Oyster and Wild Rice Bisque
Wintertime is oyster season in New England, so this chowder-like soup inspired by Nantucket's Christmas celebrations makes perfect sense for the holidays. Here's an easy way to create a dinner party for 16 in about half an hour: Make a double batch of this bisque and serve in a large tureen with small bowls so guests can serve themselves. Add a couple loaves of good crusty bread and you're all set.
Smoked Barley, Beet and Grapefruit Salad
This CL–perfected stovetop technique makes smoking food easier than ever (though the salad is still tasty if you choose not to smoke the grains), and smoke is such a fun flavor to apply to unexpected ingredients like barley. A sweet vinaigrette, earthy beets, and the intense citrus twang of grapefruit balance the robust smoky hit of the grains for a memorable salad. To make sure you're getting the whole-grain version of barley, look for hulled, and skip past pearled.
A fresh, crisp salad balances the lineup of heavier, rich side dishes. You can follow a recipe or just compose one with pretty cuts of your favorite vegetables and herbs tossed with a light vinaigrette. Make this salad a day ahead if you want the flavors to absorb into the cauliflower a little more. Just hold off on adding the cheese until right before serving.
Carrot-Parsnip Soup with Parsnip Chips
The subtle sweetness of carrot and parsnip gives this soup pleasing flavor, and its thick, almost creamy texture makes it hearty and filling. Pan-fried parsnip chips add a little crunch and some visual interest, completing this simple and beautiful soup.
Shaved Apple and Fennel Salad with Crunchy Spelt
Simply put, apples and fennel are right together—the flavors are so complementary. We love the way the paper-thin slices intertwine and then get interrupted by bright hits of parsley. Canola oil may seem like an odd choice, but we wanted to keep the flavors clean and straightforward; you can always use olive oil if you'd like the vinaigrette to assert itself.
Brussels Sprouts Salad with Pickled Rye Berries
Something rather lovely happens when you soak the chewier whole grains (such as rye or wheat berries) in a pickling brine; the tangy notes make the chew that much more enjoyable.
Spinach Salad with Gorgonzola, Pistachios, and Pepper Jelly Vinaigrette
A spicy-sweet Southern condiment meant for savory applications, pepper jelly deserves a place in every kitchen. Added to a basic vinaigrette for this salad, it creates a dressing that will blow guests away with almost no effort. The salad itself is deliciously different, adding pungent gorgonzola and crunchy pistachios. If you're not a blue-cheese person, use milder and creamier gorgonzola dolce instead.
Roasted Beet, Avocado, and Watercress Salad
With red beets and onions and green avocado slices and watercress, this is a festive salad to begin with. Add in sweet oranges, crunchy pecans, and a tangy sherry-orange vinaigrette, and you've got a great holiday meal opener. This recipe serves 12, so it's great for large gatherings.
Beef, Black Bean, and Chorizo Chili
There's nothing better on a cold day than a hot bowl of chili to warm body and soul. Plus, serving chili is easy―all you need is the pot, a ladle, and a pile of bowls, and guests can serve themselves. This Mexican-flavored version uses spicy chorizo and chipotle chiles for heat, pinto and black beans for body, and a little cocoa powder for a surprising background flavor.
Red Cabbage, Cranberry, and Apple Slaw
Slaw may be associated with summer barbecue and burgers, but this wintry version is a welcome addition to the holiday table. Tart cranberries and crisp apple bring in seasonal flavors, and mild rice vinegar gives a moderate bite to the red-cabbage base.
Onion Soup Gratinée
There's nothing like a bowl of flavorful onion soup topped with a bread round and cheese then toasted in the oven. We cook canned beef broth with vegetables for depth, then add it to lots of caramelized onion for an excellent taste. You can make the soup several days ahead, then just reheat and top with bread and cheese at serving time.
Escarole and Fennel Salad with Pears and Gruyère
This recipe highlights contrasting flavors―the bitterness of escarole with the sweetness of pear, the slight licorice flavor of fennel with the salty bite of cheese. Almond oil in the dressing adds a unique flavor that's worth seeking out, even if it can be somewhat hard to find.
Velvety Squash Soup
Winter squash is a quintessential holiday flavor, and in this soup it is no exception. Subtle flavorings like cider, molasses, and a bit of curry powder accentuate the flavor of roasted squash, while a whirl in the blender ensures a smooth and creamy texture. This soup is great for a warming solo lunch on a snowy day, or as the first course of an elaborate dinner-party meal.
Watercress, Frisée, and Grapefruit Salad with Curry Vinaigrette
This colorful salad is alive with flavors―bitter greens, pungent raw onion, sweet dates, tart grapefruit, and spicy curry―but the result is a well-balanced dish that comes together in seconds and will impress your guests.
Winter Citrus, Escarole, and Endive Salad
This bright, fresh salad of winter greens and sweet-tangy citrus is studded with red pomegranate arils: It’s a dramatic, holiday-worthy plate and a welcome course for vegetarians.
Parsnip and Apple Soup
For convenience, you can prepare the soup up to two days ahead and chill. Reheat and garnish just before serving. Tangy yogurt and smoky bacon provide a nice counterpoint and finishing touch.
Spiced Beet and Carrot Soup
This soup is tart, just sweet enough, and hearty, though not a protein powerhouse. If you want to pump up the protein, increase the walnuts or serve with a salad of greens, nuts, and goat cheese.
Curried Butternut Soup
This creamy soup has a unique blend of flavors that will make it an ideal opener for your holiday meal or served as a weeknight treat alongside a spicy arugula salad.
Endive and Watercress Salad with Bacon-Cider Dressing
Smoky bacon, tangy Dijon, and maple syrup cut the bitter and pepper notes of the lettuces. Quality ingredients make all the difference in this simple salad, so splurge on extra-virgin olive oil, real maple syrup, and real-wood-smoked bacon.
Creamy Pumpkin-Red Pepper Soup
The soup can be topped with a variety of things: We love Parmigiano-Reggiano and rosemary, but savory sprinkles like chopped smoked almonds or toasted pecans would be lovely. This tastes even better the next day...or the day after.
Pear and Winter Lettuce Salad
Take advantage of winter fruits and veggies with this tangy salad. Bitter endive and radicchio combine with sweet pear slices and piquant Dijon-balsamic dressing to enlighten the taste buds.
Winter Salad with Roasted Beets and Citrus Reduction Dressing
Using fresh orange juice, multicolored beets, and—for good measure—some creamy, tangy goat cheese, this starter salad celebrates the produce of the season and makes a knockout-gorgeous addition to the table.
Arugula, Grape, and Sunflower Seed Salad
This simple starter salad is nothing short of impressive. Maple syrup, grapeseed oil, and thyme make this dressing simply amazing. Grapes and sunflower seeds blend with peppery arugula for a healthy and yummy first course.
"I wanted to create a second course that is indulgent, rich, and pretty, too,” said recipe developer Mary Drennen Ankar. A small bowl of this soup will go a long way because of its rich and savory flavor.
White Bean and Pumpkin Bisque with Sage Pesto
Start with canned pumpkin (for rich, smooth flavor) and canned white beans (for body), and you end up with a speedy first course that's crowned with a flavor-packed pesto. Make the soup a few days ahead, but do the pesto only shortly before serving so its color stays vibrant.
Sweet and Sour Brussels Sprout Salad
We love Brussels sprout salads but wanted a quicker approach than the tedium of pulling apart the leaves. The food processor slices each sprout nice and thin with lightning-fast speed.
Smoky Bell Pepper Soup
Inspired by the flavors of Spanish romesco sauce, this starter soup gussies up bottled roasted bell peppers with Marcona almonds (already toasted, saving a step), lots of garlic, and sherry vinegar.
Speedy Apple-Beet Salad
Hooray for the food processor, which makes this crisp, refreshing salad a snap to make. Honeycrisp apples have peel that ranges in color from bright red to golden--pick the redder ones, as they tend to be sweeter. Don't make this dish too far ahead, as it might discolor; aim for no more than 30 minutes before you plan to serve it.