Seasonal Flavors from Somerville Spots

Taza ChocolateChocolate peppermint cookies. Prepared, styled, and photographed by Chris McIntosh.

You know what time of year’s coming up. Perhaps you’ll encounter the pre-Thanksgiving Market Basket hordes when you planned a quick trip for some Diet Coke and frozen pizza. Merciless Black Friday crowds might start swinging for the last 48” TV at Target. Or maybe you’ll get cornered at your holiday party by the coworker who smells like licorice and definitely double dipped earlier. Yes, it’s an exhausting time of year that will have you looking for excuses to stay in your apartment, away from the holiday hoopla. Well, here’s your excuse: make some killer holiday recipes from some of Somerville’s nest—all in the comfort of your home. So go ahead. Light a candle, put on some Bing Crosby, get cooking, and spend time eating and drinking with people you actually like.

Nut Noggin — The Juice Union

The Juice Union, located in Union Square, serves all-plant-based smoothies and juices, bowls, and snacks. Passersby can often count on seeing a seasonal drink offering on the chalkboard outside the shop, ranging from Fluff-themed creations for the annual Fluff Festival to pumpkin lattes that satisfy those autumnal cravings.

Founder Diana Krefetz wanted to create a healthier, nondairy riff on traditional eggnog. Krefetz and The Juice Union team make unique nut milks for nitro lattes, which is done with cashews in this recipe. The flavorful cashew-milk base becomes decadently creamy when blended with a frozen banana.

The Juice Union

Photo by Chris McIntosh.

INGREDIENTS:

• 1 cup filtered water
• 1/4 cup raw cashews
• 1 medjool date
• 1/2 tsp chia seeds
• 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
• 1 tsp cinnamon
• 1 tsp nutmeg
• A pinch of salt
• 1 large frozen banana, sliced before freezing

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Place all ingredients, except the banana, into a blender. Blend for 1-2 minutes. Next, add the frozen banana and blend until smooth.

2. For a caffeine buzz, replace water with cold coffee. Want to make it extra wild? Add bourbon or rum.

 

Chocolate Peppermint Cookies — Taza Chocolate

These cookies combine rich, bold chocolate with the cool crunch of peppermint candy for the perfect holiday treat. Bake up a batch or two for everything from gifting, to hosting, to … eating them all by yourself while binge-watching your favorite holiday movies. We won’t judge.

Taza makes stone-ground chocolate that has become synonymous with Somerville. Taza grinds organic cacao beans into unrefined, minimally processed chocolate with bold flavor and texture. Taza’s factory store is on Windsor Street in Somerville, where the company also offers tours—chocolate tasting included. Hollah.

INGREDIENTS:

Photo by Chris McIntosh.

• 1/2 stick butter
• 1–2.5 oz package Peppermint Stick Amaze Bar (a seasonal item from Taza), chopped. Note: a 60% Dark Dominican Origin Bar with 1/4 tsp peppermint extract is a suitable substitute
• 3/4 cup all-purpose our
• 1/4 cup light brown sugar
• 1/4 cup granulated sugar
• 1/4 tsp baking soda
• 1 egg, beaten
• 1/4 tsp of salt
• 2 oz peppermint candies

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment.

2. In a small sandwich bag, crush peppermint candies with a rolling pin or frying pan. Place crushed candies in a small bowl and set aside.

3. In a small microwavable dish, heat butter and chocolate 30 seconds at a time, until no solid pieces are left (about one minute). Set aside to cool, but not solidify.

4. In a separate large bowl, whisk together our, brown sugar, granulated sugar, baking soda, and salt. Fold in melted chocolate mixture and beaten egg, and mix until dough forms.

5. Roll the dough into 12 evenly sized balls and press half of the ball in the peppermint candy. Place candy-side-up on lined baking sheet with about three inches between each piece.

6. Bake for 13-15 minutes, or until cookies have spread and the tops have begun to crackle. Remove from oven and let the cookies sit on the baking sheet for five minutes, then transfer to a rack or plate to finish cooling.

 

Potato Mille-Feuille — Juliet

Is the holiday spread even complete if the potato doesn’t get some love? At first glance, this recipe for potato mille-feuille (which translates to “thousand leaves”) can look daunting. It’s a tiny bit of a chore, but according to Juliet Chef Joshua Lewin, it starts to come together fairly quickly once you get into a groove. A bit of butter, salt, pepper, and fresh herbs all melt together with the potato, but the thin slicing and stacking create a wonderfully fun texture wrapped up in a lightly crisped shell.

Too lazy to make the dish? Don’t worry. It will be available on the Juliet Steakhouse menu, a four-week celebration of what Lewin calls “mid-century opulence” between Nov. 24 and Dec. 23. Dinner at Juliet is anything but standard—the menus are what they call “full productions,” focusing not only on the food, but the entire experience.

INGREDIENTS:

• 4 russet potatoes, peeled and sliced as thin as possible with a mandoline or knife
• 1 cup plus 1 tbsp melted butter
• 1 tbsp thyme leaves, all stems removed, coarsely chopped
• 1 tbsp kosher salt
• 1 tsp finely ground black pepper

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2. Toss all ingredients (reserve 1 tbsp butter) together in a mixing bowl so that potatoes are evenly coated with butter and seasonings. Lay potatoes flat, overlapping lightly, lining the entire baking dish. Press down lightly to compress before adding each additional layer. Continue stacking and pressing until all potatoes are used.

3. Cover with foil and bake until a cake tester or wooden skewer passes through the mille-feuille without any resistance, about 40 minutes.

4. Increase oven temperature to 500 degrees.

5. Brush the top of the cooked potato with remaining butter and lightly sprinkle with additional kosher salt and black pepper.

6. Bake, uncovered, for an additional 10 minutes or until the top of the potato is golden brown and crispy.

 

Fish Aqua Pazza — Dave’s Fresh Pasta

An Italian Christmas isn’t really Italian unless you’re celebrating with the Feast of the Seven Fishes. Chef Jason Martin, who teaches classes at Dave’s Fresh Pasta, says his grandmother would make Aqua Pazza (which translates to “crazy water”) for his family on Christmas Eve. “As Italians, Christmas Eve was always the biggest night of our year,” he says. “I believe back in Naples they would actually use sea water to make the dish.” Hence the name.

Dave’s Fresh Pasta is located in Davis Square, offering everything from wine and cheese to a sandwich bar and—of course— fresh pasta. Chef Jason and the Dave’s Fresh Pasta team are also behind the new Semolina Kitchen, which opened in Medford in July.

INGREDIENTS:

• 2 lbs sea bass, sole, cod, haddock, or pollock
• 2 cups white wine
• 1 large onion, sliced
• 1/2 can of Italian cherry tomatoes
• 3 sliced and peeled potatoes
• 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
• 2 sprigs of fresh parsley
• 2 tsp chili flakes
• 2 cups fish stock or clam juice
• 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
• Salt and pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 400. Heat a large saute pan; add oil and wait until it’s hot.

2. Brown the potato slices on both sides. Add the onion and cook for three minutes. Add the wine and reduce it by half. Add in the tomatoes, fish stock/clam juice, chili flakes, and thyme.

3. Place fish on top of the cooked potatoes, onion, tomatoes, etc., and season with salt and pepper. Cover with foil and bake about 10 minutes or until the sh is cooked.

4. Finish by drizzling extra virgin olive oil and parsley over the fish.

 

This story appears in the November/December print issue of Scout Somerville, which is available for free at more than 220 drop spots throughout Somerville (and just beyond its borders) or by subscription.

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