Four Perfect Holiday Dishes

On the following pages you'll find easy, elegant ideas for holiday entertaining: small, delicate cheese puffs called gougères, here flavored with red bell pepper; a gorgeous rack of lamb that marinates for two hours, then goes from the oven to the table in just 30 minutes; a bright watercress-mint salad; and an ethereal vanilla cake. But the best thing about this menu is that there are so many ways that you can riff on it. Why not try stuffing the gougères with soft goat cheese, or adding a few other quick hors d'oeuvres—smoked trout mousse (simply blend smoked trout fillets and cream cheese in a food processor), perhaps, or steamed shrimp with a dipping sauce made with mayonnaise and the fiery Tunisian condiment harissa? To accompany the lamb, why not try Israeli couscous and cumin-scented carrots? Why not top the vanilla cake with raspberry sauce or with caramelized pears? Whatever you do, we hope these recipes add flavor to your holidays.

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