My Five Favorite Things to Eat At Christmas


  1. Heading out for seafood on Christmas Eve? Sal D’s quaint Italian restaurant tucked away on Wall Street in Huntington Village has the best baked clams oreganata. I don’t order baked clams out anywhere. They are always bland and too bready. Not at Sal D’s. They have just the right amount of breading and clams and they are so garlicky. My other favorite clam dish which is only served as a special, is their clams casino. Be sure to ask for extra bread to soak up the delicious sauce.
  2. If you’re having cocktails by the fire before Santa’s arrival, make this quick and easy goat cheese spread to go with a nice glass of champagne. Purchase a good quality log of goat cheese. I recommend Long Island’s own Catapano Dairy Farm; they specializes in making the creamiest and freshest goat cheese around. Specialty markets often carry their cheese, as do some of the winter farmers markets. Once you have your cheese, heat up a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over low heat in a small frying pan. Carefully add a tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves and two tablespoons of pink peppercorns. Be careful, because if your oil is too hot the peppercorns and thyme will sizzle and pop. Heat for a minute or two and then pour over the goat cheese log which should be at room temperature. Serve with crackers. This recipe is divine.
  3. If you’re heading out to dinner in Nassau County, my other favorite place for an Italian fish dinner is at Café Testarossa in Syosset. They have the best linguini with clam sauce. A fixture on Jericho Turnpike for decades, Café Testarossa uses deliciously sweet manila clams, and then tosses them with fresh basil, garlic and Calabrian peppers in a wonderful wine sauce.
  4. Mama Flanagan’s Italian seafood fradiovolo. Don’t let the last name fool you. Her maiden name is D’Amato, and if we’re having Christmas Eve dinner at her house, there is nothing like her rich and spicy seafood fradiovolo made with shrimp, clams, lobster tails and mussels, served over a bed of linguini. Home cooking doesn’t get better.
  5. If you’re going to a friend’s house or visiting relatives, besides bringing Ina Garten’s roasted shrimp cocktail, nothing is more satisfying then warm brie cheese.  The first time I made this appetizer was during a couple’s cooking class with Chef Barbara Sheridan at Look Who’s Cooking in Oyster Bay. It was 1994, and sadly Barbara retired several years ago. I still enjoy many of her wonderful recipes, and this one in particular is one of my favorites. I make it several times during the holiday season because it is so festive and wintery, and it’s easy to make.

Brie with Cranberry and Caramelized Onions
1 tablespoon butter
1 sweet onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 8oz. round brie or camembert cheese
¼ cup sweetened dried cranberries
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sherry
1 teaspoon dried marjoram

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in a large non-stick skillet, add onion and cook on low heat for about ten minutes, stirring frequently. Add the brown sugar, dried cranberries, salt, sherry and marjoram and stir. Cook until onions are nicely browned and caramelized, about 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently.

Place the brie in an ungreased, oven-proof shallow baking dish, as this will be your serving vessel as well. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until cheese is soft. Spoon warm mixture over cheese and serve with assorted crackers.

This dish can also be prepared ahead of time. Make the onions, and when cooled, put them on the brie. You can even make the onions a few days in advance, and refrigerate. Bring the onions to room temperature before placing them on the brie. Take it to a friend’s house, then pop it in the oven with the mixture already on it. Cook for 10-12 minutes. Enjoy!