I like to cook with color any time of year, but especially during Christmas holidays. Red and green food is festive and delicious.
To the shortbread and linzer cookie dough I write about elsewhere in this book, add 3/4 cup (3.5 ounces) finely chopped pistachios and 3/4 cup (4.25 ounces) chopped dried cranberries after combining the butter, sugar, vanilla, flour, and salt. Form into two logs on waxed paper, and wrap. (Tip: slice open a couple of empty cardboard paper towel rolls and slide the wrapped logs inside before chilling to preserve their round shape.) Chill for several hours or overnight. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Sprinkle a thick layer of sparkling sugar across another sheet of waxed paper, and roll the chilled dough logs in the sugar to coat. Carefully slice 1/4-inch thick. (Go slowly, and give the dough a quarter turn with each cut. Slices may break apart if you get in a hurry.) Place on the prepared baking sheets and bake until the cookie edges turn light brown, 15-20 minutes, depending on the thickness of your slices. Transfer cookies to racks to cool.
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Add a (red and green) stuffed pasta shell recipe to your back-of-the-box repertoire. I’ve liked any recipe I’ve ever tried that came from the back of a package of Barilla jumbo pasta shells. My favorite fillings are made with ricotta cheese combined with parmesan and other tasty ingredients, with some finely chopped parsley to add that green zing.
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Since holidays can be hectic, how about taking a night off from cooking? I did, and it was wonderful to come home to a warm fire and bottle of good wine after doing mall battle. All I added was a lovely Olli salame, some smoked Gouda cheese, buttery crackers, and a log of goat cheese coated with fig spread and rolled in more of those finely chopped pistachios. It was a fine finish to a busy day, and, yes, another riff on the red and green theme.
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Go ahead, throw a handful of quartered cherry tomatoes in that pan of fresh spinach you’re sautéing. Red looks good with green.
Sauteed Spinach with Cherry Tomatoes
Rinse a 10-ounce package of fresh spinach in cold water, but do not dry beyond a vigorous shake. Drizzle some olive oil into a large skillet, and place over medium heat. While the oil warms, add a few slices of garlic for flavor. Remove the garlic after it turns golden brown, and add as much of the spinach as will fit in the skillet. Stir and turn in the hot oil, adding more spinach leaves as the rest cooks down. Add the tomatoes towards the end of cooking. Keep sautéing until nearly all of the moisture has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.