New Year's Eve: Cranberry rosemary punch and goat cheese stuffed dates

Planning a get together to countdown to midnight on New Year's Eve? Serve up some cranberry rosemary punch and goat cheese stuffed dates.

In Praise of Leftovers
Dried dates stuffed with a goat cheese and pistachio filling.

Editor's note: We thought this post from the recipe archive of Stir It Up! blogger Sarah Murphy-Kangas (In Praise of Leftovers) has all the right ingredients for a New Year's Eve party.

Last night's party was delicious. In all my running around – taking dirty dishes, refilling crostini, fetching ice – I managed to promise guests that I'd post these recipes. They happen to be the two least labor-intensives nibbles of the night.  The dates are from Dana's blog, and I've wanted to make them for a long time. Simple, quick, but still "Give-me-another-one-of-those" scrumptious.

The punch was an accident. In the prep kitchen, I pulled out my big punch jar and went to grab lemonade concentrate. A thousand expletives. It was in my freezer at home! And no supermarkets downtown! We decided on a cranberry cocktail to which I added rosemary syrup, a big chunk of ice, and a bunch of thinly sliced lemons. People were pining for it, and it looked so beautiful in the glasses.  

It was a big joke on me – the thing everyone's begged for in the end  for wasn't in the master plan. I'm sure you've got your own stories and metaphors where that's concerned. If we had it all together and never did things like forget lemonade at home, there wouldn't be room for cranberry punch. And what kind of world would that be?
 

Cranberry Rosemary Punch
This makes 5 quarts – a lot.  Halve it for a smallish party.  I often have simple syrups like this in the fridge, so you can just pour a little bit into a single glass of juice, too – taste, and adjust to your liking.

For simple syrup:

2 cup water

2 cups sugar

1/4 cup chopped fresh rosemary

In a saucepan, combine sugar and water over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Add rosemary, simmer for a couple minutes, then remove from heat and cool. Pour mixture through a sieve, discarding rosemary. Keeps in the fridge for a couple weeks. This makes more than you will need.

To make punch:
Combine 4 cans frozen cranberry juice concentrate with 12 cans water and 1-1/2  cup of rosemary simple syrup. Add lots of ice (you want to dilute the punch a bit since you've just added sugary syrup), two thinly sliced lemons, and a couple fresh rosemary sprigs.  Serve confidently, acting like you planned this the whole time.

Goat Cheese and Pistachio Stuffed Dates

Makes 16. Adapted from Dana Treat, who adapted it from The New Classics by Martha Stewart. You can make the goat cheese filling one day ahead and refrigerate it. These hors d’oeuvres can be assembled several hours before serving. Loosely cover them with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for up to three hours. Bring to room temperature before serving.

4 ounces soft goat cheese

3 tablespoons shelled salted pistachios, toasted and coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives

1 tablespoon honey

Pepper

8 plump, soft dried dates (preferably Medjool), pitted and halved lengthwise

1. Stir together goat cheese, pistachios,chives, and honey in a small bowl until smooth. Season with pepper.

2. Arrange dates, cut side up, on a platter. Using a small spoon and your fingers, fill each date with a small mound of the filling. Garnish, if you like, with additional chopped pistachios and chives. Thinly drizzle a bit of honey over the whole platter.

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