During this time of the year, with all of the holiday happenings at the store, I am always surprised that I don’t get tired of cooking. In reality, planning the annual holiday party menu is one of my favorite things! This year I wanted to give a Mediterranean twist to a few traditional dishes. I am lucky to be able to work with some really fabulous ingredients, so I like to “shake it up” a little each year.
The meal always starts off with a festive pitcher cocktail. This year I made a pomegranate cranberry sangria. The base is a homemade cranberry compote with pomegranate molasses, orange peel and cinnamon sticks. This is combined with a hearty fruity red wine, brandy and pomegranate juice, and then topped with club soda and fresh pomegranate seeds. I love pomegranates. Middle Easterners use them frequently and they were on every holiday table during my childhood, so I use every excuse to incorporate them into my menus. This cocktail is fruity and wonderfully spiced without being too sweet -- plus it looks gorgeous!
For a main course I decided to do a nontraditional twist on roasted turkey. I soaked it for 2 days in a savory berbere spiced marinade before roasting it over a bed of sliced butternut squash, onions and the last sprigs of fresh thyme and fresh zaatar from my garden. The aroma from the oven was heavenly and the berbere spice and olive oil gave the turkey a gorgeous color and crust. This was so easy and it’ll feed a crowd.
Those beautiful browned butternut squash will be diced to go into a salad with a mix of baby greens and kale, tossed with a light vinaigrette, and topped with a sprinkle of barrel-aged Greek feta cheese. The best part of the salad are the candied hazelnuts. They are lightly seasoned with sea salt and orange flower water. Once I tasted them, I knew they would make the salad extra special and festive. Spending so much of my life at Sahadi’s means I put nuts in everything. They are a huge part of my diet, healthy and filling, and I absolutely love them.
I don’t have much of a sweet tooth (I offer fresh fruit out at every event) but the holidays are a special time, so I decided to create a pistachio wreath. This wreath was just a little sweet, crunchy and nutty. It was the perfect ending to the meal. Barely a recipe, it’s simply nuts, sugar and a lot of stirring. It took only 15 minutes to make and everyone loved it. There you have it! A full menu from sip to sweet. Happy Holidays from all of us at Sahadi’s.