Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmas Treats for Chocolate Haters

My Christmas cooking problem is that I'm not wild about chocolate, and it shows up in so many guises at this time of year. (Chocolate lovers, I have nothing against you. Your kink is okay, it's just not my kink...)

The result of this is that I'm always on the lookout for festive recipes that don't involve chocolate. Gingerbread and spice snaps (I make mine with a little black pepper) are always good, but here are some recipes I just worked up that I'm really into.

For these recipes, I happened to have candied lemon peel around, but lemon zest also works well. If you want to make candied lemon peel, peel lemons into neat strips, place in a saucepan and cover with water, then bring to a boil for a minute. Drain off that water and replace it with 1 cup sugar and 1.5 cups water. Simmer the lemon peel in this syrup until it becomes translucent, then leave to dry on parchment-lined baking sheets. Sprinkle sanding sugar over the peel if that's your thing. Oh, and save the sugar syrup. It's great mixed with water or tea.

Lemon-Rosemary Meringues

Use a bigger bowl than you think you'll need for mixing these; I never do, then have meringue splatters all over my kitchen. Oh, and buy a cheapie zester to zest your citrus. Graters are a pain in the ass for this.

3 egg whites (or however many you need to use up)
1/3 cup sugar for each egg white
Splash lemon extract - 1 teaspoon, approx.
Zest of one lemon
1/2 teaspoon scissored rosemary

Beat the egg whites until they've trebled in size, then add the other ingredients and beat until the meringue holds moderate peaks. Drop by the spoonful onto parchment-lined baking sheets and let dry out in a slow oven (250 degrees) for an hour or so.

Lemon, Rosemary, and Pine Nut Cookies

1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon scissored rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped candied lemon peel OR zest from 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1 egg
3/4 cup flour
Pinch salt
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted in a dry pan until they smell good

Cream the butter and sugar and add the rosemary, lemon peel/zest and lemon extract. Add the egg and mix well; then add flour, salt, and pine nuts. Drop by the generous teaspoonful onto parchment-lined cookie sheets, and bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. If you think of it, rotate the sheets halfway through the baking time, but I confess this is not my strong suit.