Holiday Entertaining with Fresh Fruit

Tony's Thoughts on Holiday Appetizers: Do you know one of my pet peeves? It's the same plain old boring appetizers at holiday parties! Those types of appetizers that come out of a bag or a box that you regret filling up on the next day. Let's liven up those holiday parties with fresh fruit! Here is one appetizer that harkens back to by-gone days when everything was prepared from scratch and Grandma spent weeks during the holidays making up special candied treats for all the grandchildren: Candied Kumquats!

What is a kumquat and when is the last time you had one? The word kumquat appears in our vocabulary and everyone is familiar with name, but how many of us have ever eaten one or even know how? A kumquat is a member of the citrus family but not as closely related to the orange as one would think. For starters, one eats the entire fruit, unlike an orange where you peel and throw away the skin. Actually the skin is the sweetest part of the fruit and kumquats are unique in that the skin is sweet and pulp is sour, which gives it a unique sweet and sour taste in the same bite! It originated in China thousands of years ago and is enjoyed far more in Asia than in the United States but is gaining in popularity. The season for kumquats is late fall through mid-winter, just in time for the holidays and good eating. I've prepared a few of these candied treats to enjoy, one being a Hot & Sweet version and the other a pure, candied treat. They really are quite simple to make and fun to eat. Kumquats store well in your refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Always choose those with bright orange skins and avoid greenish, dull skin. You can enjoy them fresh or with the recipes I've included. Kids will love them too, they're full of vitamin C and low in calories, but be careful because they can contain an occasional seed.

When we think of holiday entertaining with fresh fruit, we should try to use what is in season like kumquats, and nothing says seasonal produce at this time of the year more than clementines! But what kind of appetizer can we create using clementines? I just recently attended a produce exposition where chefs created delicious dishes marrying fresh produce with meat and seafood and I have always been impressed with the unique blend of citrus and shrimp, thus was born our next appetizer, Shrimp & Clementine Skewers! Throw away the cocktail sauce and serve these skewers marinated in fresh clementine juice and fresh sage. They're not only very colorful but also stunningly delicious!

Grapefruit is just entering its prime season and we have the best tasting grapefruit of the year! In the past, many people had holiday brunches and it was not uncommon to serve broiled grapefruit. When is the last time you broiled a grapefruit? Simply cut in half, place on baking sheet and sprinkle with brown sugar and cinanamon. It is delicious and will be the juiciest grapefruit you ever enjoyed (by heating the grapefruit it will release more juice, the same will occur if left at room temperature, it will be juicer than a chilled grapefruit.) Remember grapefruit is a good source of Vitamin C and the darker the color red of the grapefruit the higher it will be in healthy beta carotene. Another idea is to scoop out the grapefruit segements and combine with crab and avocado and put back in the grapefruit shell and serve as a type of ceviche or grapefruit and avocado salad.

Whatever way you decide to entertain this year, add some fresh fruit into your holiday assortment from some of the ideas above or try simple things like raspberries in champagne, the addition of pears, apples and grapes to any cheese tray or putting out a fresh fruit tray; I do this every year and I am amazed at how many people graze on the fresh fruit! You will find your parties more lively and refreshing and you can feel good about serving your guests healthier fare. On behalf of everyone at Peapod we would to wish everyone a very joyous holiday season!

Spicy-Sweet Kumquats

6 Tbsps. granulated sugar
1 1/2 Tbsps. chili powder
1/4 cup pasteurized liquid egg whites
60 kumquats
Stir together sugar and chili powder. Working with 1 kumquat at a time, dip in egg whites, let excess drip off, then dip in sugar mixture. Spoon sugar mixture over kumquat to cover completely. Transfer to a rack to dry. Repeat with remaining kumquats. Can make three days ahead.

Shrimp and Clementine Kabobs

20 clementine segments
1 cup Bolthouse Farm clementine juice
20 jumbo boiled shrimp, tails off
1 Tbsp. shallots, chopped
2 Tbsps. fresh sage leaves, chopped
Combine shrimp, clementine juice, shallots and chopped sage in sip top plastic bag. Make sure marinade ingredients are distributed evenly. Marinate in refrigerator for 1-2 hours. Drain and discard marinade before placing on skewers and serving.

Grapefruit Crab and Avocado Salad

1 grapefruit scooped out (save shell) and chopped
1 can crab meat (preferably lump) 6 ounces
1/2 cup diced avocado
1/2 Tbsp. diced jalapeno (seeded first)
1 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
1 tsp.dijon mustard
1/2 Tbsp. mayonaise
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
dash of cayenne pepper
Combine all the ingredients above and mix thoroughly. Place in hollowed out grapefruit shell and serve with chips.

Candied Kumquats

1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 cups water
1/2 pound kumquats
In medium sauce pan bring sugar and water to a boil, stirring until dissolved. Add the kumquats, cover the fruit with a piece of parchment paper and a small plate or lid to keep them submerged. Simmer over low heat until the kumquats are translucent about 20 to 25 minutes. Drain the fruit. Let cool and serve.

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