It could be that some of you feel rested after the holidays but after speaking to several friends, many of them sound like they need vacations. And if you’ve been entertaining over the last few months, you may have ingredients from the holidays that you may need to use before you no longer can.
I find that January is a great month for cleaning out your fridge, freezer and cupboards. Its therapeutic to clear the “gastronomic clutter” and use or give away what you will not be using.
You can always have a post holiday get together as a quick solution for pairing down. Like me, you may have a lot of cheeses, Proscuitto, cream and ingredients that you may not use year round like ginger and cloves or bunches of fresh Parsley or Cilantro. The new year is also a great time to go through the dates on your dried herbs and find an alternative use for them like sachets for the chest of drawers or just return to the garden in compost: “from dust to dust” but never in the garbage.
Throw a casual post holiday cocktail party some afternoon with a beginning and end time-from 4:30 to 6:30. Sundays are good for this type of event since most people have to be at work the next day. If you weren’t lucky to have cheeses leftover from the holidays, then stop by the Village Cheese Shop on Love Lane in Mattituck where Rosemary and her team will make you look like a star.
Cheese platter with all you left over cheeses and garnish with toasted baguette, crackers, cornichons, olives
Asparagus spears wrapped with Proscuitto
Smoked salmon garnished with sliced cucumber or some creamed herring
Crudites made with leftover carrots and celery that you’ll never use otherwise and dip made with some blue cheese you may have left over
Set up buffet style with cocktail plates and napkins and forks. On one end of the table set up a self service bar and use some of the bubbly you may have received as a gift or that may be left over from a party. Pour some pear nectar in a nice pitcher for Bellinis. Put out any bottles of liquor that you want to share along with an appropriate mixer. Display other wines that you’ve been wanting to share with friends like the bottle of Overture you picked up at Mondavi or that bizarre bottle of Cabernet you bought in Gettysburg. Make sure you have some sparkling and flat water along with an ice bucket and tongs and call it a day.
Check the dates and if they are more than a year old, make little sachets with cheese cloth and butchers twine. Great combos are thyme or oregano and lavender for your sweater drawer or hot bath and cloves and star anise for underwear or sock drawers or in basement or attic storage. If that seems overwhelming after the holidays, throw them in your garden.
Make a pesto with your Cilantro and toss with string beans or a gremolata with parsley and toss with roasted potatoes or pasta.
Check the dates on your bottles of olive oil or other expensive nut oils. If they are more than six months old, put a sprig of fresh rosemary in a bottle with some garlic cloves or even a dried Cayenne pepper. Use it on salads (of course we’re all eating salads fresh off our New Year’s resolutions) or use to saute veggies or boring chicken breasts.
2009 was a tough year and all of us have something to look forward to in 2010. So clean out the kitchen coffers, dig up some new recipes and toast to the New Year!