Holiday Entertaining

How to Make the Most Out of Specialty Ingredients

January 22, 2018

My mom's appetizer de résistance is caviar pie. It shows up at Thanksgiving or Passover, if you're lucky, but never more than a couple times each year. She got the recipe from her mom. Caviar pie was all the rage in the '70s, thanks to a Craig Claiborne column in The New York Times. But it's timeless to me.

To build it, you use a springform pan—like for a cheesecake—and layer chopped boiled eggs, raw onion, sour cream and neon caviar into a parfait. Chill the thing for a couple hours. Hold your breath to unhook the perimeter. Then—look! It's always, somehow perfect.

Our family demolishes it with poppy seed pita crisps, salted matzo, and potato chips. We never finish the whole thing, which is the point—the leftovers become the next day's breakfast on rye toast.

All that to say, caviar pie is special to me. Which is what specialty ingredients are all about, right? Treating yourself. No guilt, no regret, hakuna matata. (Sorry, it's stuck in my head now , too.) There's a saying in my family about spending: you don't go on vacation to save money. Just like you don't buy rare or expensive ingredients in preparation for a simply okay meal.

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That feels like a lot of pressure, right? Trying to live up to an ingredient's worth. This is where we come in—to lead you (and your caviar, your pine nuts, your saffron, and your fresh truffles in the right direction. Follow these tried-and-true recipes to show off your spiffiest ingredients. Maybe they'll turn a special night into something more special—or even help to create a new tradition.



Pine Nuts


Do you have any special ingredient, special occasion traditions? Share in the comments below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Julian Aronowitz
    Julian Aronowitz
  • Peggy Paul Casella
    Peggy Paul Casella
  • Emma Laperruque
    Emma Laperruque
Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.


Julian A. January 24, 2018
Generally I can't bare to use precious pine nuts for anything besides pasta with pesto. But maybe I should! Thanks Emma
Peggy P. January 23, 2018
Thank you for this! How about tahini and roasted red chile paste? I always seem to have a jar of each leftover in the fridge...and no idea what to do with them.
Emma L. January 23, 2018
Hi Peggy! Here's a great, recent roundup on some of our favorite tahini recipes: Not sure how spicy your chili paste is, but: You could stir it into hummus or tomato sauce (especially a puttanesca), thick yogurt or mayonnaise; or thin it with some olive oil and vinegar and turn it into a salad dressing.
Peggy P. January 23, 2018
Thanks--that's super helpful. I hate wasting anything!