I always drop the ball on Christmas recipes. With a table that seats a maximum of four, I’m never the one that cooks. New Year’s is another story. I’m one of those people that hates going out, finding most venues for the big night expensive and overrated. Ideally, I like to put together some tapas and kick back with a few friends for a fun but mellow evening. This year it’s going to be just me and my man, and I’ve been mulling over food ideas ever since he presented me with Ina Garten’s How Easy is That?. I have a couple of Ina’s other cookbooks, but this one is my new favorite. I love so many of the recipes; find them so simple but never boring. Every other page has a green stickie on it, a reminder to make the mussels and basil bread crumbs or roasted figs with caramel sauce. I’ve already made the chipotle and rosemary roasted nuts and the baked Fontina–which reminds me of a fondue but is a lot easier to make, because you just cube some cheese and put it in a cast iron pan with some herbs and olive oil. How easy is that? Incredibly easy. And good.
Ina Garten’s Chipotle and Rosemary Roasted Nuts
vegetable oil for greasing pan
3 cups/14 ounces whole roasted unsalted cashews
2 cups/7 ounces whole walnut halves
2 cups/7 ounces whole pecan halves
1/2 cup/3 ounces whole almonds
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
3 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons ground chipotle powder
4 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary leaves, divided
4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1) Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Brush a sheet pan generously with vegetable oil. Combine the cashews, walnuts, pecans, almonds, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, the maple syrup, brown sugar, orange juice, and chipotle powder on the sheet pan and toss to coat the nuts evenly.
2) Add 2 tablespoons of the rosemary and 2 teaspoons of salt and toss again. Spread the nuts in one layer. Roast for 20-25 minutes, stirring twice, until nuts are glazed and golden brown. Take care not to burn them.
3) Remove nuts from the oven and sprinkle with 2 more teaspoons salt and the remaining rosemary. Toss well and set aside at room temperature, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking as they cool. Taste for seasoning. Serve warm or cool completely and store in airtight container at room temperature.
Ina Garten’s Baked Fontina
Serves 4 to 6
1 1/2 pounds Italian Fontina cheese (preferable Val d’Aosta), rind removed and 1-inch diced
1/4 cup good quality olive oil
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 crusty French baguette, for serving
1) Preheat the broiler and position the oven rack 5-inches from the heat.
2) Distribute the cubes of Fontina evenly in a 12-inch cast iron pan. Drizzle on the olive oil. Combine the garlic, thyme, and rosemary and sprinkle it over the cheese and olive oil. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper and place the pan under the broiler for 6 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbling and starts to brown.
3) Serve the baked Fontina right out of the oven in the cast-iron pan with crusty chunks of bread for dipping.