A Tasteful Affair

Eat, Drink and be Merry.

Maybe you’re organizing the swankiest shindig that ever hit North Raleigh.
Or perhaps you’re creating a small soiree for your closest BFFs in Hillsborough. From one extreme to the other and every gathering in between, the holiday hostess with the mostest creates an evening to remember.
From recent cookbooks, here are recipes for festive treats your guests will love to nibble and sip.

The Christmas Table:
Recipes and Crafts to Create
Your Own Holiday Tradition

By Diane Morgan
Published by Chronicle Books

Pomegranate Martini

A perfect balance of sweet and tart and blushed with color. Bring out the seasonal joy of fresh pomegranates with a garnish of fresh ruby-red seeds.

Superfine sugar
1 lemon wedge
2 ounces (1/4 cup) citrus vodka
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) pomegranate juice
1/4 ounce (1-1/2 teaspoons) fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon grenadine (syrup flavored with
6 pomegranate seeds
Lemon twist (peel of lemon)

Spread a little superfine sugar on a small saucer. Rub the rim of a martini glass with the lemon wedge, and then invert the glass onto the sugar to coat the rim. Discard the wedge.

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add the vodka, pomegranate juice, lemon juice and grenadine. Cover, shake vigorously and then strain into the prepared glass. Garnish with the pomegranate seeds and lemon twist.

Yield: 1 serving


Luscious Liqueurs:
50 Recipes for Sublime and Spiritual Infusions to Sip and Savor

By A.J. Rathburn
Published by the Harvard Common Press

Irish Cream Liqueur
This luscious treat is a holiday hit. It delightfully matches the festive spirit and is perfect as a warming dessert drink or as a gift, even if the gift is only for yourself.

One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1-2/3 cups Irish whiskey
1 cup light cream
2 tablespoons chocolate syrup
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract

Put all of the ingredients in any order you want in a sturdy blender. Blend on medium for 1 minute,
making sure that everything is completely combined.
Pour the mixture into 1 large (at least 1-1/2 liters) bottle or a number of smaller bottles or jars with tight-fitting lids. Seal and refrigerate before using. (It can also be placed in the freezer, but it might get slushy.) You can serve this right away, and please consume within 2 weeks.

Yield: About 2-1/2 pints

Hometown Get-Togethers:
Memorable Meals for Great Gatherings

By Candace Floyd, Anne Gillem, Nancy S. Hughes and Jill Melton
Published by William Morrow

Spicy Island Shrimp

This is a favorite family recipe. I brought a bowl of spicy island shrimp to a Christmas party to share with friends and guests. It disappeared from the serving table shortly after my arrival. The following year, my identical offering to my friend’s party never app-eared on the serving table. When asked about this situation, the friend said he enjoyed it so much he kept it for himself rather than share it with his guests. It became a Christmas gift to him from then on.

1 cup mayonnaise
1/3-1/2 cup chili sauce
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 pounds cooked large shrimp, chilled
2 medium green onions, finely chopped
1/3 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
2 tablespoons capers, drained and finely chopped
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish, well drained

Combine the mayonnaise, chili sauce, black pepper, salt, garlic and cayenne in a bowl and mix well. Add the remaining ingredients and toss to coat.

Arrange on a lettuce-lined platter or in a bowl and serve immediately for a pungent flavor or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 hours for a more blended flavor. Lobster or chicken may be substituted for the shrimp.

Yield: 12 to 16 servings

The Paley’s Place Cookbook:
Recipes and Stories From the Pacific Northwest

By Vitaly Paley and Kimberly Paley
Published by Ten Speed Press

Roman-Style Chopped Chicken Liver

My mother and I left Russia in 1976 when I was 12, setting out through Eastern Europe by train and by bus, feeling like gypsies and happy to be free at last. Eventually we got to Rome, home to centuries-old Jewish traditions and, in the 1970s, the Italian version of Ellis Island.
The food there made my head spin — I tasted my very first bite of pizza, my first gelato. The smell of coffee would reel me into a cafe from a block away. My mother got creative with what little means we had and made sure we ate well, in a way that would pay huge dividends in my adult life.

She reinvented her cooking, incorporating the brave new flavors of our temporary home. And as the foods around me evolved, my palate evolved with them. Noodles bored me before, but when made with lots of garlic, olive oil, and cheese, they sparked my interest. Before Rome, I could hardly swallow chopped liver, but when my mother infused it with the flavors of anchovies, sage and capers, I found it irresistible.

This recipe, then, is like an heirloom, a blend of my family traditions with the flavors of Rome. When I want an authentic Jewish touch, I serve this chopped liver with matzo. When I want to recall Rome, I slather it on grilled flatbreads. While a great appetizer, it is equally a good spread on rye bread on a sandwich, which I garnish with sliced red onion and pickles.


1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pound chicken livers, lobes halved
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large shallot, finely minced
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 anchovy fillets, drained and chopped
5 large fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons drained capers
1/4 cup cream sherry
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons brandy
1 hard-boiled egg, peeled and coarsely grated on the largest holes of a box grater


In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat until it shimmers. Add the livers, season with salt and pepper and sear until lightly colored on the bottom, about 1 minute.

Turn the livers over. Add the shallot, garlic, anchovies, sage and capers. Cook, stirring, until the shallots have softened (it’s fine if they take on a little color), about 3 minutes. Pour in the sherry and balsamic vinegar, decrease heat to medium-low and simmer for about 1 minute.

Transfer the liver mixture to the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Add the brandy and pulse a few times until coarsely chopped.

Transfer the chopped liver to a small bowl, fold in the egg and season with salt and pepper. Allow to come to room temperature, cover and refrigerate until completely cold. Chopped liver can be made up to a day in advance.

Yield: 1-1/2 cups

Big Night In: More Than 100 Wonderful Recipes for Feeding Family and Friends Italian-Style

By Domenica Marchetti
Published by Chronicle Books

Sea Salt and Rosemary
Sweet Potato Chips

When my kids were quite young I used to make these chips in a (perhaps misguided) attempt to get them to try new vegetables. Of course they devoured them; what’s not to love about fried sweet potatoes? The seasoned salt dresses them up just a bit.

1 tablespoon fine or flaky sea salt
1 teaspoon very finely minced fresh rosemary
Vegetable oil, for frying
2 large sweet potatoes with skins on, scrubbed clean

In a small bowl, mix together the sea salt and rosemary. Set aside.
Pour enough oil into a large saucepan to reach a depth of 1 inch. Set the pan over medium heat and heat the oil to 350 degrees. Test the oil by dropping in a sliver of sweet potato. It should sizzle immediately.

Using a mandoline or a sharp chef’s knife, slice the potatoes crosswise into very thin rounds, about 1/6 of an inch thick. Carefully drop a handful of potato slices into the hot oil. Use a skimmer or large slotted spoon to turn the potato slices frequently and fry them for about 2 minutes or just until they are golden brown.

Carefully but quickly remove them from the oil to a large paper-towel-lined rimmed baking sheet or a large brown paper bag to drain. Continue to fry the sweet potatoes in batches until you have fried them all. Let the chips cool to room temperature.

Sprinkle some of the rosemary salt over the chips and place the chips in a decorative bowl or napkin-lined basket. Serve the chips at room temperature.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

The Bon Appetit Fast Easy Fresh Cookbook

By Barbara Fairchild
Published by John Wiley & Sons

Mini Crab Cakes

Tiny crab cakes are great passed hors d’oeuvres. For a more elegant presentation, top each one with a little dollop of the garlicky French mayonnaise known as aioli and garnish with fresh parsley sprigs.

1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 pound fresh lump crabmeat, patted dry
10 tablespoons plus 1 cup finely crushed crackers (such as Ritz)
4 green onions, finely chopped
1 large egg, beaten to blend
6 tablespoons olive oil
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Whisk first 7 ingredients in large bowl to blend. Mix in crabmeat, 10 tablespoons cracker crumbs, green onions and egg. Shape mixture by rounded tablespoonfuls into 1/2-inch-thick cakes. Place remaining 1 cup cracker crumbs in shallow bowl. Roll cakes in crumbs to coat; arrange on baking sheet.

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in large skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, fry crab cakes until golden, adding more oil to skillet by tablespoonfuls as needed, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to another baking sheet; place in oven to keep warm.

Arrange crab cakes on platter. Cakes can be prepared 2 hours ahead; if so, cover and chill.

Yield: About 32 crab cakes

Party Snacks!:
50 Simple, Stylish Recipes to Make You a Popular Party Host

By A.J. Rathbun
Published by the Harvard Common Press

Spicy Cheese Balls

The cheese ball monster can become a scary thing. Often store-bought (with the accompanying sense of the unknown), large and lurking in the middle of a plate, it traditionally doesn’t inspire affection and usually doesn’t get eaten. But you can tame the cheese ball by making it yourself and whittling it into baby cheese balls. This lets guests approach each smaller spicy and tasty ball on an individual basis.

One 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup finely chopped walnuts

Put the cream cheese, cheddar, garlic, parsley, cayenne paper, black pepper and salt in a food processor. Process for 5 to 10 seconds, until well blended. Scrape the mixture into a bowl, cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Spread the chopped walnuts on a plate. Shape the cheese mixture into 35 to 40 small cheese balls, each about the size of a large marble. Roll each cheese ball in the walnuts, coating the outside. (You may have to press a little to ensure sticking.)

Serve the cheese balls on a large platter. You can put a toothpick in each ball, but you could also surround them with crackers and let guests use their hands. It all depends on what kind of party you’re having.

Yield: 35 to 40 bite-size cheese balls

Great Party Fondues
By Peggy Fallon
Published by John Wiley & Sons

Classic Swiss Fondue

It’s always risky to call a recipe “classic,” since the most popular, time-tested dishes can be made in a variety of ways. But the three cheeses used here are indeed the great cheeses of Switzerland, and they make a fine fondue. Cubes of crusty French or Italian bread are the traditional accompaniment for dipping, but assorted vegetables and crisp apple slices make a nice addition.

1 pound Gruyere (yellow, hard and solid) cheese, shredded
3/4 pound Emmenthaler (Swiss) cheese, shredded
1/4 pound Appenzeller (hard cow’s milk) cheese, shredded or cut into small pieces
1-1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 large garlic clove, crushed with the flat side of a knife
1-1/2 cups dry white wine
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons kirsch (fermented cherry brandy)
Dash of freshly grated nutmeg
Dash of cayenne pepper

In a large bowl, toss the shredded Gruyere, Emmenthaler and Appenzeller cheeses with the cornstarch to coat.

Rub the inside of a large saucepan with the garlic and discard. Pour the wine and lemon juice into the pan and cook over medium heat until hot but not boiling. Reduce the heat to low and gradually stir in the cheese mixture, letting each addition melt before adding more. Stir in the kirsch and cook for 2 minutes longer. Season with the nutmeg and cayenne.

Transfer to a fondue pot, preferably ceramic or enameled cast iron, and serve at once.

Regulate the heat under the pot, if possible, so that the cheese fondue remains warm, not hot.
Note: If you don’t have a fondue pot, you may use a traditional chafing dish or an electric slow cooker.

Yield: 12 to 14 appetizer servings



Entertaining Simple:
Recipes, Menus and Party Ideas
for Every Kind of Gathering

By Matthew Mead
Published by John Wiley & Sons

Green Bean Bundles

These crisp bites of green bean are fresh and made delicious by the salty Italian ham.

1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 slices prosciutto, cut in half lengthwise
Herb-infused olive oil, for drizzling

Bring a medium pot of water to boiling. Add the beans and boil until they are tender and turn bright green, about 3 minutes. Drain the beans and plunge in ice water to stop the cooking; drain well. Toss them in the olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Bundle the beans in groups of 5 and wrap 1 piece of prosciutto around each bundle. Arrange the bundles on a serving platter and drizzle with the herb-infused oil.

Yield: 12 servings