’Tis the season for festive feasting

Need to stress eat after exams? Have a holiday party to attend? Postscript whips up a winter feast

Spice up your winter with these cinnamon-infused latkes and zippy black bean salad.
Spice up your winter with these cinnamon-infused latkes and zippy black bean salad.
Photo: 
Photo: 
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While there are numerous festivals of light and feast holidays in the colder months, many of them—such as Diwali and Eid—take place outside the Winter Solstice period. In North America, the winter vacation is associated with the major holidays of Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, and culminates in the celebration of the new (Gregorian) calendar year.

During this season, time off work, celebration with friends and large-scale sales in stores lead to so much general excitement that it isn’t necessary to partake in particular observances to enjoy some festive cheer.

But the food consumed during the winter holidays is about appealing to more than just taste buds. These foods are a way to bind us to our families and ethnicities, and often serve as an edible reminder of our past.

Food and the act of holiday feasting are also a reminder of our collective past, as the tradition of large holiday meals may have begun as a pagan ritual during winter solstice, when a symbolic meal was prepared in honour of Freyja, the Norse goddess of peace and plenty, in an attempt to ensure a plentiful harvest in the coming year.

The tradition of serving cookies, cakes and other sweets likely began symbolically as well; circular and therefore sunsunshaped, cakes had candles placed in their centre to encourage the sun to light up the gloomy winter months.

While some holiday food brings cheer and fond memories, none is more divisive—or more ubiquitous—than fruitcake. Love it or hate it, this candied treat has been around since Roman times, originally made with fruits in season during the winter solstice period. Many other foods have special associations with holidays based on the season in which the holiday takes place. Chefs and food scholars (yes, they exist) have suggested that oil plays a crucial role in the food and ceremonies of Hanukkah because the festival takes place at the time of year when olives were pressed into oil in ancient Israel.

The very name of Kwanzaa suggests the celebration’s association with food: Kwanzaa is derived from a Swahili word meaning “first fruits of the harvest,” and reflects the traditions of African harvest rituals, emphasizing the group work needed to grow and collect food, and celebrating with a feast of the harvest.

Although every culture has its own traditional meals and customs at holiday times, a universal theme seems to be the celebration of friends, family and food. Almost every winter celebration, religious or otherwise, involves gathering loved ones around a table and enjoying a meal as a group.

In Canada, there are myriad religions, cultures and lifestyles represented in our population, a multicultural society that translates into different personal interpretations of winter celebrations.

One of the traditional aspects retained from regional and familial origins is what people choose to cook and eat during their festivities. But we also live in a society where cuisines from all over the world are available for us to enjoy through cookbooks, restaurants and specialty food stores.

Food culture in Canada is becoming increasingly and appetizingly diverse, and it seems fitting to celebrate this fact by representing delicious fare from all over the world in this holiday recipe collection. Delicious and highly shareable, these diverse dishes will make you the star of any holiday party.

See what looks appealing, and venture forth into the kitchen. Cooking for people you care about is a wonderful way to celebrate the season. May these dishes bring global variety and good cheer to your table!

Baked Sweet Potato Latkes

A spiced-up international twist on this traditional Hanukkah dish! If you’re not a curry fan, you can substitute cinnamon and nutmeg for the curry power and cumin. Makes about 20-24 latkes.

Tools: 2 baking sheets/cookie pans, grater/food processor, large mixing bowl, spatula

Ingredients:
1 small sweet onion
2 sweet potatoes and 1 russet potato (about 3 1/2 pounds)
2 large eggs
1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground ginger

Optional if you like spicy: 1 tsp chili powder
Optional if you like garlic: 2 cloves garlic, diced or crushed

Method:
Preheat oven to 425º F. Peel sweet potatoes, potato and onion; grate by hand or with a food processor.

In large mixing bowl, lightly beat eggs, then whisk in flour, baking powder and salt. Add the grated potatoes and onion to the bowl, as well as the curry powder, cumin and ginger and the optional ingredients (if you include them). Using a spatula or wooden spoon, mix well, but do
not overwork.

Lightly grease 2 baking sheets with butter or cooking spray. Drop latke batter in 2-3 tbsp or 1/3 cup mounds with even space between them. Flatten the mounds with a spatula to form 2-3 inch pancakes of about ¼ inch thickness (or more).

Bake for 15-20 minutes, then turn the latkes over, and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Make sure to check on them so that they don’t burn! Latkes should be deep gold on both sides when done. If necessary, add additional baking time in
small increments.

Remove latkes from oven and allow them to cool slightly. Serve with applesauce, sour cream, plain yogurt or whatever other topping you desire!

Caribbean-Style Black Bean and

This colourful dish is right at home with the foods celebrated during Kwanzaa. It is also simple to make, and perfect
for potlucks!

Ingredients:
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp minced garlic
2 1/2 cups cooked long-grain white rice (about 1 cup raw), cooled
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
3/4 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
3/4 cup chopped green onions

Method:
Whisk oil, vinegar, mustard, cumin and garlic in medium bowl until well blended. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper.

Combine rice, beans, peppers and onions in large bowl. Toss salad with enough dressing to moisten. Season with salt and pepper.

Spoon salad into bowl and serve. (Can be made up to 6 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Lumpiang Sariwa (Filipino Fresh

Spring rolls are a wonderful party food–you can eat them with your fingers! This is a very popular dish in the Philippines, especially during Christmas when there is much feasting to be done! The recipe can easily be made vegetarian by only using tofu instead of pork and shrimp, or kosher by using ground chicken instead of pork and shrimp. Makes 15-20 rolls.

Filling:
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/3 lb ground pork
1/3 lb shrimp, peeled, deveined and minced
1/3 cup julienned extra-firm tofu
2 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 lb green beans, french cut
1 small cabbage, shredded
(approx 2 lbs)
1 large carrot, julienned
1/2 cup water

Sauté garlic and onions in oil. Add pork and sauté until fat begins to render. Add water, bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover. Simmer until pork is tender. Add shrimp, tofu and fish sauce and cook for 2 minutes. Add vegetables and stir-fry 5-10 minutes, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Drain in a strainer and cool.

Sauce:
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
6 tbsp soy sauce
1 cup water
1tbsp cornstarch dissolved in
2 tbsp water
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup peanuts, chopped

Combine all ingredients in a small pot and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Simmer over low heat until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm. Transfer to a serving bowl and stir in peanuts
and garlic.

Method:
10 romaine lettuce leaves, cut in
half horizontally
1 package Vietnamese rice
paper wrappers

Place a lettuce leaf in the centre of a wrapper. Add 2 tbsp filling. Fold bottom of wrapper over filling; wrap one side over filling and roll to the other side. Seal edge with water. Serve

Chinese Almond Cookies

Cookies make a great holiday gift since it’s easy to whip up large batches of them. These ones are a popular treat in China at Christmas and the Lunar New Year. Makes about 70 cookies.

Ingredients:
3/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup shortening
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
2 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup ground almonds
1-1/4 tsp baking powder
70 blanched whole almonds (about 2/3 cup)
1 egg yolk

Method:
Preheat oven to 350º F. In large bowl, beat together butter, shortening and sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg, almond extract and vanilla. In separate bowl, whisk together flour, ground almonds and baking powder; add to butter mixture and stir to form
stiff dough. Roll dough by tbspfuls into balls.

Place, 2 inches apart, on greased or parchment paper-lined baking sheet; top each with whole almond, pressing into dough. Mix egg yolk with 1 tsp water; brush over cookies.
Bake in centre of oven until edges are light golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer to rack; let cool completely.

Make-ahead:
Layer between waxed paper in airtight container and store at room temperature for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 2 weeks.

—Source: canadianliving.com

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