Christmas appetizers

A Gritty treat: During a recent visit to colonial houses in Fairmount Park, food columnist Donna Zitter Bordelon saw a 2-foot-2, 40-pound statue of Gritty made of Cabot cheese.

It wasn’t snowing but there was a Christmastime chill in the air as we drove into Fairmount Park to visit the colonial houses (five of the Fairmount Park “Gems”) that were decorated for the holidays. Each mansion served delicious samples of cheese, chocolates, cookies, doughnuts and chocolate babka. It was quite a treat to eat along with a generous serving of Philly history from bygone days.

No sooner did we get in the door of Lemon Hill when, what to my wondering eyes did appear, but a 2-foot-2, 40-pound statue of Gritty (the Flyers’ new mascot). Made of Cabot cheese, we heard that a marauding park squirrel also liked Cheese Gritty. Sure enough, when we checked, we found a repair cheese patch on Gritty’s rear.

At Cedar Grove, we sampled yummy cookies/candies made by City Tavern’s pastry chef, Diana Wolkow, who collaborated with owner Walter Staib (host of PBS’s A Taste of History) on a Colonial dessert book, A Sweet Taste of History. Chef Staib shared the following recipe from the book.

SPICE COOKIES

8 oz. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup molasses

2 egg yolks

2½ cups all-purpose flour

1½ tsp. ground cinnamon

1½ tsp. ground ginger

1/2 tsp. ground allspice

1/8 tsp. ground cloves

1/2 tsp. salt

Sanding or granulated sugar, for rolling (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

3. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the molasses, and continue beating until the molasses is incorporated.

4. Add the yolks and mix until incorporated, scraping down the bowl once or twice.

5. Sift together the dry ingredients except sugar for rolling; then add them to the butter mixture all at once. Starting on low speed, pulse the mixer to gently incorporate the flour. Gradually increase the speed, scraping down the bowl between increases, and mix until all of the flour is absorbed.

6. Scoop the dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet (about 36 scoops) and refrigerate for 5 to 10 minutes or until you can handle the dough. Roll each scoop in sanding (or granulated) sugar, return to the baking sheet, and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden and mostly firm to the touch. Cool the cookies completely on the baking sheet. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Shared Christmas appetizers from Cabot.

APPLE, CHEDDAR AND WALNUT TOASTS

24 thin slices narrow loaf French bread

2 tart apples, cored and thinly sliced

8 oz. Cabot Sharp Cheddar, Extra Sharp Cheddar or Horseradish Cheddar, grated (about 2 cups)

1 cup walnut pieces

1. Preheat broiler. Arrange bread on baking sheet and toast lightly on both sides under the broiler.

2. Remove from broiler and place about two apple slices on each toast. Mound cheese on top. Press walnut pieces into cheese. Return to broiler until cheese and walnuts are lightly colored.

Makes 24

CRANBERRY CHEDDAR PITA BITES

2 (8-inch) pita breads, white or whole-wheat

½ cup whole berry cranberry sauce or chutney

5 oz. Cabot Horseradish Cheddar or Sharp Cheddar, grated (about 1¼ cups)

1. Place one oven rack in upper position and one in center position. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheet with foil.

2. Cut each pita bread into eight 2-inch rounds with a biscuit or cookie cutter. Split each round in two. Arrange on baking sheet and bake on center rack for 6 to 8 minutes or until crisp and toasted.

3. Adjust heat to broil. Top each toasted pita round with ½ teaspoon cranberry sauce and top with cheddar, dividing it evenly around them.

4. Broil, carefully monitoring and rotating as necessary, for 30 seconds to 3 minutes or until cheese is evenly melted.

Cool slightly before serving.

Happy Christmas to All and to All A Good Night!

(Ques­tions or tips can be sent to Donna Zit­ter Bor­de­lon at WhatscookinNEPhilly@gmail.com or in care of the North­east Times, 2 Executive Campus, Suite 400, Cherry Hill, NJ 08002)

Don’t forget:

Send in your favorite recipe for a chance to win a $100 ShopRite gift card. Mail your recipe to Readers’ Recipes, c/o Northeast Times, 2 Executive Campus, Suite 400, Cherry Hill, NJ 08002. Or email your recipe to WhatscookinNEPhilly@gmail.com. Please include name, address and telephone number.

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