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