The feasting season is in full swing! Although, now that I think about it, that season seems to last all year for my family.
A couple days before we left for the holidays, Jonji, Spencer, Omri and I were treated to a tour of the Wildlife Learning Center, at which one of their friends from Davis, Eva, works. Jonji was in his element, making up songs and noises for each animal and acting like a a five year old in a room full of donuts. Not that I blame him one bit—the animals were all quite exciting. We got to pet a baby alligator, feed a little fox, and hang out with the porcupines. The latter were like cartoon characters come to life; they grabbed the carrots we gave them with miniature hands and sat back on beaver-like tails to eat. We also each got a turn holding an owl, during which I felt more a part of the world of Harry Potter than ever before. All I needed was a letter to attach to the owl’s leg and I would have been entirely convinced I was a witch.
We left LA around 10 AM on Thursday with our car packed to bursting and Kitty sitting cozily in her carrier in the back seat. Fortunately for us, our cat loves her carrier—she even sits in it when we’re staying home. The drive was pleasant, as Highway 101 was surrounded by lush green hills rather than the dry, barren ones we had driven past during the summer. We listened to almost the entire Serial podcast (one more episode to go!), which made the journey pass more quickly than normal. We arrived home at 5:30 PM and were immediately sucked into the dinner time frenzy, and in less than 20 minutes we were both either stripping kale leaves or peeling squash. We ate late, in typical O’Regan fashion, with bavette steak, forbidden rice salad (recipe coming soon), and the ever-present green salad arrayed across the table.
The party ended around 4 o’clock, which gave us a little window of time to catch our breath, let our bellies rest, and tidy up. At 6:30 the new party started, with more appetizers and more cocktails, and the walls once more stretched with the weight of loud voices. A big plate of salad and sausages later, I could barely finish the ice cream sandwich Mom passed me for dessert (I did finish it, in case you were wondering). That night I suffered a terrible stomach ache, which I probably should have seen coming. The days of feasting without consequence have finally come to an end.
The next evening Danielle and Leif hosted Dawnakkuh, a celebration of Danielle and Mom’s birthdays within the holiday season. We feasted on heavily anticipated fettuccine, freshly cooked crab, and a big salad. This time I paced myself, even though I wanted to take the pot of fettuccine and run away with it so I could have it all to myself. The dinner ended without a stomach ache, and we finished off the feast with some lovely blood orange sorbet.
The next day was a double feast day, since we were hosting Mom’s birthday lunch at noon and Matt’s birthday dinner around 6 PM. I was in charge of dessert for the lunch, and so spent the morning making lemon bars as per Mom’s request. I was also in charge of making the candied beet mimosas that Mom and I had first tried at Bar Tartine, the recipe of which we both now have since the book has been released. Best mimosas EVER—it was extremely difficult not to keep serving myself fresh ones. If you’ve never experienced a party of about 12 women, you have no idea how much sound can possibly fit in one room. We had a grand old time and a spectacular meal. Mom went crazy and made a pistachio dip and her own crackers, both of which also came out of the Bar Tartine cookbook, and together took her three days to complete. There was plenty of cheese, pine nut relish, and crackers. Mom made lamb kofta (basically lamb burgers) with hummus, pickled onions with parsley, warm pita bread, and salad. Needless to say, I was altogether too full by the time lunch was over. Although I still ate the dessert.
This Christmas, no X appeared on the door. Mom and I spent the three days leading up to Christmas prepping for our first attempt at croissants. Seeing how much butter goes into those beauties made me even more excited to eat them. The croissants were finally baked on Christmas morning, after plenty of hard work and sweat (which did not actually go into the croissants). They turned out pretty well, though not nearly as well as Tartine’s—we have plenty to work on next time.
Unfortunately Emma and Jonji got sick in those few days before Christmas as well. Jonji and I spent Christmas Eve with the Barber clan at Jason and Shellie’s house, where Jonji spent most of the evening sniveling on the couch. The evening was very pleasant besides that, with a fun secret Santa exchange to finish it off.
On Christmas morning Jonji and I woke up early and went to see Oakes open his gifts and spend the morning with Pat, Taz, Debbie, and Grandma. Oakes’s excitement and wonder at all of his gifts was adorable and well worth the early morning wake-up. Around 9 AM we drove back home to spend the rest of the morning with my family. We spent a comfortable time around the fire, exclaiming over unexpected gifts and laughing at Pippin’s child-like excitement over all the presents. Brunch was delicious, as always, and then we wrapped up the morning with a cribbage game, which Bailey and I won (no surprise there!). Jonji left around 2 for dinner with his family, at which time I was starting to get a tickle in my throat. I progressively got more sick as the day went on, but luckily we had a mellow day and therefore I still got to enjoy myself. The prime rib, gratin, and green beans tasted as good as they’ve ever been.
I know I am not the only one with holiday feasts every other night, so I’m giving you all a little gem of a recipe in case you are in charge of appetizers for any meal. Despite the fact that Christmas is over, the holiday season isn’t quite over yet—I’m sure there will be more fancy dinners to come. This pine nut relish is addicting—you will be showered with love and affection if you bring this to any party. Serve with crackers (the Raincoast Crisps are especially tasty with the relish) and fresh, soft cheese.
Pine Nut Relish
adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanna Goin
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup olive oil
1 sprig rosemary
1 chile de arbol
1 small red onion, finely diced
1/2 cup dried currants
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp chopped parsley
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Toast the pine nuts for 6–10 minutes, until golden and aromatic. Shake the pan a couple times while they toast to ensure even cooking.
Heat a medium pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil, rosemary, and chile. Once the chile starts to sizzle, add the diced onion and a couple large pinches of salt (about 1/2 tsp). Turn the heat down to low and let cook for about 10 minutes. Throw out the rosemary and chile and let cool.
The following night (you’re probably wondering how I even stand after all this, but apparently I’m just pretty good at eating) Jonji and I went to Taz, Pat, and Oakes’s house for some delicious meat and salad and quality family time. Oakes was very excited to show us the Elf on the Shelf, which is a cute Christmas tradition that keeps kids excited as well as well-behaved. Dad’s version of that was to tell us that the elves would put an X on the door if we fought too much, which meant Santa would skip our house on Christmas. I distinctly remember getting one X in my childhood, and all three of us girls hysterically crying because Santa wasn’t going to come to our house. Fortunately my parents are nice people, and once we stopped fighting the X mysteriously disappeared.
Place the currants in a separate bowl and then cover with hot water. Let sit for 10 minutes, then drain.
Cook the balsamic vinegar over medium-high heat, in the pan that the onion was cooked in, for a few minutes. You’ll have about a tbsp or so of vinegar left, and the vinegar should coat the bottom of the pan like a thick syrup. Stir the vinegar into the onion mixture. Add the pine nuts, currants, and parsley to the onions and stir. Add a little pepper and taste to check if you need more salt or pepper.
Eat warm or at room temperature. See if you can refrain from eating it by the spoonful!