly (layers work well here) and have gloves handy. Make sure you have comfortable cushions and lots of blankets for your porch party guests too.

chli-lime-pumpkin-seeds

Don’t Forget the Snacks

If you’re trying to avoid eating the candy before you hand it out (and while you wait for dinner to heat up), make some snackable items in advance. Since you’ll probably be carving your pumpkin anyway, save the seeds and make this spicy lime version.

And popcorn is always a good idea.

alberta-beef-stew

Don’t Forget to Eat Dinner!

If you’re not careful, Halloween dinner might end up being just treats and snacks but if you plan in advance, it can be the highlight of the night. As I rarely make it home before 5 p.m. and by this stage, many of the younger kids have already started trick or treating, there’s no time to prep dinner.  With a little planning, you can prepare a hearty dish that’s easy to reheat in the oven when you get home (or in the slow cooker in the morning) and serve family style on the porch.

A bowl of chili on a chilly night is always a good idea. This one tastes even better the next day so prep it the night before for an easy meal on the night.

Soup is a tasty way to stay warm. How about this hearty winter minestrone? Beef stew (made in the slow cooker) takes the fuss out of dinner in between trick-or-treaters. And lasagna is an easy dish to make the day before so all you have to do is pop it in the oven to warm up while you hand out the treats!

These are all great choices to feed a crowd and are easy to prepare in advance. That way you can pop them in the oven to reheat while you get started handing out treats!

slow-cooker-mulled-wine

Thirsty?

It’s always a good idea to have a selection of beverages (hot and cold, alcoholic and non-alcoholic) to serve your guests (and hey, the parents who accompany their kids trick or treating!). On cold evenings, a big slow cooker filled with mulled wine hits the spot! Remember paper cups for those parents who are taking their warm drinks along with them.

What about you – what are your Halloween evening traditions?

Pomegranate Ginger Chicken

Pomegranate Ginger Chicken For a Sweet and Fruitful Rosh Hashanah

Sweet, tart and jewel-tone pomegranates are commonly enjoyed during Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year celebrations, and there are many theories about what this majestic fruit symbolizes. One explains the fruit’s (supposed) 613 seeds represents the 613 good deeds in the Hebrew Bible. Another refers to pomegranates as a symbol of fertility, representing a happy new year of unlimited possibilities. Though my favourite reason to eat these ruby-red gems is because they’re a versatile fruit that adds sparkle to both savoury and sweet recipes, all season long.

chicken-pom

In this dinnertime treasure, we pair pomegranate molasses and pomegranate seeds with fresh ginger to make a seasonally-spiced chicken bake fit for holiday entertaining. As it bakes, a mouthwatering gravy forms at the bottom the dish, which you can serve with couscous or rice to soak it all up. This recipe is perfect for any occasion, simple enough for weeknight cooking and regal enough for elegant holiday entertaining.

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Marinade Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp fresh minced ginger plus 1 (2-inch) piece thinly sliced
1 tsp cinnamon
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt, more for serving
1 (3 lb) whole chicken broken into 8 pieces or 4 skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts, halved
1 Spanish onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/8 tsp ground pepper
Warm cooked couscous or rice, for serving, optional

Directions:
1. In a large zip-top bag, mix pomegranate molasses, olive oil, 1 Tbsp minced ginger, cinnamon, garlic and salt. Place chicken and onions in bag and massage to coat with mixture. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, up to 1 day in refrigerator.
2. Preheat oven to 400ºF. Place chicken and onions in a single layer in a large ovenproof baking dish. Discard remaining marinade. Place thinly sliced ginger in-between chicken pieces.
3. Bake until chicken is cooked through and onions are tender, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven and garnish with fresh pomegranate seeds, parsley, additional salt and pepper. Serve with warm couscous or rice, if desired.

Add some sparkle to the rest of your plate with our best-ever holiday sides.

Fruit Bruschetta

Fresh, Fruity Bruschetta to Sweeten Your Summer

Bruschetta is a crunchy Italian appetizer that celebrates summertime tomatoes, fresh basil, garlic and olive oil, all of which is spooned over crispy, toasted bread. With all of that goodness packed into one bite, it’s no wonder it’s so popular!

While tomatoes are lovely, the concept of bruschetta is open to interpretation. Instead of the standard tomatoes, we put some of summer’s best stone fruit in the spotlight, creating three scrumptious, tomato-free bruschetta using peaches, cherries and apricots. Enjoy one, two or all three of these sweet-meets-savoury creations for a bright, stunningly beautiful alternative to typical tomatoes.

peach-bruschetta

Peach and Radish Bruschetta
Thinly slice 2 ripe peaches and place in a medium bowl with 2 thinly sliced radishes, 1 Tbsp thinly sliced green onion and 2 Tbsp fresh cilantro leaves. Toss in 1 Tbsp olive oil and 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Mix and let peach mixture stand for 10 minutes. Garnish toasted crostini with peach mixture and serve immediately. Makes 8 to 10.

cherry-bruschetta

Cherry and Chive Bruschetta
Pit and slice 2 cups cherries and place in a medium bowl with 1/4 cup minced fresh chives, 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar and 1 Tbsp olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Mix and let cherry mixture stand for 10 minutes. Smear extra-smooth ricotta on toasted crostini and top with cherry mixture, spooning over residual cherry juices. Serve immediately. Makes 8 to 10.

Apricot-Basil

Apricot and Basil Bruschetta
Slice 2 cups ripe apricots and place in a medium bowl with 1/4 cup sliced red onion and 1/4 cup finely chopped basil. In a small bowl whisk 1 Tbsp white wine vinegar with 2 Tbsp apricot jam and microwave for 30 seconds. Toss apricot mixture with jam mixture and let stand for 10 minutes. Top toasted crostini with apricot mixture and garnish with crumbled feta. Serve immediately. Makes 8 to 10.

Don’t get us wrong, we still love tomatoes! Here are our finest fresh tomato recipes for summertime and beyond.

John Catucci’s Italian Easter Traditions

If you’ve ever been a guest at an Italian holiday or family celebration, you know Italians cook up the most delizioso feast. Easter is one of the great Italian feasts of the year,  where a spread of savoury meats, cheeses and salumi, a bounty of seasonal vegetables, and rich sweet desserts are devoured to celebrate this important spring holiday.

John-Catucci-You-Gotta-Eat-Here

You Gotta Eat Here! host John Catucci, whose family hails from southern Italy, told us that an antipasto platter called a Benedetto (John calls it a “pyramid of deliciousness”) is a big part of his family’s Easter feast. This traditional dish is made by layering slices of different savoury cured meats, creamy ricotta, oranges, lemons and hard boiled eggs. John’s family would make a special trip to buy the cured meats and other Easter ingredients at Diana Meat and Grocery, a traditional Italian grocer  in Toronto’s Corso Italia neighbourhood.

Benedetto-Italian-Easter
Image credits (from left to right): michelaalicino.it; cucinasuditalia.blogspot.ca; cucchiarando.wordpress.com

A large platter of Italian meats and cheese sounds satisfying enough but that was just the beginning. The feast culminated with John’s dad’s roast lamb, the traditional choice for the Catucci family’s Easter feast. To make your own Easter roast lamb,  check out these great recipes from Food Network Canada chefs:

Lynn-Crawford-Roast-Lamb

For more great Easter ideas and recipes, visit our Easter Guide.

Watch new episodes of You Gotta Eat Here! with John Catucci Fridays at 9 ET/6 PT.

A Newfoundland Kitchen Party Seafood Feast

By Ray Palmer, as told to Crys Stewart

When Ray Palmer was growing up, his family didn’t need a lot of people to have a kitchen party. With him on guitar, his brother at the piano and his dad playing the accordion, they were the party. Now sharing a home with his wife, Wanda, in the City of Mount Pearl (near St. John’s, N.L.), this born-and-raised Newfoundlander keeps the province’s strong traditions of hospitality alive and kicking.

You’re definitely going to have a kitchen party at Christmastime, and during the year, there might be an occasion, too. The food is always out in the dining room. Over the years, we’ve learned that you shouldn’t keep the bar in the kitchen because that’s where everybody hangs out, and the first stop, of course, is always in the kitchen.

Squid is the highlight for a lot of my friends. You can stuff them with anything, really, but we use a basic bread crumb dressing. They’re a ‘picky’ type of thing, like an hors d’oeuvre. I’ve got a son who comes early when he knows I’m doing squid. And I say, “Now, boy, you can only have a couple because you know there’s a few more here besides you, so don’t have them all gone.” My friend used to have a kitchen party every Christmas with a crowd of 20 or 25 people, and there’d be more there than cod tongues and squid, I can guarantee you—we’d have a moose heart that would be stuffed. Other kinds of pickies, too.

A lot of people think that fish don’t have tongues, but they do. When you look at the fish and open its mouth, there it is looking at you. Years ago, young boys on the wharf would wait for when the fishermen came in with their fish, cut out the cod tongues, then go sell them. They were very cheap back then. The better ones are the smaller type that cook pretty quickly. The bigger cod tongues take longer to cook, so they’re not as good. Once they’re crisp and crunchy, they’re fantastic.

If you get a knock on your door and a bunch of mummers come in that you’re not expecting, you can have no idea who they could be. Mummery is sort of a dying thing, but we’re trying to keep it alive. A bunch of people get together and dress up—you’re disguised—and you go around to your friends’ homes. They don’t know you and your fellow mummers are coming, and you’ve probably got a guitar and an accordion with you. You come in and have a little scuff (a little dance) in the kitchen or wherever they can fit you, then have a little toddy. Everyone in the house is trying to guess who everybody is, of course. Sometimes, they’re right; sometimes, they’re wrong.

When we’re having a party, my three grandchildren are always a part of it. They’re only six and seven years old, but I’m sure once they get into their teens, they’ll be having kitchen parties, too. Guaranteed, they will.

Fried Cod Tongues With Scrunchions, courtesy of Ray Palmer
fried-cod-tongues-with-scunchions_blogembed

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients
2 lb (900 g) cod tongues (preferably fresh; I prefer the smaller tongues)
½ cup (125 mL) flour
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
¼ tsp (1 mL) pepper
½ lb (225 g) pork fatback

Directions
1. Wash tongues carefully; dry with paper towel. Add flour, salt and pepper to plastic bag. Add tongues, shaking bag to coat. Set aside.
2. Cut pork fatback into small cubes. Add to skillet; fry at low to medium heat until fat is rendered out and fatback is crispy and brown. (Don’t overheat or the fat will burn.) Remove pork scrunchions; set aside.
3. Add tongues to same skillet; cook over medium heat until tongues are brown and crispy on both sides. Put scrunchions back in skillet when tongues are almost ready. Cod tongues can be served as an appetizer by themselves or served with fries as a main meal.

Print, save or share this cod tongue recipe.

Baked Stuffed Squid, courtesy of Ray Palmer
2newfoundland-kitchen-party-squid_Blogembed

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients
6 squid tubes, cleaned and washed thoroughly
½ tsp (2 mL) salt
4 cups (1 L) bread crumbs (1 bag of bread crumbs)
¼ cup (60 mL) savory
¼ cup (60 mL) melted butter
1 medium onion, chopped finely
pepper to taste

Directions
1. Sprinkle squid with salt.
2. Mix together bread crumbs, savory, butter, onion and pepper. Loosely stuff squid (don’t overstuff).
3. Add enough cold water to cover bottom of 13 x 9-inch (3 L) baking dish. Add squid; cover with foil. (Don’t seal foil around sides of dish; keep tented.) Bake in 325°F (160°C) for about 50 minutes. Turn quid halfway through; add more water, if necessary. Remove from pan when cooked; slice into rings.

Click here to print, save or share this stuffed squid recipe.

Follow the jump to see more of what a Newfoundland kitchen party is really like.

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