By Suzette Standring-Martinez.
Growing up in my Filipino family, Christmas Eve dinner was the main event for family and feasting. Now, six decades later, I feature a delicious twist to our tradition. Each year we draw dinner inspiration from a different country. The challenge is a holiday highlight for my daughter Star, our friend Connie, and I who are avid cooks.
A twinkling tablescape and candle glow create magic for eight. Each course is plated on vintage china as we savor global cuisine. One year it was an Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes, a multi-course dinner of seafood. Another year, we feasted on traditional English fare: prime rib and Yorkshire pudding. Creating a Filipino feast was a fun challenge for Connie, whose ancestry is Greek. We used selections from the award-winning cookbook Memories of Philippine Kitchens by Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan. And though Connie was unfamiliar with Filipino cooking, she followed the assigned recipe and her lumpia (Filipino eggrolls) were outstanding.
Each of us volunteers for one or more courses: appetizers, soup, salad, entree, sides, and desserts. A country serves as an inspired theme, but food choices are not strictly traditional to the culture. It’s about fun and creativity. Last year our imaginations transported us to the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Connie made festive looking appetizer bites of mini tomatoes, feta cheese, and crunchy cucumber. Spicy carrot and ginger soup was a welcome dinner warm-up. Lettuce salad with chopped prawns and sauteed fennel followed. For the entree, I made lamb with honey and apricots, and Connie made a nontraditional turkey roulade, which was a roasted turkey breast, rolled up with stuffing inside and sliced. Rounding out the meal was cauliflower roasted with Moroccan spices and a basmati rice dish garnished with toasted almonds. A fresh strawberry tart with an almond crust made by my daughter was a sweet and fresh finish to our exotic dinner.
Global flavors highlight our annual Christmas Eve feast, ending the year with a delicious and bonding adventure. What country’s food shall we cook this year? France? Spain? India?