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Authors share taste of favorite holiday gathering foods

From the editors of Book magazine
Excerpted with permission of the publisher

In preparation for this year’s round of holiday fetes and feasting, Book magazine asked seven authors about their favorite holiday fare for its November-December edition. Following are some of their secrets, reflecting rich memories for all tables with tastes of Latin American, Jewish and Kwanzaa celebration foods.

Jacquelyn Mitchard's Linguine

Author Jacquelyn Mitchard's newest book "Christmas, Present," (HarperCollins, $14.95) joins a string of best sellers. The author lives in Madison, Wis.

“The only time I cook is during the holidays,” says Mitchard, who serves this pasta dish, her godmother's "Never-Fail Marinara with Homemade Linguine," at her annual Christmas Eve dinner for 32 guests. The author, whose 1996 novel "The Deep End of the Ocean," has the distinction of being the first title selected by Oprah Winfrey for her book club, is not an Italian but was married to one for many years. “I’m married now to a Danish man. Through birth, adoption and surrogacy, we’re now an American-Indian, Danish, Italian, German, Irish, Lebanese, Hispanic family, but we still honor the tradition that started so long ago.”

NEVER-FAIL MARINARA WITH HOMEMADE LINGUINE

For the sauce

one-third tablespoon olive oil

1 clove garlic

1 cup chopped oion

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced

one-fourth cup celery, finely chopped

8 fresh roma tomatoes, chopped

2 big cans of Italian (pear) toma-toes

2 (6-ounce) cans tomato paste

1 cup water

1 teaspoon salt

one-eighth teaspoon pepper

one-eighth teaspoon sugar

one-half tea-spoon dried oregano

1 small bay leaf

Heat the oil in a big heavy pot. Saute the gar-lic until golden, then throw away the clove. Add vegetables and cook over low flame for 10 minutes, stirring often. Add everything else. Bring to a boil and cook at least one hour, until thick. Taste fre-quently and add sugar sparingly. Take out the bay leaf. When sauce is cooked, put it through blender cup by cup until smoothed, transferring blended sauce to a large bowl. Freezes well and is even better the second day.

Makes seven cups

For the linguine

2 cups semolina flour

2 eggs

2 tablespoons salt

2 tablespoons milk

2 tablespoons olive oil

Mix ingredients in food processor at low speed until ball forms. Wrap dough in waxed paper and set aside for a minimum of two hours. For those without a pasta ma-chine: Using chilled rolling pin, roll dough flat into a sheet, then, using your hands, roll the sheet into a long tube. Using a sharp knife, slice tube thinly (the way you would a loaf of bread). Unroll each linguine noodle (strands should be about eight to 10 inches long, but may be shorter). Cook no more than two minutes in boiling water.

Serves four.

Glen David Gold finds meaning of holiday in poor man's soup

Gold is the author of "Carter Beats the Devil" (Hyperion, $24.95).

“Years ago, a group of friends decided to cook a holiday meal using a thrift store cookbook, "Feasts for Fests" (1931), which struck us as a perfect lark, until we actually began reading the cookbook,” recalls Gold. “Almost everything was designed for when the cornucopia had run dry. I remember ‘Leftover Food With Rice’ and ‘Leftover Food Stuffed Into Green Peppers,’ which depressed us. And then — a few hours and cocktails later — it occurred to us that this is what all those holiday TV specials are about. So, recklessly, to an extent none of us would admit when sober, we counted our blessings.” Years later, Gold is still making the soup. He loves to cook and says he and wife, author Alice Sebold, periodically entertain at home. “I generally do the cooking. There haven’t been any fatalities so far.”

HO-HO-HOBO SOUP

olive oil

yellow onion, chopped

10 cloves of garlic, chopped or ground

2 cans garbanzo beans, drained

1 can whole tomatoes, chopped or otherwise torn to pieces with your bare hands

24 to 32 ounces chicken broth

2 teaspoons each: cumin, oregano, thyme

1 bay leaf

16 ounces dry pasta (preferably shells)

Optional: salt, prosciutto or other smoked ham; Parmesan cheese

Saute onion in olive oil, and as it is turning translucent, add garlic. Add chicken broth, tomatoes, garbanzo beans and spices. Let simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, adding water as necessary. Remove bay leaf and put half of the soup through food processor to make a puree. Return puree to the original mixture.

Taste and add spices to your own desire.

Optional: Add the prosciutto.

Add pasta and simmer until al dente. Serve with Parmesan cheese and fresh-ground pepper, to taste.

Serves four.

For Kwanzaa, a taste of West Africa

In their new book "Coming Together: Celebrations for African American Families" (Jump at the Sun-Hyperion, $22.95), authors Harriette Cole and John Pinderhughes detail foods, customs and traditions that celebrate a rich black culture. Cole is the author and syndicated col-umnist married to fashion photographer George Chinsee. Following is a West African recipe appropriate for Kwanzaa and other family gatherings.

WEST AFRICAN JOLLOF RICE

3 pounds chicken, cut into 12 pieces

1 and one half pounds lean boneless beef, cut into cubes

2 teaspoons salt

freshly ground pepper to taste

6 table-spoons vegetable oil, for frying

2 medium onions, chopped

1 medium green bell pepper, seeded and chopped

2 medium carrots, chopped

14 green beans, cut into 1-inch lengths

1 (28 ounce) can tomatoes, drained and chopped

one-fourth cup tomato paste

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 hot pepper, to taste, seeded and chopped

one teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger

1 bay leaf

one teaspoon thyme

4 cups chicken stock, fresh or canned

2 cups uncooked rice

Rinse the chicken pieces, removing all the fat. Pat dry with paper towels. Rinse the beef and pat dry. Sprinkle the chicken and beef pieces with salt and pepper.

In a large heavy casserole, heat three tablespoons of vegetable oil. When the oil is hot, add the chicken, skin side down. Brown the chicken on all sides, about five minutes per side. Remove the browned chicken to a plate. Add the beef and brown on all sides. Remove and set aside.

Pour off all but two tablespoons of oil. Add the onion and green pepper. Cook five minutes, making sure to scrape all the browned particles from the bottom of the pot. Add the carrots and green beans and cook five minutes more. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic, hot pepper, ginger, bay leaf and thyme. Increase the heat to high and stir to mix well. Cook, stirring, 10 minutes, until the sauce thickens.

Add the chicken stock and the beef. Reduce the flame and simmer, partially covered, 30 minutes. Add the chicken and adjust seasonings. Simmer 10 minutes over a low flame.

Stir in the rice, cover and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, until the rice has absorbed all the liquid and the chicken and beef are done.

Cristina Garcia's black beans bring back Cuban family memories

Garcia, author of "Dreaming in Cuban" (Ballantine, $14), says “I’ve been making these black beans since I could stand on a step stool and cook." Garcia was born in Havana and her adaptation of the recipe comes from the classic Cuban cookbook "Cocina Criolla." My mother used it and her mother before her. Everyone in my family — and beyond — loves these beans. It’s kind of my signature dish.”

FRIJOLES NEGROS

1 pound black beans

10 cups water

2 green peppers, deseeded

two-thirds cup olive oil

1 large onion

6 to 8 cloves garlic

4 teaspoons salt

one-half teaspoon black pepper

one-fourth teaspoon dried oregano

2 bay leaves

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons dry wine

Soak the beans in water overnight with one of the green peppers. The following morning, cook the mixture in a large pot at medium-high heat for 45 minutes. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and add and saute the onion, the second green pepper and the garlic, all finely chopped. Add the contents of skillet to pot of beans. Add the salt, black pepper, oregano, bay leaves and sugar and cook for another hour at a gentle boil. Then add the vinegar and wine and simmer for another hour until done. Best served over white rice.

Serves eight.

Alice Hoffman's Chanukah pancakes

“My grandmother was not known for her cooking,” says Alice Hoffman, author of "Practical Magic" (Berkley, $ 13). “She made nearly everything out of potatoes, including cakes and cookies.” The author, who recently published her 22nd work of fiction, prepares Grandma’s pancakes at Chanukah for her husband and two sons. She suggests serving the dish with sour cream and chives or homemade apple-sauce, adding: “Don’t expect to lose weight.”

LILLIE LULKIN'S POTATO PANCAKES

2 cloves garlic

1 small onion

2 cups shredded potatoes

dash of cayenne pepper

3 eggs

1 and one-half tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon salt

scallions (optional)

vegetable oil

Mince two cloves of garlic. Finely chop one small onion. Shred two cups of potatoes (use food processor if possible). Squeeze the potatoes between paper towels until fairly dry. Mix together onion, garlic and potatoes. Add a dash of cayenne pepper. In a separate bowl mix three eggs. Add one and one-half tablespoons of flour and a teaspoon of salt. Whisk together. Add to potato mixture. If you like scallions, add some now. Coat the bottom of a large pan with one-fourth inch of vegetable oil. Pat down mixture to make individual pancakes and fry until brown and crisp. Drain on paper towels.

Serves four.

And a cocktail for the frenzied

Ian Falconer, author and illustrator of the "Olivia" series of children’s books hopes his peach cocktail helps get you through the holidays. “It certainly has helped me in the past,” he says. Guests guzzle them as fast as you can make them.” The recipe is not recommended for kids under 21 (that means you, Olivia.)

1 large, or 2 small, very ripe peaches

2 tablespoons very fine sugar

juice from 1 Sicilian lemon (or, if unavailable, 1 lime)

2 mint leaves, plus 4 attractive sprigs for garnish

dash of grenadine syrup (for color)

8 ounces premium vodka that’s been chilled in freezer

ice

Peel peaches and place in bowl. Sprinkle half the lemon juice and one tablespoon sugar. Chill in freezer for one hour before using.

Place contents of bowl in chilled blender carafe. Add mint, other half lemon juice, vodka and grenadine. Fill to top with ice and blend. You will have to stop blender occasionally to scrape down sides with a wooden spoon. Blend for at least 30 seconds; the longer you blend, the more a smooth sorbet consistency will develop. Taste. Add sugar as needed. Pour into eight-ounce chilled long stem glasses. Garnish with mint sprigs and a straw (preferably a green straw ­ so nice with the pink). Serve immediately. Tip: By substituting ginger ale for vodka, kids can tip back a few, too.

If your guests need a snack, this is very nice with pate de foie de canard (duck liver pate) served with thinly sliced German pumpernickel or a rich sweet cheese.

Serve four.

Contributing: Gannett News Service