Thursday, January 12, 2012
Holiday’s Last Hurrah: A New Year’s Dinner Party
While the rest of the world and most nutritionists are no doubt writing about dieting and weight loss in typical fashion, my new year just only began this week following my (borderline gratuitous) state of holiday purgatory. Sure, I’ll get on with these less-than-fun-but-just-as-important-though-probably-won’t-involve-chocolate-molten-lava-cakes topics very soon. However, today’s post is the holiday season’s last hurrah in my world and marks my official writing transition to 2012. Happy (Newby) New Year!
It was thanks to my belated holiday dinner party and the de-Christmasification of my home this past weekend that I’ve officially entered 2012. It’s a good thing, I’d say, given the ides of January are almost upon us. To be honest, though, this tortoise-like transition to the new year happens to me every time. I blame this phenomenon mainly on the university calendar that largely structures my life, in which as a former student and now professor I spend considerable time each January tying up loose ends from the fall while preparing for the spring. Taking down the (extremely dead) tree and (otherwise still cheery) holiday decor also facilitated the transformation. This evolved into a more intensive cleaning and purging process including washing windows and organizing the veritable Smoot-high tower of old journal articles, back issues of cooking magazines, and sundry “things-to be-filed” that had been rising from my office floor for quite some time now.
(Hey, it just occurs to me that some might consider such activities “spring cleaning” so at least I’m early for that, right? Work with me here.)
As you can well imagine, perusing old volumes of Bon Appétit, Martha Stewart Living, Food & Wine, and Gourmet (sniff, sniff) was a highlight of the weekend, although it fueled my indecision about the holiday/pictionary party menu. I decided not to do bouillabaisse as planned, despite my keen desire, because I concluded that the bowls I owned were not suitable for serving it in the fashion this magnificent French seafood soup deserves. I also had to ditch my dessert plan of balsamic roasted pears with black pepper and honey, as there were no ripe pears of any kind whatsoever at the store. After considerable thought, the final French Mediterranean themed menu, preceded by pomegranate martinis, was:
- Endive with avocado mousse and smoked mackerel
- Whole grain crostini with olive-fig tapenade and Provençal marinated chèvre
- Spinach salad with pomegranates, toasted walnuts, and red onion with a pomegranate-balsamic vinaigrette
- Mediterranean herb and olive oil poached salmon on a bed of whole grain quinoa and pignoli pilaf finished with a dijon and white wine sauce and fennel garnish
- Chocolate soufflé molten lava cakes in a pool of three berry purée with Grand Marnier scented whipped cream
I did take photos of each of these dishes and plan to share the recipe and preparations with you soon. (Note: the picture of the individual chocolate cake does not do it justice, as it is hard to see the molten chocolate oozing out of the still-warm-from-the-oven, divinely moist cakes.)
Nutrition Resolutions: Out With the Old, In With the New
I know, it is in fact January and most people are well past holiday gatherings and already deeply immersed in those perennial resolutions of losing weight and getting in shape, wondering such things as “How should I go on a diet? Which diet should I choose? HELP!”
I am reluctant to jump on this January bandwagon, as weight, fitness, and nutrition are obviously tied into almost everything I write given the mission of this blog. Thus, I’d much rather let the foods and menus I prepare speak for themselves, with the hope that they’ll motivate the will to eat more healthfully inductively. In other words, the menu above starred a variety of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains and also included healthy proteins and fats such as salmon, olive oil, and nuts, for example, exemplifying good food play and sound principles of nutrition science relevant not only to weight but to overall health and disease prevention.
Nevertheless, dieting and weight loss are at the forefront of many of our minds, and for the most part this is a good thing given the current epidemic of obesity and other diet-related diseases. As well, there is a lot of misinformation out there, fostering confusion if not inertia. So don’t worry. I wouldn’t be much of a card-carrying nutrition scientist if I didn’t weigh in on this subject. (It’s not punny, I know.) I am actively working on that piece and it will be published in the very near future. You can always gear up for the subject in the interim by checking out my posts on the ins and outs of energy balance and my top ten healthy holiday eating tips if you’ve not read them; they still pertain.
In the meanwhile, before I dedicate a post or two towards the weight loss and dieting issues, perhaps today’s piece serves as a gentler introduction to the subject and provides a little new year’s inspiration for eating healthful, delectable dishes—even at dinner parties. I hope my blog will help you make real, lasting changes to your diet such that you will incorporate more of the types of foods I wrote about today into your diet throughout all the days of the year,* not just for the sake of often transient new year’s weight loss resolutions that seldom last beyond a month. With dedication and a little luck, maybe you won’t even need those age-old promises next January.
Now that’s a worthwhile resolution.
* Does not include chocolate molten lava cakes.