It’s the morning after Christmas day and our family is all quietly relaxing with our laptops and books. My husband Gabe is playing with the baby on the rug in the front room. After days of shopping, cooking, partying, wrapping, and Christmas outings, it’s all over now but for a few dishes straggling in the sink.
Our Christmas Eve party was a great success. My sister Jonica decorated the house with beautiful evergreen garlands and kumquat branches from the tree in my backyard. Lots of friends came by, many with their young children, and — I think — a good time was had by all. The ham from Cleaver and Co. was excellent, smoky, and surprisingly lean but not at all dry. The lemon squares were gone by the end of the night and a few people remarked that they were light, crispy, and delicious, not gooey like the thicker lemon square bar cookies you often see at bakeries. The beans were a hit, and folks were surprised that they could be so delicious and savory while still being vegetarian. The secret to that is based on a tip I once read by chef Dan Barber where he said, and I’m paraphrasing here, “If you want to make delicious food, use twice as many vegetables as the recipe calls for.” In this case that means lots of onion, celery, red and green bell pepper, garlic, etc. It’s healthier and more flavorful. The kale salad was also well received; a couple of people asked me what kind of lettuce I used and they couldn’t believe that kale could be so tender and sweet, but that’s what you get when you use organic Siberian kale straight from Bush, LA (thanks, Linnzi!). The real star of the meal ended up being a smoky romesco sauce that I made to go with platters of roasted vegetables. I roasted local broccoli, cauliflower, scallions and red skinned potatoes and served them with a bowl of this delicious sauce. A couple years ago at Roberta’s we were serving a dish with octopus, pickled potatoes, treviso and romesco; it’s one of my favorite dishes that we had there, and that’s what taught me how delicious and versatile this sauce is. I especially love it on avocado sandwiches. So many people asked me how I made it, I should have put a photocopied recipe near the bowl. No bragging: It’s just good and anybody can make it.
On Christmas morning we drank coffee, I made deviled eggs (my version uses creole mustard, mayo, smoked Spanish paprika, some pickle juice and both Crystal and Sriracha) and we opened presents. I got a bicycle! Then we went downtown for lunch at Domenica in the Roosevelt Hotel, where the lobby is decorated with a beautiful archway made out of leafless white branches and white, gold and silver ornaments.
We finished the day at Celebration In the Oaks at New Orleans City Park. It’s a grand light display in the New Orleans Botanic Garden. Nobody believes you when you tell them that it gets cold in New Orleans, but when the temperature dips into the 50s and 40s and you combine that with the humidity, it chills you to the bone, so then we went home and had some hot drinks and lazily sat around. And that was the end of Christmas. Thumbs up.
– Amanda Zug-Moore
3 large roasted red bell peppers from a jar
2 garlic clove, smashed
1 1/4 cups slivered almonds, toasted
1/2 cup tomato purée
4 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
4 tablespoons Steen’s Cane vinegar
2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Put everything but the oil into the food processor and then stream the oil in. Don’t blend too smooth.
All photos by Jonica Moore