Each time I look at the calendar and more December days have flown by, I keep thinking I’ll get my act together with shopping. Probably not, so instead I’ll focus on entertaining and food. That’s way more fun, anyway.
The halls are decked at Casa de Rathbun. Each morning when I come out of the bedroom, overnight I’ve forgotten about the gorgeous 12-foot tree with 1,300 lights adorning it. What a beautiful way to start the day.
This week’s recipe is from “Artfully Done Across Generations,” the Wichita Art Museum cookbook that was published in 2008. I worked on the marketing committee for the book when I served on a board for the museum. This book is chock-full of incredible recipes, gorgeous art work and tons of love. My dear friend RoxAnn Banks Dicker wrote the book in memory of her mother, Carlene Banks, who was a longtime Art Mueum volunteer. I’ll forever be grateful for this book because it helped me forge an invaluable friendship with RoxAnn.
When you host a holiday gathering, there are so many things to get done – make the food, set out the glasses and plates, grab the holiday napkins, pop the champagne, light the candles, set out flowers. It’s a lot of work, but joyful work, hopefully. To be on the receiving end of a holiday invitation is something special. It tends to be most everyone’s busiest month, so attend all you can within reason.
My favorite kind of party is hors d'oeuvres and cocktails. I like the casual elegance of moving about and not being tied to a chair. I find people are more at ease at these parties, too. There’s less pressure on everyone. You can work the room catching up with friends and meet new ones, too. Plus, there’s just something fun about eating with your hands.
You’ll notice this week’s recipe is a “light” one, meaning it has reduced fat ingredients. It goes against everything I believe in to do low-fat anything. But I’m told it’s better this way, and I do trust my friend RoxAnn. This delightful artichoke dip will likely work its way into your entertaining rotation. I mean, what could be better than a cheesy, bubbly dip with panko on top? And you could easily prep this mouth-watering dip ahead of time and pop it into the oven 30 minutes before your guests arrive. That’s another huge positive for this recipe. It says to serve with pita chips, but I think it would be delightful with Ritz crackers. Then again, what isn’t good with Ritz crackers?
So you’ve got something to serve to eat. What about the cocktail? I’m absolutely dying to try David Lebovitz’s Browned Butter Old Fashioned. I’ve never been a “brown alcohol” drinker, unless it’s tequila, but I’ve found recently if it’s in a cocktail, I don’t mind a bit of bourbon. I’m a huge David Lebovitz fan and have been for years. He was pastry chef at Chez Panisse in Berkeley before moving to Paris. Talk about an incredible story.
His books and his blog are candy for anyone who loves food and good food writing. If you are searching for a gift for a food-loving person, might I suggest his “Ready for Dessert” cookbook or “The Sweet Life in Paris”? I’m not usually one for dessert-only cookbooks, but this guy is brilliant when it comes to desserts. My favorite recipe from that book is Brown Sugar-Pecan Shortbread, oh and the Gingersnaps are delightful, too.
Roasted Artichoke Dip
2 9-ounce boxes frozen artichokes, thawed
2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, minced (about 1 cup)
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
1 8-ounce block light cream cheese, room temperature
1 ounce (1/2 cup) Parmesan cheese, grated
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
Dash of hot red pepper sauce
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Toss the artichokes with 1 teaspoon of oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and spread over the baking sheet. Roast, rotating the baking sheet from front to back halfway through, until the edges of the artichokes are browned, about 20 to 25 minutes. Set aside to cool. Reduce oven to 400 degrees.
Combine onion, garlic, remaining oil and ½ teaspoon salt in a nonstick skillet. Cover and cook over medium heat about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer onion mixture to a large bowl; add mayonnaise, cream cheese, Parmesan, lemon juice, thyme and hot pepper sauce; stir until combined (important to work with room temperature cream cheese or it will not combine). Coarsely chop the cooled artichokes and add to the mixture. Scrape into an ungreased 8-inch square baking dish. Toss bread crumbs and Parmesan together, sprinkle on top and spray the bread crumbs with vegetable oil cooking spray. Bake until browned, about 25 minutes. Serve immediately with baked pita chips for dipping. Makes 3 cups.
“Artfully Done Across Generations,” 2008