December 11, 2018


To borrow a phrase, it’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Sharing holiday cheer means spending time with beloved friends and family members, sometimes seeing relatives you only see once each year. In some cases, seeing these relations more than once a year could be… more than enough. Like in the case of the politically-divided family who is greeted by children politely issuing the edict that election-talk is not a welcome topic of conversation in the house. Or the competitive siblings that make you want to set your table using either your children’s college acceptance letters or your tax returns as placemats to subtly get one up. 

The one thing that can diffuse these tense situations is good, and well-prepared, hospitality. Plan in advance, do not leave anything for last minute prep. Create you platters of of crudités, cheese and charcuterie in advance. Make your dips and salsas the day before place them in the bowls you are serving them in and wrap tightly. If you want to fill in some holes, purchase high quality hummus’ spreads, tapenades etc and doctor them up. Add fresh chopped herbs, a splash of citrus or some toasted spices to a nice product and call it your own. Add some orange peel, toasted fennel seeds, chili flakes and a few Rosemary leaves to some marinated olives. Whatever you choose to serve, do all of the work in advance so you can be a guest at your party.

When your conservative uncle brings up controversial topic number one, make sure you’re prepared with enough chilled wine and beverages for everyone to partake. Offer him a large bite of a delicious Pimento cheese to keep his mouth occupied. Delicious snacks at the ready diffuse your nosey aunt’s questions about when there will be another family wedding or baby. She will forget her over reaching inquiries once she tastes your broccoli pesto (*recipe below).

As a hostess/host, you should already have your ducks in a row long before anyone arrives. You should be 90 percent finished with all of your preparation. The only dishes and glasses you should have on the counter are the ones your guests will be be using. Your kitchen should be cleaned up so you’re not chained to the sink, but free to socialize (and referee) with family and friends. 

If someone arrives earlier than expected, use their arrival time to your advantage and give them a job. “You’re early — great. Thank you for coming and can you wash these dishes? I’m going to go take a shower.” Pour your guest a glass of already-chilled wine or Prosecco and put them to work. 

It never hurts to be overly prepared during the season in case a party grows in size or unexpected guests drop in. 

Back on that chilled wine or Prosecco — you should always have a bottle in your ‘fridge so you’re ready to go no matter what the time (remember morning mimosas).  

As for quick-time treats, take pizza dough and roll it out flat. Fill it with caramelized onions, chopped dates and Parmesan cheese. Roll it up and slice it like a jelly roll about 2” in diameter. Freeze these rolls and if you need them in a hurry, pop them in mini muffin tins and bake up for a delicious canapé.

We live in the age of the tartine, which is essentially toast — really fancy and expensive toast. Keep a loaf of sliced artisanal bread in your freezer. In a pinch, you can toast it and dress it up with garlic or herb oil and whatever you have on hand — tomatoes and burrata, manchego and apricot jam, figs, pistachios and a balsamic vinegar glaze — whatever.

And if your best-laid plans falter and conversation starts to circle the drain? Pour another glass, take a deep breath and remember, the holidays only happen once a year… thankfully.

Broccoli Pesto Recipe from Schaffer: 

1.   2 cups Blanched and dried Broccoli tops

2.   2 Cup clean unbruised Basil Leaves

3.   1 small clove garlic.

4.   1/2 cup toasted almonds or walnuts

5.   2 T lemon zest

6.   ¼ C fresh lemon juice

7.   ½ tsp Crushed Red Pepper

8.   1/2 cup EVO

9.   1/2 cup grated Pecorino or Parmesan

10.Sea Salt and Pepper to taste

Blend garlic, oil, almonds in food processor until smooth. 

Add Broccoli, Lemon juice & Zest, Basil Pepper, Cheese.

Blend Quickly until smooth and keep covered with a thin layer of olive oil until serving to prevent oxidization (discoloration).