In thinking about how to be most useful this time of year, it hit us like a lump of coals in a stocking — two-for-one recipes for seasonal gifts and entertaining. This week’s Eatsy post is for the host or hostess in need of easy holiday recipes, the gourmet gift giver or giver-ess who likes handmade edibles or the person looking to kill two holiday birds with one delicious stone (meaning: make, serve and gift all from one or two recipes).
Recipes for holiday entertaining and food gifting have one thing in common: both should keep a minimum of 3-4 days. If cooking for a holiday gathering, life is easier when a few tried and true, make-ahead dishes are in your repertoire. Give foods that can be made a day or so ahead of time and that keep a few days after gift swapping comes to a close. The recipes we’re sharing here run the gamut, but all keep for several days and some even improve with age. They appeal to the meat eater, the nut lover, the chocolate obsessed and the dried fruit devotee. Well suited to holiday appetites, these indulgent foods make the holidays feel all the more special. Mulled wine and/or nog help too.
The first recipe we’re sharing is for a Texas Spice Cake. It’s a traditional cake that the Sills family, dear friends since childhood, swap on Christmas day. Gay Sills explains the cake’s origins matter-of-factly: “The Texas Spice Cake recipe came from This Little Higgy Went to Market, a wonderful Texas cookbook which is a collection of Higginbotham (hence Higgy, not piggy) family recipes.” Gay has since adapted the recipe somewhat but explains, “The Texas Higginbotham family collected family recipes, published This Little Higgy Went to Market in 1966 and gave the cookbook as gifts to lucky family friends. I have been making the spice cake for 40 years.”
Photo by Rooey Shmool
Texas Spice Cake
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup prunes, pitted and cut up
1 t. baking soda
2 cups sugar
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups flour
1 t. salt
2 t. cinnamon
2 t. vanilla
2 t. allspice
2 t. cloves
2 t. nutmeg
1 cup pecans
Photo by Rooey Shmool
Combine oil, sugar, and spices. Then, add eggs one at a time while mixing. Carefully add soda and buttermilk alternating with flour. Add prunes and nuts. Oil and flour two loaf pans, then pour in the batter. Cook 40-45 minutes in a 350 degree oven.
1 cup sugar
1/2 c. buttermilk
1/4 t. baking soda
1/2 stick butter
Boil the ingredients for 5 minutes until sugar is totally dissolved. Pour glaze over the cooled cake while it is still in the pan. Once the cakes are cooled run a knife around the edges and turn the cakes over on a platter.
Photo by Rooey Shmool
The second recipe is a holiday nut recipe that friend and fellow Eatsy chef Michelle Fuerst, originally from Sacramento, made at a fall dinner last year. They’re so good that I remember them still. They’re the perfect nut recipe in my mind: rich and buttery, peppery and addictive. Michelle never fails to remind one that, “good hors d’ourves are crucial,” or credit her recipe source, which in this instance was her friend and cookbook author Niloufer King. A diligent cook who hates to cut corners, Michelle’s motto when it comes to appetizers is straightforward — good appetizers prepare diners for proper feasts. Thankfully, these happen to be easy and keep well too (though Michelle likes to serve them warm). Sealed in an airtight jar, a peppery cashew gift will make your nearest and dearest nut happy.
1 pound cashews
1 tablespoon butter
Pinch of cayenne
Copious amounts of coarsely ground black pepper
Roast the nuts at 325 degrees for 7 minutes. Continue to roast, while stirring and checking often until the nuts are golden. Once the nuts are cool enough to handle, but still warm, toss them with the butter and seasonings. Taste and add more pepper until the nuts have a pronounced pepper flavor. Allow the cashews to cool an additional 15 minutes, or until they become crisp again.
Photo by Home/Made
The ladies of Home/Made in Brooklyn are Eatsy friends and seasoned caterers. Monica, Home/Made’s chef and co-owner, knows how to make food that’s irresistible to a crowd. When asked about foods that work equally well as gifts and dishes in a holiday spread, she and her partner Lesiah were quick to suggest the following chocolate torte. A good chocolate cake recipe that keeps a few days, this torte is stunning when wrapped in clear wrapping paper or served with airy whipped cream and tumbling fresh fruit on a holiday table.
1 lb bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
1/2 lb butter
Preheat oven to 350. Grease an 8″ spring form cake pan with butter and line the bottom with parchment paper. Melt chocolate and butter together in a bowl set over a double boiler. Mix to combine. Beat eggs in a mixer on high speed, until light and fluffy. Fold eggs into the chocolate-butter mixture with a balloon whisk until well combined. Pour batter into cake pans and bakes.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the cake’s center is just firm. (Allow cake to cool completely before serving. It’s delicious straight out of the oven, but messy!) This cake is also wonderful after refrigeration; it takes on a fudge-like consistency. Top the cake with freshly whipped cream, flavored with a little Grand Marnier. For a buffet, top with a pillow of lightly whipped cream, sliced blood oranges and other fruits.
Photo by armaburrito on Flickr
The last recipe we recommend as an edible gift and a worthy addition to holiday spreads is a rich French spreadable meat treat called Rillette. Rilettes are similar to pates, but they are more rustic and toothsome. Made by slow simmering meat (or fish) in its own fat with aromatics, rillettes are made by separating the meat, mixing it with a judicious amount of seasoning and mixing it with the flavored fat until it’s spreadable. Once seasoned, it’s set aside to either rest for a few days or packed in jars and stored for a month or so. This recipe is made the old fashioned way. While it can be time consuming, this classic French treat is so rich and lush you won’t mind. Plus it’s not complicated! It’s best served with good French bread toasts.