Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Beginnings

The new year is upon us, and it's time for some "lean cuisine". There was some serious overindulgence going on here, commencing with a Christmas dinner that began with a platter of assorted cheeses accompanied by a fig "salami" and pumpkin-spiced nuts. At table, the first course was a salad of mixed baby greens and fuyu persimmons, folowed by lobster and shrimp in madeira sauce. I served this over rice, accompanied by snow peas with water chestnuts. Dessert was a rich but refreshing frozen gran marnier torte in a chocolate crust, topped with glazed and spiced cranberries over which I shaved white chocolate. Gorgeous to look at and seductively delicious. The next night was laid back - we ate the seafood in its sauce over pasta, with a big green salad, crunchy with fennel.

And, there were the cookies - walnut dreams, the layered bars glazed with confectioners sugar; pecan balls, pumpkin cookies, mocha-walnut balls, almond biscotti - the list goes on.So, tomorrow brings simply prepared salmon, lots of fresh veggies and fruits and big salads. Happy New Year to all.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

an october dinner

We were six for dinner last evening. The table was festive with flowers and candlelight, and the mood was convivial and sometimes hilarious. We started out with a black bean,walnut and basil pate on toasted slices of a slender ciabatta and a choice of red or white wine - or vodka. Then, at table, a salad of homegrown bibb lettucer,belgian endive, pear slices and goat cheese dressed with one of my favorite vinaigrettes, enriched with fig preserves. Our main course was roasted chicken thighs on a bed of slightly stale peasant bread slices painted with mustard and then drizzled generously with olive oil. Fresh lemon thyme from the garden, a couple of bay leaves and a head of garlic separated into cloves were strewn over the chicken. The scents wafting through the first floor were too wonderful. A pan of roasted cauliflower and broccoli and another of baby new potatoes baked with rosemary completed the main course. The appropriately autumnal dessert was a four-layer pumpkin cake with a cream cheese frosting embellished with a croquant of caramelized pecan,pumpkin seeds and candied ginger.Divine. We ate, we talked and laughed -great friend were the true icing on the cake.

Monday, October 11, 2010

An Indulgence of Apples

Fall sets my heart aflutter - a frisson of anticipation for the scents of the season, the brilliant foliage and, not least, the foods of autumn. No surprise then that I found the array of apples at the farmers market irresistibly seductive, arriving home with bags of Northern Spy, Macoun, Pink Lady, Pippin, Golden Delicious and more. The applesauce I produced was worth all the peeling. The pure flavor of the Macintosh fruit was perfection and the next morning I had a bowl of it topped with the sensational granola from Melissa Clark's new book. The unusual ingredient? Olive Oil - and salt. It's hard to pass the canister I keep on the island without reaching in for a handful.
Next, two apple pies utilizing a mixture of thefruitsand topped with a streusel. Then, for dinner with friends, a salad of belgian endive,raw kohlrabi,red pear and an apple, tossed with a lemony mustard vinaigrette. Yesterday I used all the Golden Delicious for two big coffee cakes, lightly spiced with cinnamon and with a pecan, cinnamon and brown sugar crumb mixture in the middle, between two layers of the dough - the cakes are gorgeous, reaching to the very top of the bundt pans.What do I have planned next? Chicken Normandy, browning the bird and baking it with sauteed onions and apples, adding at the end some creme fraiche and applejack. I love this served with egg noodles - autumnal comfort food.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

wedding preparations

This past weekend the wedding of the daughter of one of my close friends took place on a beach in Brigantine, New Jersey. I had been asked to perform the ceremony - my first time; in addition the mother of the bride and I had done all the cooking for the large reception to take place the next day in their garden here in Pennsylvania. The weather gods looked on kindly, with bright sunshine and cooling breezes, and all went wonderfully well. We made little cheese puffs, brushed before baking with an egg wash, then sprinkled with sesame seeds, and served hot. Large shrimp served with a sherry and orange mayonnaise, a change from the ubiquitous cocktail sauce. Crisp vegetables were the accompaniment for a sun-dried tomato spread. We chose three cheeses - a Krema Kase, a manchego and a brie, and I made conserves to be served alongside each. After a festive cocktail hour, dinner was served - A choice of roast loin of pork served with two mustard sauces, or chicken with roasted vegetables and a balsamic sauce, served at room temperature. The chiken was roasted in large cubes, the roasted vegetables were red peppers, artichoke hearts and wild mushrooms, and the assortment also included thin-sliced raw fennel and roasted whole cloves of garlic. So flavorful and beautiful to behold. There was a generous use of herbs = frsh tarragon and shredded basil. A wild rice salad with dried cherries was a huge hit and there was a green bean salad topped with sauteed bread crumbs, garlicky, that had been mixed with parsley and hard-boiled eggs. Dessert offered a choice of three cakes = chocolate-root beer, lemon-lime chiffon and caramelized apple. All in all, a labor of love, well worth our investment of time and hard work - and it was fun!

Monday, August 30, 2010

sunday night supper

There were three of us for dinner last night, and I made it simple. I chopped, after seeding, a mix of heirloom tomatoes, perfectly ripe and juicy. I added a mix of chives, basil, parsley and mint, some finely chopped garlic, the zest of a couple of lemons and a good amount of lemon olive oil. Salt and pepper. I cooked ziti and added to the drained pasta some lovely, fresh mozzarella. After a few minutes I combined it with the tomato mixture and served the dish at room temperature with some crusty bread. To start, a salad of red crisphead lettuce dressed with a terrific faux Catalina dresssing, and tossed with grilled peach slices and chevre. Perfect summer eating.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

weeknight dinner for family and friends

Six of us for dinner after a busy day, so I kept it simple. I'd previously made some conserves to be served with cheeses at a friend's wedding, so, with wine before our dinner I put out a platter of three cheeses, each accompanied by its own conserve. Manchego with quince, a buttery brie with a peach conserve and Krema Kase with a mixed dried fruit condiment. It was suggested that we forego dinner and just demolish the cheese platter. But, I'd prepared some orzo, tossed while hot with olive oil and lemon juice in equal amounts. Then I tossed in a couple of handfulls each of fresh dill and parsley, roughly chopped sweet red pepper and cucumber along with sliced scallions. I left this on the counter to come to room temperature while I roasted, at 400 degrees for seven minutes, some large shrimp. I tossed the shrimp with the orzo, added more lemon, and this, along with some Roma beans in a light and fresh tomato sauce and hot garlic bread completed dinner. A chilled Sauvignon Blanc was perfect, and refreshing. Apple cake with caramel glaze, and we were happily sated.

Friday, August 13, 2010

houseguests for the weekend

Two close friends arrived for the weekend, what a treat! Breakfast the next morning was a bowl of mixed berries, a plate of plump green figs, that most sensual of fruits and walnut scones - accompanied of course by tall cups of strong coffee. And lots of catching-up conversation. The temperature had reached 96 by lunchtime so a light selection of mezzes seemed appealing. Stuffed grape leaves topped with fat wedges of lemon, olives, cherry tomatoes harvested just minutes before lunch, cucumber sticks, feta cheese, hummus and pita crisps topped with zaatar. Perfect on a hot day. We chose a movie over dinner and stopped for a bite after.

For breakfast the next morning I put out a plate of ripe melon and some sliced mango served with lime wedges. Warm zucchini bread and toasted country bread with homemade preserves - and the newspaper. My daughter joined us for dinner and grilled the chicken for us. I'd marinated the breasts in lemon zest and juice, roasted garlic, olive oil and rosemary, which grows outside the kitchen door. With this I served a saute of squash, corn, tomatoes and peppers, seasoned with fresh thyme. A green salad to begin, and grilled bread lavished with herb butter. Decadent and so good. We were sated, so the blueberry pie remained uncut - until breakfast the next morning! It was a happy weekend!!!

Monday, July 26, 2010

family gathering

With visiting kids and grandchildren we were nine at the dinner table last night. Everyone relaxed with guacamole, vibrant with just-harvested cilantro, before sitting down to dinner. Barbecued brisket, marinated the night before roasting with liquid smoke, garlic, onion and celery salt, then into the oven for five hours at a low temperature. Before cooking I seasoned with worcestershire, salt and pepper, and after four hours I poured barbecue sauce over the meat and cooked another hour. The entire house was permeated with wonderful aromas. With the meat there was potato salad, seasoned while warm with an herb vinaigrette, then mayo, sour cream and lots of fresh dill. A green bean salad and warm focaccia completed the array of dished served from the kitchen island. Dessert was blueberry pie - with vanilla ice cream of course. And lots of catching up - and laughs. This is as good as it gets.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

informal dinner

There were five for dinner on a blisteringly hot evening, so I decided on a room-temperature supper. There were gorgeous, fat bunched of swiss chard at the farmers market, thus the dish I would prepare. I heated a generous amount of olive oil in a large skillet, just until it shimmered. I added five sizable garlic cloves and let them perfume the oil for about five minutes, then removed them. I added the chard which I'd washed and spun dry (in a pillowcase on the spin cycle of the washer), then roughly chopped. While it was softening I drained a can of chickpeas, and added them, along with the zest of a lemon. Next, quite a lot of baby spinach, followed by grape tomatoes. I tossed this melange with a pound of tri-color farfalle, and the zest of an additional lemon. It looked gorgeous in its shallow round bowl, and I sprinkled ricotta salata over it, then sat it on the counter, to be served tepid. With this, baby wax beans from a friend's farm and crusty bread. Dessert, an indulgently rich chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream. Contentment reigned.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

supper for a hot and humid evening

After a week of ungodly heat and humidity we had a few days of relief - and now we're back to climbing temperatures and heavy humidity. That means my supper will be a salad plate - lemon and black pepper grilled tuna that comes in foil packets - a tasty and convenient discovery. So, the tuna, some baby wax beans, a couple of boiled potatoes, baby cucumber, beautiful tomatoes from the garden and some chunks of red pepper - all on a bed of leaf lettuces, the last from my garden until a new crop in the fall. I'll dress it with a lemon vinagrette and strew some baby basil leaves over all. After eating, I'll frost the chocolate root beer cake I baked this afternoon - another recipe from the wonderful book "Baked".Very rich, and I made sure to use really good root beer. It'll be served with vanilla ice cream.
Yesterday, preferring air conditioning to sauna-like conditions, I stayed inside and baked two types of lemon cookies - one, a simple sliced cookie that's incredibly lemony, including both lemon zest in abundance and pure lemon oi. The other delight is a lemon-cornmeal wafer with coarse black pepper to add a surprising piquancy. I love this cookie!!!!

Friday, July 2, 2010

a hot and humid summer evening

Despite near-unbearable heat, dinner for five was a relaxed affair with great conversation and high spirits. I grilled scallops and, to accompany them prepared a salsa of papaya, tomatillos, jalapenos, red onion, lime and honey. It was so colorful and refreshing that everyone went back for seconds. There was also a platter of tomatoes and fresh mozzarella scattered with black olives and pistou basil.Lastly, a room-temperature potato and haricot vert salad, dressed while warm with chicken stock, white wine and olive oil along with fresh tarragon from the herb garden.For dessert, the first peach pie of the season, topped with my favorite oat and wheat germ streusel. A lovely summer supper.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

a celebration

This past weekend was a celebration of my grandson's graduation from high school. Family arrived from out of town and on Saturday evening we gathered at my house - and ate - and ate----. While sitting around talking, nonstop, the pitcher of sensational margaritas (the recipe came from a friend) was frequently replenished, and two spreads were put out. There was a feta, yogurt and cream cheese mix, which included generous additions of fresh herbs, with lavash crackers to spread it on. Also, a chickpea mixture, with garlic, mint and lemon. I dripped a lovely, fruity olive oil over the surface before serving it with home made pita crisps sprinkled with zaatar before baking.
For the dinner itself my daughter the grillmeister did vegetables - onion, fat spears of asparagus and peppers. And I did a quick to make and delicious cappelini with sauteed shrimp - browned in garlic butter and cooked briefly in a sweet vermouth and cream sauce. Just before sitting down we grilled, two minutes on each side, thick slices of country bread lavished with an herb and garlic butter - ooh, so decadent and so good. Dessert was key lime pie and we quaffed a light, dry white wine throughout the meal. Such a good time.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

jewels from the garden

For the past couple of nights I've regaled myself with sweet peas from the garden. As I shell, more go directly into my mouth than into the bowl - so sweet. Last evening I tossed them with pasta, a pat of butter and some freshly grated grana padana.I started the meal with a few radishes plucked moments before , where they grow next to a gorgeous mix of lettuces - green oakleaf, red romaine, frisee and more, just now ready to harvest.The lushness of the garden thrills me with its utter lack of restraint.Tonight I'll cut some of the baby lettuces and dress them with a lemon vinaigrette, to accompany grilled salmon and more of those precious peas.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

beautiful berries

I just made my first strawberry shortcake of the season, with locally grown berries the color of rubies and so sweet they required almost no sugar. My mouth watered at the prospect,as it does every year;I could, if I permitted myself,make an entire meal of it. I made tender biscuits scented with lemon zest and while they were baking I crushed half the berries, leaving the rest whole. I added a bit of sugar and a hit of lemon juice and left the mixture on the kitchen table, as I wanted the berries at room temperature. The biscuits came out of the oven, I whipped an indulgent bowlful of heavy cream, split the biscuits, ladles berries over the bottom half, them some berry juice over the top, and passed the whipped cream. Aah, heavenly.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


I've just returned from a week in Amagansett, Long Island, a family reunion with cousins and siblings. It was a week of general hilarity, often-told remeniscenses and soul-soothing companionship. We ate often and generously and talked non-stop about food. Although we went out for a few meals, the best were at home - all the men did one meal - we were the princesses, and the next night was out turn. We poured wine for ourselves, chopped, pared,roasted and boogied to great old blues songs my cousin had downloaded. And, the last night was a feast = large, succulent lobsters steamed for us by the fishmonger, crisp cole slaw, roasted rosemary potaoes and a rich coconut cake for my cousin, her favorite way to celebrate her birthday. All washed down with a light, Sancerre-like sauvignon blanc - heaven on earth.
Now, at home, the weather is hot and sultry and for a friend who's coming for dinner I'm preparing a salade nicoise, crisp sourdough bread and, for dessert, grilled pound cake topped by a melange of berries with creme fraiche on the side. Simple and about all I can manage in this heat.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

informal dinner with friends

My best friend,Jean, came from New York to spend a long weekend with me, and we talked every waking hour, and cooked. I'd invited our dear friends Dick and Richard to dinner, and my daughter, Rachel.Jean broke off the ends of bunches of fat asparagus and peeled them, then shaved the raw stalks into ribbons, to be combined with a lemon vinaigrette and a generous showering of freshly grated parmesan. This was our first course,served on old green glass plates - the essence of spring. Next, barbecued chicken. Early in the day I'd rubbed the thighs with a spice mixture that included lemonade powder - no salt. It had a nice, flavorful kick to it. While I prepared the sauce, Jean boiled potatoes for a particularly good old-fashioned potato salad. We filled an antique pitcher with spring flowers from the garden - columbine, iris, babtisia, both yellow and blue, and little branches of pink azalea. Lots of white wine, laughs, and,for dessert, strawberry and rhubarb pie with streusel topping, Richard's favorite. A perfect evening.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

a weeknight dinner

A friend came for dinner last night and I had made a turkey meat loaf, moist and flavorful. To accompany it I boiled a yam just to the point of slight underdoneness. I cut it into large cubes, then sauteed it in olive oil, along with scallions, halved grape tomatoes, garlic and asparagus. When done, I showered fresh cilantro over all. Delicious.! I had some flatbread on hand, so I brushed both sides with olive oil and sprinkled the top with za'atar, then toasted it in a 375 oven until browned and crisp. This informal melange of textures and flavors came together happily.I'm looking forward to the leftovers.

Monday, April 19, 2010

family supper

My daughter, son-in-law and grandkids came for Sunday night supper after a long day at soccer games. I put out some red bean pate with crackers and in a few minutes we sat down to our informal dinner. Oven-fried chicken, my most often prepared rendition, which I'd come upon a few years ago while reading Amanda Hesser's delightful "Cooking For Mr. Latte." I brine the chicken for several hours (I used all thighs), then tossed it in flour to which I'd added a nice amount of lemon zest and some grated parmesan. Then into a hot pan with a bit of melted butter and baked till crispt. As accompaniments, roasted carrots and broccoli, the latter roasted with thin-sliced garlic and some red pepper flakes. Garlic bread, hot and crisp-crusted completed our dinner - except for dessert. Malted blondies, served warm, the chocolate bits within oozing slightly and on the side, a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Comfort food, with loving family.

Monday, April 12, 2010

weekend in nyc

I visited a good friend in the city and we had a marvelous dinner at an informal place in Brooklyn, "The Big Fork". The owner, his wife and friends had done all the refurbishing of the small space with it's brick wall, funkly lighting and tiled kitchen. The food was fresh, imaginative and oh, so delicious. And the wine list offered a well-chosen selection of wines by the glass - I chose a lovely gruner velt-liner. I shared the first course with my friend, grilled squid, sparklingly fresh. It was accompanied by a mound of quinoa and some grilled pineapple and the juxtaposition of flavors, textures and tastes was perfect. A perfectly prepared duck breast with a confit of fruits and served with a black rice cake was rich and succulent and the individual apple tart with a cakey crust was the ideal finish. Now i am intent on grilling squid on my soon-to-arrive, state of the art gas grill. As is typicl of NYC restaurants the bread was terrific and refills appeared without our asking.

Monday, March 29, 2010

sunday in the kitchen

What better for a cold and somewhat gloomy Sunday than The New York Times, a good workout, buckwheat pancakes and blueberries for breakfast and a few hours in the kitchen. Although I prefer fat asparagus to skinny, I'd come upon bunches of pencil-thin stalks for only a dollar a pound, so I bought four pounds with the idea of aspaaragus tarts, a touch of spring. I prepared a savory dough that included a generous pinch of baking powder, producing an easy to work with crust that was rich and tender. Next, I blanched the asparagus stalks after peeling them, shocked them in ice water, and after they were drained I wrapped them in a heavy terry towel to absorb any residual moisture. Then I cleaned and chopped some leeks and cooked them slowly in butter, along with chopped garlic. After pre-baking and cooling the tart crusts, in nine inch pans with removable bottoms, I mixed heavy cream, eggs, parmesan and seasonings. I layered the tarts with the asparagus and leeks, poured in the custard and baked them. I'd also made a half dozen individual tarts, one of which I enjoyed for dinner. Scrumptious. Oh, I forgot to mention that two or three minutes before removing the tarts from the oven, I cut up little pieces of camembert and sprinkled them atop, baking for just a couple of minutes till they became nice and gooey.
I had three glistening young eggplant in the fridge and decided to prepare an eggplangt parmesan, grilling half inch slices in a grill pan rather than frying them. I made a light and simple tomato sauce which I cooked for fifteen minutes, laid a bit of the sauce in a rectangular casserole, then a generous sprinkling of parmesan,followed by a layer of the vegetable. I repeated these layerings, and topped the final layer with a mix of bread crumbs and fresh oregano. I froze it immediately, to be baked and served midweek.

Friday, March 26, 2010

raiding the freezer

I had a nice-size roasting chicken in the freezer and decided to prepare it for dinner with a plan to use the leftovers in a flavorful, colorful pasta dish to serve four generously over the weekend. I laid some onions and carrots, chunked up, in the roasting pan, as a bed for the chicken. After seasoning the bird generously with salt, pepper and fresh lemon thyme from the pots on my windowsill, I put lemon halves and garlic and onion inside the cavity and poured some white wine around the chicken. I roasted it at 375 until almost done, when I upped the heat to 400, to produce a wonderfully crisp skin. A simple escarole salad, good bread and a glass of white wine - perfect. Tomorrow I'll prepare the farfalle with pieces of the chicken, cut up tomatoes, goat cheese and caramelized onions. With this, grilled asparagus.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

a birthday dinner

Last night we had a family celebration of my son-in-law's birthday. There were six of us and we started out with glasses of a lovely vouvray, accompanied by slices of an eggplant and tomato tart which I'd baked in a rectangular tart pan, and cut into squares. The vegetables rested on a custard rich with good cheese and highly seasoned,a piquant beginning to our dinner. Rather than starting out at table with a green salad, I shaved asparagus spears into a julinne and dressed them with a lemony vinagrette enriched wirh freshly grated gran padana.It was light and spring-like and very pretty on the plate. This was followed by our main course, roasted shrimp marinated in olive oil and melted butter with garlic, toasted and crushed fennel and coriander seeds, red pepper flakes and bay leaf. With this, risotto cakes enlivened by a sprinkling of diced sun-dried tomatoes, and sauteed snow peas. Plenty of sourdough bread to mop up the juices. And an excellent white burgundy courtesy of my wine-maven son. The birthday cake was a malted milk yellow cake with a rich chocolate frosting, topped, for fun, with malted milk balls. The cake had a particularly lovely crumb and the family was only too happy to take the reaminders home. A happy celebration.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

sunday night supp[er

A good friend requested a cooking lesson. She came over a couple of days earlier to choose a menu and make a shopping list. I proposed a chicken dish I'd not yet prepared but that sounded seductively flavorful. With that decided upon, we agreed on a mealange of rices and sauteed snow peas with slivered garlic as accompaniments, to be preceded by a refreshing salad of escarole, blood oranges and thinly sliced fennel. For dessert, a lovely lemon tart made with the zest and juice of meyer lemons, available locally for only a short time. I buy bags of them and freeze the juice.The tart has a press-in crust,delicious and simple. The chicken thighs were sauteed till brown,removed from the skillet to be put aside while onions were cooked until translucent. While saffron softened in hot water, marsala, fig agrodolce, cinnamon and coriander were added to the skillet. Then the saffron and additional water. The chicken was returned to the pot, which cooked, covered for about forty-five minutes. Meanwhile, we heated vodka to just below boiling and infused it with a tablespoon of lavender buds. Around twenty minutes before serving, we strained the vodka into the skillet and cooked it down a bit, burning off the alcohol. At serving time we poured a bit of honey over the chicken and plated it topped with crisp, roughly chopped roasted almonds. Heavenly!! Incredibly flavorful, almost mysterious and thoroughly delicious. We were joined at table by her partner who was gratifyingly enthusiastic and happy to take home leftovers.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

sensational scones

I am taking unseemly pride and great pleasure in the lemon scones that I prepared, the recipe coming from a terrific book called, appropriately, "Baked. Since I was getting ready to squeeze meyer lemons, I used their zest in the dough , adding an extra dimension of flavor - I adore these lemons. I handled the dough as little as possible, producing an almost delicate crumb. I'd probably describe these scones as elegant yet so flavorful. I devoured one just a few minutes out of the oven. They would be over the top spread with lemon curd!!!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

a quick and tasty supper

I didn't get around to preparing dinner until after seven last evening, so decided on something with simple prep that would make use of the nice piece of haddock I'd bought in the morning. An Italian fish soup was appealing, so I made a broth of white wine, saffron, tomatoes, orange peel, garlic and onions. I added the fish, which I'd cut into cubes, for the last five minutes and meanwhile grilled some baguetter slices, which I rubbed with a garlic clove, then put in the bottom of my soup plate. I ladled the soup atop the bread and sat down to a fragrant, delicious meal.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Just returned from a long weekend in New Orleans, where we ate-and ate-and----. It was my first visit to the city since Katrina, and evidence of the hurricane is very much present despite the rebuilding, but the esprit, the euphoria over the Saints' win, and the obsession with good food - all were alive and well. Our first dinner was at Herbsaint, and it was terrific. It appears that nobody in New Orleans practices restraint as far as butter,frying and any other health concerns, but what the heck, it was just three days. Dinner that night was a salad of wild greens with blue cheese and citrus. This was followed by pan-fried flounder on a bed of spinach, with roasted carrots and a satsuma glaze. Dessert was a warm caramelized banana tart. The concierge at the hotel was incredibly helpful and his suggestion for breakfast the next morning was a hole in the wall cafe serving southern food - so, grits, hot biscuits and eggs. For lunch, on Magazine street where we walked for what seemed like miles~ Joey-Ks, a neighborhood joint where the catfish poboys and home-made fried onion rings were fantastic - by this time restraint had flown out the window. Dinner that night was at Luke,one of chef John Besh's restaurants. I started with a salad of bibb lettuce with shaved,roasted beets and julienne of carrots tossed with a buttermilk dressing. Next, a sublimely fresh redfish, pan-fried and accompanied by haricots verts. Dessert was profiterroles with a deep, dark chocolate sauce. Our reliable concierge sent us the next morning to Stanley for a breakfast of french toast in a pool of cane syrup, topped with fried bananas. Mmmmm. Dinner Saturday night,the piece de resistance of the trip, was at Bayona, where the chef-ownder is Susan Spicer, a great chef and delightful person, who chatted with me at our table. Bayona is in a charming cottage with a courtyard for warmer weather. The service was outstanding, the wine list impressive and everyone in the restaurant seemed to be hugely enjoying themselves. I started with a salad that was savory beyohnd description - cold-smoked quail served warm on a bed of mesclun with bourbon-molasses dressing. I sucked those little bones dry! Next,pacific salmon on a bed of choucroute with a gewurtztraminer sauce, served with a puree of roasted squash, haricots verts and slices of crisp roasted potatoes. Dessert was tiny beignets on a pool of caramel with house-made vanilla bean ice cream. The meal, and the experience were perfection. Now, bread and water.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

hooray for love

I was always a sap for Valentines Day = I remember the bemused look on my husband's face the first time he returned home after a day at the hospital to be bombarded with balloons, heart-shaped doilies, gold foil cupids hanging from the dining room chandelier.Red and pink flowers on the table,balloons on the back of his chair. "My Funny Valentine" on the stereo. Over the years he came to expect this excess of sentimentality, and to look forward to a special meal. Duck, one of his favorite foods, was frequently featured. Duck with black cherry sauce, Duck with green peppercorns and kumquats, first eaten at the Stanford Court Hotel in San FRancisco, Duck with licorice and merlot sauce. As we did every night, we ate by candlelight, with music. Dessert had a heart in it somewhere. Coeur a la creme, the shimmery little hearts quivering on antique glass plates. Or heart-shaped linzer cookies. Dinner usually ended with a little dance in the living room. Happy Valentines Day.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

foods of my childhood

the snow that arrived late last evening brought back memories of snowstorms that occurred with reliable frequency in Chicago, where I grew up. And my thoughts turned, as they do so often, to food, specifically the foods of my growing-up years in the midwest. I suffered a serious illness in my childhood and my parents would stry anything to tempt my near-nonexistent appetite. After my father made his Saturdy rounds at the hospital, he would stop at the French Pastry Shop for their raspberry ice, which I adored. The color was gorgeous, the flavor voluptuous and slightly tart, and, always, it was accompanied by pretty little butter cookies lavished with powdered sugar. My mother was a gifted cook, and, long before eschewing red meat I was a dedicated carnivore, so her superb oxtails had a most appreciative audience. They were amazingly succulent and always served with potatoes and carrots. I adored sucking on the big bones. Tongue was a favorite of mine, and hers was superb. The next day was a treat, with tongue sandwiches on rye bread, with swiss cheese, lettuce and thousant island dressing. My siblings and I got to choose the kind of birthday cake we preferred. Early on I opted for yellow cake with white seven-minute frosting, atop of which sat little bunnies made out of marshmallows. Be still my heart. I graduated to yellow cake with caramel frosing, which I sneakily swirled my finger through - mother was not amused ! When my parents entertained, which they did frequently, mother often served shrimp on frilly picks, arranged on upside-down grapefruit halves, which we kids found wonderfully sophisticated. We'd sit on the stairs looking down on the adults eating shrrimp and hot cheeese and chutney canapes. We couldn't wait until the platters were picked up by the servers and returned to the kitchen, where we'd attack the leftovers. On Christmas, out family dinner was served in the early afternoon. Aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents, an enormous turkey with all the traditional side dishes. Mother baked cookies for weeks preceding the holiday, and big platters of lebkuchen, crescents, brownies and more would top off the meal. Then, around eight in the evening, father's colleagues and their wives showed up, champagne flowed, and big platters of cheeses, smoked turkey and more were put out, as well as caviar, smoked oysters and shrimp. One of the physicians was Armenian and always brought trays of baklava and other pastries - heavenly. We stayed up very late and sneaked champagne till we were caught. These are but a few of my early food memories.

dinner for friends

There were five of us for dinner last night. We had, with drinks before dinner, a country Greek eggplant salad that included fresh mint and oregano, roasted eggplant, onion , a touch of dry mustard and olive oil and red wine vinegar. We scooped it onto toasted pita chips topped, before baking, with zaatar. At the table, we started with a chopped curly endive salad and went on to a classic Greek dish of shrimp and tomatoes, fresh dill, onion and garlic and topped at the last minute with crumbled feta, then popped into the oven to let the cheese soften. With this, a terrific pilaf that included broken vermicelli, artichoke hearts and saffron, with arborio rice. This, along with lively conversation and a crisp and faintly floral white wine, made for a lovely evening, which we topped off with a bread pudding baked with a layer of bittersweet chocolate at the bottom. Before serving, I sprinkled sugar over the top and hit it with a blowtorch for a nice caramelization. We were happy - and full.

dinner for friends

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

birthday weekend

My family arrived from northern New York Friday evening - my oldest greandson and I share the same birthday, and this was his 21st - so, a celebration was in order. They didn't arrive until close to nine p.m., when I put a pot of water on to boil pasta,the sauce for which was ready except for a last minute addiition of sea scallops and a fistful of fresh, chopped mint. I had split a ciabatta in half lengthwise and spread it generously with softened, unsalted butter mixed with chopped, roasted garlic cloves and generous amount of chopped parsley.I baked this at 375 convection till it became bubbly and crisp on the edges, then sliced it. We started with a simple mesclun salad dressed with a terrific vinaigrette - mustard, honey, cider and sherry vinegars and evoo. I put in a tray of broccoli florets tossed with olive oil,crushed red pepper and sea salt along with the bread, and removed it from the oven when it was lightly caramelized. Dessert was a deep dish apple pie, served with the requisit vanilla ice cream. We ate, we talked, we laughed and we drank good wine. What fun!~The next night eleven of us went out for Chinese food and came home to the birthday cake. I'd seen a recipe for a hot chocolate layer cake with a wontonly rich frosting and a topping of home made marshmallows - my first. It was a mammoth success, well worth the considerable effort. Sunday morning I rose long before the rest of the family - I am definitely a morning person - and prepared a frittata - potato and eggs - put it in the oven where it puffed up beautifully and I topped it with a judicious sprinkling of cheese. I served it with thick slices of rosemary toast and offered Budapest coffee cake with the coffee. A wonderful weekend, filled with love and laughter.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

cooking lesson

I offered to give a friend a few cooking lessons so that she could master some techniques and feel more self-confident in the kitchen. For our first lesson, I chose a mediterranean chicken dish, sauteed thighs atop a melange of sauteed onion, garlic, lemon zest and seasonings, mixed with green olives and dried apricots,chicken stock and white wine, with a bit of cider vineage. This was then baked in its skillet. A perfect dish for a cold, wintry night. We prepared brown rice to be served with it, enabling me to demonstrate my way of cooking all rices, using a large amount of boiling water, as I would for pasta. This method ensures each grain emerging separate and fluffy. We also prepared tsatziki, to serve with toasted pita chips before dinner. I've found a brand of pita called Atis which lend themselves particularly well to making thin chips. I brush them with olive oil and zaatar before baking for just five or six minutes, and they stay crisp for several days in a tightly sealed baggie.We had a good time, the chicken was delicious and she took home dinner for that night.