New Year’s Eve Sips and Nibbles

2010 has been a, well, challenging year for many, so it’s little surprise that people are ready to kiss it goodbye and welcome 2011 with open arms. We’ve got a lineup of elegant and nourishing cocktails and hors d’oeuvres to ring in the new year in style.

To sip:

As cocktail expert, Maria Hunt notes, if you’re hosting the festivities, guests are sure to arrive with sparkling wine, which is celebratory on its own and even better in cocktails. Check out Maria’s tips to create an interactive cocktail bar, plus her recipes for the Lava Lamp and Green Grapefruit.

To nibble:

Pair those bubbly sippers with a selection of savory and sweet items–all of which can be made well in advance. If you’re the host, you can prep these today or tomorrow. If you’re a guest, they’re also easy to tote to the party.

Coppa-Wrapped Dates with Blue Cheese: Assemble these before the party, then bake them just before you’re ready to serve. I took a batch of these to a Christmas dinner, and they disappeared in no time. They’re also so easy to make that I’ve made them for us to enjoy just before supper during the week.

Manchego and Nutmeg Gougeres: Lia likes to serve these lovely little cheese puffs with a glass of Spanish Cava.

Spanish Leaning Spinach and Chickpea Dip: The spinach in this tasty dip offers a serving of good-luck greens for the New Year and a dash of color to the table. Serve this with crudite.

Chicken Pate with Brandy: This is an uptown riff on my grandma’s chopped liver. Serve it with crackers or baguette and mustard and cornichons, and you’ll have a pretty little platter.

Endive Spears with Roquefort Mousse and Walnuts: This is classic party food. Make the mousse ahead, pop it into a pastry bag and refrigerate. Pipe it onto the endive leaves and top with toasted walnuts just before serving.

Rosemary-Parmesan Breadsticks: Another ideal finger food, these are so simple the kids can help you knead and shape the dough.

Boozy Orange-Pecan Truffles: You’ll want a little something sweet to round out the buffet. These petite chocolate truffles pack tons of flavor.

All of us at NOURISH Evolution wish you a happy, healthy, nourishing New Year! Cheers!

Finding Childhood Memories in Chopped Liver

Proust had his madeleines. I have chopped liver.

Few foods trigger such strong childhood memories as the chopped liver my grandmother made when I was growing up. The recipe had long been in the family, ferried over by her mother on steerage passage from Kiev. Our family lacks any sentimentality, much less culinary history, so the exact recipe has been lost to the ages. It’s easy enough to re-create, though, since it was a basic concoction mixed by Jewish mamas for generations: Sauté chicken livers and onions in schmaltz (rendered chicken fat), run it through a meat grinder, and season with salt and pepper. Grandma often folded in chopped hard-cooked eggs. Then she packed it into a rinsed-out margarine tub and delivered it to us with a loaf of rye bread.


I took to chopped liver right away, loving its rich, gamy quality (though as a preschooler, I misheard the name and called the stuff “chopped litter,” a moniker Grandma happily adopted). I can almost certainly say I was the only kid at Loma Portal Elementary who hoarded sandwiches of chopped liver on rye, withholding them from lunchroom black market swaps (not that my classmates were clamoring for them). To this day, I love any kind of pate, from humble chopped liver to fancy pate de foie gras.

Chopped liver–affectionately called Jewish pate–is a type of forcemeat, which is a broad category that covers any finely ground mixture of meat, poultry, or even fish with spices and other ingredients. Forcemeats are used either to stuff other items, such as sausage casing or ravioli, or served on their own. They’re part of a time-honored tradition of using off-cuts (offal), including organ meats like liver. Although forcemeats can use expensive ingredients like foie gras, they typically employ cheap items like chicken livers, which you can pick up for less than $2.50 a pound at the supermarket.

Forcemeats usually are made with copious amounts of fat, which makes them rich and luscious, as well as caloric, and insanely high in saturated fat. Modern home cooks have made some changes when it comes to chopped liver–swapping schmaltz for canola oil, for example. I’ve made some other modifications to Grandma’s chopped liver, like using a food processor instead of a meat grinder, which gives it a finer quality, and employing a mix of liver and chicken thigh meat to trim the saturated fat. I’ve also added a touch of brandy and toasted walnuts to lend it some French flair. But the result is still redolent with the flavor I first grew to love and offers liver’s impressive nutritional benefits (lots of vitamin A, plenty of iron).

A modern version for a grown-up girl . . . but I still wouldn’t trade it for anything.

alison-thumb-frameA longtime editor, writer, and recipe developer, Alison Ashton is a Cordon Bleu-trained chef. She has worked as a features editor for a national wire service and as senior food editor for a top food magazine. Her work has appeared in Cooking Light, Vegetarian Times, and Natural Health.

Chicken Pate with Brandy (Chopped Liver)

This recipe is based on chopped liver — a k a “Jewish pate” — but combines liver with skinless, boneless chicken thighs and substitutes heart-healthy canola oil for traditional chicken fat in a version that’s much lower in saturated fat than my grandma’s specialty. I’ve also added a touch of brandy and toasted walnuts to take this a little upmarket. Spending a few minutes thoroughly cleaning and trimming the chicken of excess fat and sinew ensures a smooth pate; sharp kitchen shears make quick work of this task. Serve as an appetizer with crackers, toasted rye or French bread, along with cornichons, a robust mustard and dry white wine.

chicken-pate-chopped-liver-recipe2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 pound chicken livers, cleaned and trimmed
1/2 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons brandy
2 tablespoons chopped toasted walnuts

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 2 minutes or until tender. Sprinkle livers and chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add livers to pan and cook 2 minutes on each side or until seared on the outside and light pink on the inside (do not overcook). Transfer livers and onions to work bowl of a food processor.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in pan. Add thighs to pan and cook 2 minutes on each side or until done. Add thighs to food processor with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper, and brandy.

Process until smooth and stir in walnuts. Spoon pate into a shallow 2-cup dish or individual ramekins. Chill at least 1 hour before serving.

Serves 6