I’m thrilled to partner with Lillet, one of my favorite French brands, to bring you these festive holiday recipes. Thank you for supporting the brands that support The New Baguette!
Around this time last year, Rene and I were gearing up for a three-week holiday in Europe – first Poland, where I’d meet dozens of his family members, then France, where we’d be staying with my family in Paris and with his in Marseille.
For a diehard Francophile like me, being in France feels like going back to the mothership, to create new memories and collect inspiration in the zip drive in my mind. Apart from eating all the buttery croissants and crackly baguettes I can get my hands on, what I love doing most there is walking. There’s nothing like spending the day covering miles and miles on foot, observing the city and its inhabitants passing by via the narrow, zig-zagging streets and the grand boulevards that can make your head spin. The absolute best part is the exhaustion you feel afterward, which fuels a seemingly insatiable appetite.
The day we arrived in Marseille, we made it from the train station, to the Old Port, to the modern art museum, back to the Port, and then five flights of stairs up to Rene’s cousin’s apartment – all on foot. It was glorious, and gloriously exhausting. Rene’s cousin and his wife had just gotten home from work and decided in that quintessentially French way we’re always hearing about that it was too early for dinner, but we should have apéro.
Of course I played it cool, but the Francophile in me was dizzy with glee. I’d heard of this sacred French ritual before but never got to participate in it myself and here was my chance –
weee! I mean, oui!
Apéro is the French version of happy hour (apéro = short for apéritif, a pre-dinner drink to stimulate the appetite), but there are some differences between the two. First, happy hour usually takes place around 5-7pm, while apéro can go all the way until 9pm. Perhaps it’s for this reason that apéro typically includes snacks, like charcuterie, tapenade, crackers, bread, and rillettes (pork pâté spread). Lastly, while happy hour happens at a bar and includes house wine or beer, apéro can take place at a bar or at home, and comes with its own special set of drinks, like port wine, Champagne, Kir Royale, Pastis, and my favorite, Lillet.
Lillet is an aromatized wine from the Bordeaux region that has been around since 1872 (!). It’s sweet with hint of orange and is served chilled with an orange twist; if you own my book, you may have also seen my recipe for Lillet-Cassis Punch. Lillet is my go-to happy hour or brunch drink, and it never fails to make me feel like the sophisticated woman I wanna be when I grow up.
Apéro happens to be the perfect concept for stress-free holiday entertaining. It’s not as intimidating as hosting dinner since you’re just serving snacks, and there’s no commitment to spending the whole evening with friends if you have other plans after or just want to call it an early night.
To inspire you to host apéro chez toi this holiday season, I’m sharing three easy snack recipes: Creamy Rosemary-Garlic White Bean Dip, Sun-Dried Tomato Tapenade Crostini, and Curried Chickpea Salad in Endive Spears. These are lighter and healthier than typical apéro fare, and best of all, they can be prepped in advance, but are easy enough to throw together after work, too.
Happy holidays! Or as they say in France, bonnes fêtes!
Creamy Rosemary-Garlic White Bean Dip
Place 3 thinly sliced medium garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary, and 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a small skillet. Warm over medium heat just until the mixture is gently sizzling and the garlic is lightly golden, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes. In a food processor, combine 1 14-ounce can of drained and rinsed cannellini beans, 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, and the garlic-rosemary-oil mixture. Puree until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Scrape into a serving bowl and drizzle with a bit of extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with minced rosemary and black pepper. Serve with crudités like carrots, cucumbers, and radishes. (If making in advance, refrigerate the dip in an airtight container drizzled with a bit of oil to keep the surface from drying).
Sun-Dried Tomato Tapenade Crostini
In a food processor, place 1 cup pitted and rinsed Kalamata olives and 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes jarred in oil and drained. Pulse until broken down. Add 2 tablespoons drained capers, 1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence, 1 medium garlic clove, and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper and pulse to combine. The mixture should be homogenous but a bit chunky. (Tapenade can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week). To serve, spread tapenade on crostini and top with sliced radishes.
Curried Chickpea Salad is a light and easy hors d’oeuvre you can prepare in advance, or put together quickly even on a weeknight. Chickpeas cooked from scratch are more delicious, but you may use canned when in a pinch. The recipe yields more salad than you’ll need for the appetizer; you can have the leftovers with greens, in a grain bowl, or a sandwich.
- 3 cups cooked* chickpeas (if using canned, be sure to drain and rinse them)
- 1 small shallot, finely diced
- 2 heaping tablespoons white raisins
- 2 tablespoons vegan mayo
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ¾ teaspoon curry powder
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 2 small heads of Belgian endive, trimmed, leaves separated and cleaned
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped cilantro, to garnish
- In a large bowl, stir together the chickpeas, shallot, raisins, mayo, mustard, lemon juice, curry powder, salt, and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings, if needed. (Prepared salad can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days).
- To serve, spoon about 1 tablespoon of the salad into each endive spear and place on a serving platter. Garnish with cilantro.
*To cook dried chickpeas, soak them overnight or for at least 8 hours. Drain and replace with fresh water. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, cover tightly with a lid, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the chickpeas are soft, 40-60 minutes.
- Serving Size: 2 pieces
- Calories: 175
- Fiber: 9 g
- Protein: 8.6 g