Recipes for blue cheese and mushroom gougères; phyllo triangles with squash and mint; marinated olives; stuffed mushrooms; lemon grass beef and scallion rolls; linguica spread; caesar stuffed eggs, pecan maple blue cheese bourbon tart; and candied jalapeños.

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It’s holiday entertaining season, and you’ve navigating the minefield of office parties and in-laws and dinner parties and cookie swaps. You are ready for comfort food, but it’s New Year’s Eve and still entertaining. You just need to marry your need for fatty comforting carbs with something dressy enough to serve in polite company.

So we give you cheese gougères and phyllo triangles and stuffed mushrooms, a pecan maple blue cheese bourbon tart, even marinated olives — 10 recipes in all.

Blue cheese and mushroom gougères are basically dough balls studded with chopped mushrooms and crumbled blue cheese. (Matthew Mead/AP)
Blue cheese and mushroom gougères are basically dough balls studded with chopped mushrooms and crumbled blue cheese. (Matthew Mead/AP)

BLUE CHEESE AND MUSHROOM GOUGÈRES

Makes 25 to 30

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½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided

8 ounces mixed mushrooms, finely chopped

2 shallots, finely chopped

Kosher salt

½ cup water

½ cup milk

Ground black pepper

1 cup all-purpose flour

4 eggs

¾ cup crumbled blue cheese

1. Heat the oven to 400 F. Coat two baking sheets with cooking spray.

2. In a large skillet over medium-high, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the mushrooms, shallots and a hefty pinch of salt. Cook until tender and lightly browned, four to five minutes. Set aside.

3. In a medium saucepan over medium, combine the remaining 7 tablespoons butter, the water, milk and a hefty pinch of each salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, then add the flour all at once. Stirring with a wooden spoon, mix well and continue to cook until the mixture becomes a ball that separates from the pan, one to two minutes.

4. Scoop the dough ball into the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on medium speed for two minutes to allow the mixture to cool slightly. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly between additions. Stir in the reserved mushroom mixture and the blue cheese. Scooping by the tablespoonful, place walnut-sized dollops on the prepared baking sheets, leaving 1½ inches of space between each.

5. Alternatively, transfer the dough into a large zip-close plastic bag. Snip off one of the lower corners and pipe (squeeze) the mixture into place on the prepared baking sheets.

6. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Enjoy warm or at room temperature.

— Alison Ladman, The Associated Press

PHYLLO TRIANGLES WITH SQUASH AND MINT

Makes 50 triangles

1 small butternut squash, about 1¼ pounds, peeled, halved, seeds and membranes removed, cut into 2-inch pieces

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and black pepper to taste

1 bunch scallions, white and light green parts, chopped

1 large garlic clove, minced

1 egg

3 ounces feta, crumbled (about ¾ cup)

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint or 1 teaspoon dried mint

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

½ pound phyllo dough (store-bought is fine)

Preparation:

1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Toss squash with two tablespoons olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, or until the squash is tender and easily pierced with a knife. Allow squash to cool slightly, then mash with a fork or in a food processor.

2. Lower oven to 350 degrees. Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a small skillet and add scallions. Cook, stirring often, until tender, two to three minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute. Add to squash and stir together.

3. Beat egg in a medium bowl. Add the squash, cheese, mint and salt and pepper. Set aside.

4. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Melt butter with two tablespoons olive oil in a microwave at 50 percent power, or in a small saucepan.

5. Take one sheet of phyllo dough at a time and lay it horizontally on your work surface. Cut 2½-inch-wide strips. (You should be able to cut about six strips per sheet.) Cover the strips you aren’t working with, and the rest of the phyllo, with a damp towel. Brush a strip with the butter-olive oil mixture.

6. Place a teaspoonful of filling on the strip, about an inch down from the end. Lift a corner of the pastry and fold over filling diagonally until shorter edge of the strip meets the longer edge. Fold triangle of covered filling down toward you, and continue folding over and down at right angles, until you reach the end of the strip. If the phyllo cracks, or if you simply want a thicker wrapper, double wrap the triangle in a second strip.

7. Brush with more melted butter and olive oil to seal the end, and place on baking sheet. Continue making filled triangles in this way.

8. Before baking, brush triangles with oil and butter. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown. Serve hot.

Tip: The assembled pastries can be covered tightly with plastic and refrigerated overnight, or frozen for several weeks. To freeze, lay about one dozen pastries on a large sheet of plastic wrap in a single layer and wrap tightly. Wrap the plastic packets in foil and then place in a freezer bag. Unwrap and transfer directly from the freezer to parchment-covered baking sheets, brush with butter and olive oil and bake without thawing first. Add five minutes to the baking time.

— Martha Rose Shulman, The New York Times

 

These marinated olives would easily be served at parties during the holidays.  (Matthew Mead/AP)
These marinated olives would easily be served at parties during the holidays. (Matthew Mead/AP)

MARINATED OLIVES FOUR WAYS

Makes about 2 cups

Herb and seed

In a dry skillet, toast 1 tablespoon caraway seeds and 1 tablespoon fennel seeds until fragrant, about two minutes. Mix in 2 tablespoons each of minced fresh rosemary, minced fresh thyme and minced fresh marjoram. Add ½ cup olive oil and 2 cups Sicilian or other large green olives. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Agrodolce

Combine 1½ cups mixed olives, ½ cup golden raisins, ¼ cup olive oil, ¼ cup balsamic vinegar, ¼ cup toasted pine nuts, 2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary, 1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic, and the zest and juice of 1 orange. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Toasted garlic

In a small skillet over medium, heat ¼ cup olive oil. Add 3 tablespoons chopped garlic and cook for two to three minutes, or until lightly browned and fragrant. Add to 2 cups Kalamata olives along with ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Lemon-pumpkin seed

Combine the zest of 1 lemon, ¼ cup pumpkin seed oil (or lemon-flavored olive oil), ¼ cup toasted pumpkin seeds and 2 cups Castelvetrano olives.

— Alison Ladman, The Associated Press

 

Spanish-style stuffed mushrooms (bottom row) and Italian style stuffed mushrooms. Each features pork and cheese.  (Matthew Mead/AP)
Spanish-style stuffed mushrooms (bottom row) and Italian style stuffed mushrooms. Each features pork and cheese. (Matthew Mead/AP)

SPANISH-STYLE STUFFED MUSHROOMS

This recipe uses Spanish chorizo. If all you can find is Mexican chorizo (which is fresh, not smoked and cured like the Spanish, and needs to be cooked more thoroughly), remove the meat from the casing, cook it in the oil in the skillet, stirring until it is just cooked through. Transfer the cooked chorizo to a medium bowl with a slotted spoon and proceed with the recipe as written.

Makes 30 stuffed mushrooms

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra

¼ pound Spanish chorizo sausage

30 large (1½ inches in diameter) cremini mushrooms

½ cup finely chopped yellow onion

¼ cup dry sherry

1 slice firm white sandwich bread, cut into ¼-inch cubes (about ½ cup)

1 ounce manchego cheese, coarsely grated

¼ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

1. Heat the oven to 400 F. Use a bit of olive oil to lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet.

2. Remove the casing from the sausage and cut it into small dice. Trim and discard the dry ends of the mushroom stems. Remove the stems from the mushroom caps and finely chop them. Arrange the mushroom caps, open sides down, on the oiled pan and bake on the ovens middle shelf for 10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, in a medium skillet over medium, cook the chorizo, stirring occasionally, until it begins to brown, about three minutes. Transfer the chorizo to a medium bowl with a slotted spoon.

4. Discard all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the skillet. Add the onion and cook until softened, about five minutes. Add the chopped mushroom stems and cook until the liquid the mushrooms release is almost all reduced. Add the sherry and simmer until almost all the liquid is reduced. Transfer the vegetable mixture to the bowl with the chorizo and set aside to cool slightly. Stir in the bread, cheese and parsley, then season with salt and pepper.

5. After the mushrooms have baked for 10 minutes, remove the pan from the oven. Carefully turn the mushroom caps over and divide the chorizo mixture among them, mounding it slightly. Bake the stuffed caps on the oven’s middle shelf for about 15 minutes, or until the mushrooms are tender and the stuffing is golden brown. If the stuffing browns too quickly, cover the mushrooms loosely with foil.

— Sara Moulton, The Associated Press

 

ITALIAN-STYLE STUFFED MUSHROOMS

Makes 30 stuffed mushrooms

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra

30 large (1½ inches in diameter) cremini mushrooms

½ cup finely chopped yellow onion

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage

2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, finely chopped

1 ounce Parmesan cheese, coarsely grated

1 slice firm white sandwich bread, cut into ¼-inch cubes (about ½ cup)

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

1. Heat the oven to 400 F. Use a bit of olive oil to lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet.

2. Trim and discard the dry ends of the mushroom stems. Remove the stems from the mushroom caps and finely chop them. Arrange the mushroom caps, open sides down, on the oiled pan and bake on the ovens middle shelf for 10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium, heat the oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about five minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for one minute. Add the chopped mushroom stems and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid the mushrooms release is almost all reduced. Add the sage and prosciutto and cook, stirring, for one minute. Stir in the cheese, bread cubes and red pepper flakes, if using.

4. After the mushrooms have baked for 10 minutes, remove the pan from the oven. Carefully turn the mushroom caps over and divide the stuffing mixture among them, mounding it slightly. Bake the stuffed caps on the oven’s middle shelf for about 15 minutes, or until the mushrooms are tender and the stuffing is golden brown. If the stuffing browns too quickly, cover the mushrooms loosely with foil.

— Sara Moulton, The Associated Press

 

 

LEMON GRASS BEEF AND SCALLION ROLLS

This dish is an easy version of the Japanese dish beef negimaki, Roll them ahead, wrap in plastic and store in the fridge until you’re ready to grill and serve. You’ll find lemon grass stalks in Asian markets.

Serves 4 to 8

1½ pounds top round steak

4 lemon grass stalks, trimmed, pounded and minced

1 garlic clove, minced

2 tablespoons fish sauce

1 tablespoon honey

2 teaspoons or soy sauce

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

6 scallions

Toasted crushed sesame seeds, for serving

1. Place meat in freezer for 30 to 45 minutes, then slice as thinly as possible against the grain.

2. Combine lemon grass, garlic, fish sauce, honey, soy sauce and pepper in a large bowl and mix well. Add beef and toss to combine. Let beef marinate for up to an hour at room temperature, or up to four hours in the refrigerator.

3. Trim scallions and cut crosswise into halves or thirds, so that they are a bit longer than the width of the slices of beef. Bring 1 inch water to a simmer in a medium-size skillet over medium-high heat. Add scallions and blanch just until their color deepens, 15 to 20 seconds. Drain.

4. Preheat an outdoor grill, stovetop grill or panini press.

5. Roll each piece of beef around 1 or 2 pieces of scallion, and brush the excess marinade on outside of each roll. If desired, thread rolls onto wooden skewers or toothpicks that have been soaked in water.

6. Grill until just cooked through, two to three minutes per side, sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve hot.

— Adapted by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from “Paleo Planet: Primal Foods From the Global Kitchen” by Becky Winkler (Harvard Common Press, November 2015, $24.95)

 

Zesty linguica spread is a savory blend of spicy sausage and mildly tangy cream cheese. You can serve the spread with crackers, toast points, phyllo cups or buttery puff pasty cups.  (Gretchen McKay/TNS)
Zesty linguica spread is a savory blend of spicy sausage and mildly tangy cream cheese. You can serve the spread with crackers, toast points, phyllo cups or buttery puff pasty cups. (Gretchen McKay/TNS)

ZESTY LINGUICA SPREAD

This easy appetizer is a savory blend of spicy sausage and mildly tangy cream cheese. If you can’t find Portuguese sausage, substitute the more readily available chorizo. You can serve the spread with crackers, toast points, phyllo cups or buttery puff pasty cups.

Makes 1 cup

½ pound linguica or chorizo sausage, casing removed

1½ teaspoons olive oil

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

4 ounces cream cheese, softened or whipped

1½ tablespoons finely chopped parsley

Dash or two hot sauce, to taste

1. Cut sausage into small pieces. Heat oil in skillet and add pieces of sausage and the onion. Saute until sausage get some color and the onions are soft and lightly golden, about four minutes. Cool completely, then transfer to the bowl of a food processor.

2. Process about 20 to 30 seconds or until meat and onions are fairly fine. Transfer to bowl and fold in cream cheese and parsley, mixing thoroughly. Add hot sauce, blending well. Serve immediately or cover and chill. Bring out 30 minutes before using. Spread on toast points or fresh bread or add rounded teaspoons to miniature phyllo cups.

— Adapted by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from “Authentic Portuguese Cooking” by Ana Patuleia Ortins (Page Street Publishing, October 2015, $32)

 

Deviled eggs are an easy, inexpensive hors d’oeuvre for holiday tables. Take them to next level by adding the flavors of a Caesar salad. (Gretchen McKay/TNS)
Deviled eggs are an easy, inexpensive hors d’oeuvre for holiday tables. Take them to next level by adding the flavors of a Caesar salad. (Gretchen McKay/TNS)

CAESAR-STUFFED EGGS

Deviled eggs are an easy, inexpensive hors d’oeuvre for holiday tables. Take them to next level by adding the flavors of a Caesar salad. Sounds strange, but it works.

Makes 16 servings

16 large free-range, organic eggs

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Fine sea salt

2/3 cup olive oil

2 cloves garlic, grated or pasted

1 tablespoon anchovy paste

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1½ to 2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper

½ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, or ¼ cup Pecorino Romano mixed with ¼ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1 cup packed finely chopped romaine lettuce hearts, plus more for garnish.

1. Place eggs in medium saucepan with water to cover. Bring to rapid rolling boil. Cover pan, remove from heat and let stand 10 minutes.

2. Crack shells and let stand for 10 minutes in very cold water. Peel eggs. Halve them lengthwise and remove yolks. Set whites and yolks aside separately.

3. In medium bowl, whisk lemon juice and mustard. Season with salt. While whisking, stream in oil slowly, pouring it down the sides of bowl, to emulsify. Stir in garlic, anchovy paste, Worcestershire, pepper and cheese. Taste and adjust seasonings — It should taste like a thick Caesar dressing.

4. Mash egg yolks into dressing. Stir in chopped lettuce. Spoon mixture into small plastic food storage bag. Snip off one corner to make a small opening and pipe the filling into the egg white halves. Garnish with a bit more finely chopped lettuce.

— Adapted by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from “Everyone Is Italian On Sunday” by Rachael Ray (Atria Books, Nov. 2015, $39.99)

 

Pecan maple blue cheese bourbon tart is sweet, salty and savory all in one bite. The gingersnap crust especially speaks to the season.  (Gretchen McKay/TNS)
Pecan maple blue cheese bourbon tart is sweet, salty and savory all in one bite. The gingersnap crust especially speaks to the season. (Gretchen McKay/TNS)

PECAN MAPLE BLUE CHEESE BOURBON TART

This might be the richest, most decadent tart you’ll ever eat. It’s sweet, salty and savory all in one bite. The gingersnap crust especially speaks to the season.

Makes 1 large or 6 mini tarts

For crust

20 whole gingersnap cookies

1 cup toasted pecans

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1/3 cup oat flour

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For filling

2 large eggs

¼ cup sugar

½ cup sour cream

2 tablespoons dark maple syrup

1 tablespoon good bourbon

1 cup crumbled good blue cheese, like Jasper Hill Bayley Hazen Blue

½ cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans

For garnish

½ cup whole pecans

1 teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon maple sugar

1. Make the crust: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Break the gingersnaps into large pieces with your hands, then grind to crumbs in a food processor with the pecans, salt, and flour. Pour the crumbs into a large bowl and stir in the butter.

2. With your hands, press the buttery crumbs into one standard 9- to 9½-inch tart pan or 6 4- to 5-inch mini tart pans.

3. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes for mini tarts or 12 to 15 minutes for a large tart, until the crust is matte and toasted. The crust may puff up slightly when baked; use the bottom of a dry measuring cup to press it back into shape, especially around the edges.

4. Cool completely before filling. The crusts can be made one day in advance of baking; cool and cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap and store at room temperature until ready to fill.

5. Make filling: Beat the eggs and sugar together in a large bowl with an electric hand mixer on medium speed for about two minutes, until very pale, thick and frothy.

6. With a spatula, stir in the sour cream, bourbon and maple syrup until blended. Fold in the blue cheese and pecans. Pour the filling into the prepared tart crust. (If making mini tarts, reduce the amount of each filling ingredient by half.) Place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes (25 to 30 minutes for mini tarts) until the filling is uniformly puffed and set, with patches of golden brown appearing across its surface. Carefully transfer the tart to a rack and cool completely before garnishing and serving. The tart will deflate as it cools — Don’t worry, it’s totally normal.

7. Make garnish: Heat the pecans in a small skillet over medium-low heat for about five minutes, tossing frequently, until the nuts are very warm to the touch and starting to release their natural oils and aroma. Add the sugar ¼ teaspoon at a time, stirring with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to coat the nuts in the sugar as it melts in the hot pan.

8. Pour the ½ teaspoon maple sugar into a small heatproof bowl. Add the nuts and toss to coat until they’re crystallized. Top the tart with pecans in a design of your choice and eat any leftovers.

— Adapted by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from Casey Barber, Goodfoodstories.com

 

Saddle up for some Cowboy Candy. (Gretchen McKay/TNS)
Saddle up for some Cowboy Candy. (Gretchen McKay/TNS)

CANDIED JALAPEÑOS (COWBOY CANDY)

One popular, and easy, appetizer you see on a lot of holiday-party tables is cream cheese topped with some sort of spicy jelly. This year, dress the dish up with a lip-tingling jar of “cowboy candy,” or candied jalapeño. It’s easy to make and very pretty; for added holiday cheer, use a mix of green and red peppers. Be forewarned: These are totally addictive.

Makes 4 (8 ounce) jars

3 pounds fresh jalapeño peppers, washed

2 cups cider vinegar

6 cups white sugar

½ teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon celery seed

3 teaspoons granulated garlic

1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1. Wearing gloves, remove and discard stems from all of the jalapeño peppers. Slice the peppers into uniform 1/8-¼ inch rounds. Set aside.

2. In a large pot, bring cider vinegar, white sugar, turmeric, celery seed, granulated garlic and cayenne pepper to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for five minutes. Add the pepper slices and simmer for exactly four minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the peppers, loading into clean, sterile canning jars to within ¼ inch of the top rim of the jar. Turn heat up under the pot with the syrup and bring to a full rolling boil. Boil hard for six minutes.

3. Use a ladle to pour the boiling syrup into the jars over the jalapeño slices. Insert a cooking chopstick to the bottom of the jar two or three times to release any trapped pockets of air. Adjust the level of the syrup if necessary. Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean damp paper towel and fix on new two-piece lids to fingertip tightness.

4. If eating right away, place jars in refrigerator. To can, place jars in a canner and cover with water by 2-inches. Bring the water to a full rolling boil. When it reaches a full rolling boil, set the timer for 10 minutes for half-pints or 15 minutes for pints. When timer goes off, use canning tongs to transfer the jars to a cooling rack. Leave them to cool, undisturbed, for 24 hours. When fully cooled, wipe them with a clean, damp washcloth, then label.

5. To serve, spoon candied jalapeños on top of cream cheese and serve with crackers.

— Adapted by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from tastykitchen.com