Ina Garten's Make Ahead Cranberry Martini

I was waiting for Ina's new cookbook, Make it Ahead, for almost a full year. I made a beeline to Barnes & Noble on release day and raced home after work to read through it.

And it was kind of disappointing.  A lot of recipes were rehashes of old ones (which you almost can't blame her for, it is her 9th book, how many ideas can one person have?), and a lot of them were just prep ahead tips, not things you could completely make and reheat.

I've had the cookbook for two months now, and Ina's make ahead cranberry martinis were the first thing I tried.

This is basically an upscale version of a cranberry vodka. I served it at our Hanukkah party, and it was very well received. It's fun and festive and easy enough to make (though not as easy as just a regular cranberry vodka...). I did doctor the original recipe by squeezing in the juice of half an orange, and adding an extra half cup of cranberry juice, but if you like more of a vodka bite, do it Ina's way.

Make Ahead Cranberry Martinis (from Make It Ahead, recipe written with my changes)

1 cup cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
6 strips of orange zest, 1x3 inches (I used a vegetable peeler)
1 750 ml bottle vodka
1 and 1/2 cups cranberry juice cocktail (original recipe calls for 1 cup)
1/4 cup Triple Sec
Juice of half an orange (original recipe omits this)

Pour bottle of vodka into a large pitcher, Pyrex, whatever it can hang out in for a couple days.

Combine cranberries, sugar, orange zest, and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and let simmer about 5 minutes, until cranberries start to pop. Let cool, then add to pitcher with vodka. Refrigerate for up to five days.

Up to two days ahead of time, you can make the cocktail. I did mine Friday night for a Sunday afternoon party. Strain the vodka mixture into a pitcher, reserving cranberries but discarding zest. Add the cranberry juice, triple sec, and juice of half an orange. Stir.

When ready to serve, fill a cocktail shaker with ice, pour in some of the drink mix, and give it a good shake. Pour into martini glasses, garnishing with cranberries. Enjoy!


Hanukkah Recap

Yesterday was our family's fourth annual Hanukkah celebration, a tradition I instituted when my husband and I got engaged.

Usually, the celebration takes place on a Sunday night, but I like Sunday nights to myself and thought I'd do an elegant holiday lunch this year. We live about an hour from the rest of the family, so I figured it would be easier on them too to have it earlier in the day.

I was very happy with this year's lunch menu, though it's not exactly traditional.  We have a couple of different kinds of eating habits (aka some people are easygoing and some are pains in the asses!) so I served two main course options.

We started, of course, with matzo ball soup. No picture, but here's last year's post with the recipe. Delicious and make ahead.

For my non-meat eaters, we had Ina Garten's Roasted Salmon Nicoise salad:

I loved this. It's a mix of room temperature salmon, served with blanched green beans, spring mix, roasted red peppers, steamed fingerlings, tomatoes, hard boiled eggs, and olives, all topped with a tangy Dijon vinaigrette. The salmon, eggs, and green beans can be done a day ahead, the potatoes need a quick boil before serving, and then you can assemble it in the morning and refrigerate until serving time. Easy, healthy, delicious, and customizable- key for my crew.

Find the recipe here.

Our other main course was a roast beef tenderloin, an expensive option, but well worth it for ease of prep and crowd pleasing factor (and the sandwiches with leftovers!). All I did was salt and pepper the living hell out of it, and roast it for about 30 minutes at 425. I took mine out when it was 130 degrees and let it rest about a half hour before serving. You may want yours done a little more rare, so give it a shorter rest time or take it out at 125.

I served this with a horseradish mayo. No real recipe there either, I used about half a cup of mayo, a few tablespoons of sour cream, a tablespoon of Dijon, and a teaspoon horseradish.

We had latkes, pictured above. These I always cater, they are too much work and too smelly to cook at home.  Wegman's charges me $25 bucks for 40 or so latkes and applesauce. I'd say that's worth it!

My sister in law made a nice mixed greens salad, and we also had Food52's ridiculously good spinach gratin, and roasted asparagus. A loaf of challah made an appearance too.


And, as always, we had piles of gifts and a cramped apartment:

Happy Hanukkah!