With the holiday season upon us, I find there are three versions of being a guest. The first is the kind where you just show up with a host(ess) gift and enjoy the evening, offering to help, but getting the expected, “oh no, I got it, you just relax”. Sometimes I just relax, and other times I relax by helping. The second is when you are expected to arrive with a side dish or appetizer. There is always the wondering about who can and cannot eat the ingredients you use, much less whether or not it will come out right. You cannot even taste the results of say, a pie, because the pretty presentation would be ruined! Yes, you might have made two, but what if you didn’t? How dare you even think of cutting into the puffy, browned top of sweet potato casserole or lattice topped cherry pie! I have been pretty lucky in the past, but I have also been known to accidentally mix up salt and sugar – yowza! The third version is the grand American tradition of potluck. If it is laid back and you can bring anything, go crazy! Make what you want, cut it into portions and taste a bit to make sure it is perfect; bring it hot, bring it cold, whatever! I like all three versions because they all involve two things I love – cooking and enjoying the company of people I care about. This year has been busy with our family being in limbo, then moving, then having complications with moving, then a new job. Through it all we had a wonderful little girl who hung in there with us through all the changes. For all these reasons we are keeping our holidays simple this year, focusing on enjoying the company of our little family and of our new friends. We are planning cooking marathons, as usual, for the holidays, but they will be a little smaller, including simple appetizers. This simple recipe for crudité can be adjusted to accommodate all types of diets and give variety to a meal, either before or during – even make them a meal on their own. They can fit any version of being a guest, or as a host(ess). Change up the vegetables and cheeses – pretty much anything you can cut in half and fill or top (carrots, cucumbers, olives, pickles). Of course, crisped bread or crackers would work too! I hope you enjoy the holidays and spend more time with your loved ones than you do in the stores, because when it is all said and done, the people are what give you purpose.
Smoked Salmon Spread Crudité
1 cup cream cheese, room temperature
½ cup sour cream
4 ounces smoked salmon, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp fresh dill, chopped (and a bit more for optional garnish)
2 celery stalks
5 large cherry tomatoes
5 – 10 slices sharp white cheddar cheese
Whisk together cream cheese and sour cream. Add salmon and garlic, folding it into the cheese mixture until well combined. Chill for about an hour. While it chills prepare the serving bases. Clean celery stalks, peel off tough strings and cut into 1 – 2 inch sticks. Clean tomatoes and slice in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and meat and pat dry. Slice cheese into 1 – 2 inch squares, making them thick enough to pick up and take a few bites out of, but thin enough not to over cheese the bites – a bit thicker than sandwich slices. Spread the spread (heh) on all the bases, taking time to form it to compliment the shape of the base – round like a tomato, within the crevice of the celery, and a bit random to soften the edges of the cheese slices. Top with dill if you please. Serve immediately or chill until time to serve/leave for the party.