Sunday, November 13, 2011

dinner for three

last night dear friends came for the evening. We started out with drinks,roasted chickpeas seasoned with cumin, tasty and healthy. Also a small selection of cheeses served with a date conserve. On to dinner - first, a salad of greens, barely warm cu bes of butternut squash, roasted with rosmary and olive oil, dried cranberries and tangerine sections, dressed simply with a tangerine juice, olive oil and rosemary dressing.A loaf of super-crusty Italian bread accompanied the meal. The salad was followed by a Greek shrimp dish,crumbled with feta cheese and topped at the last minute with a showering of fresh dill.Green beans accompanied the shrimp. My friend brought dessert, a beautifully presented chocolate mousse laced with coffee and topped, of course, with whipped cream. Lots of conversation and, while doing the dishes, a renewed awareness of the profound joys of friendship.

Friday, October 21, 2011


On an overcast, cool and windy night comfort food was required. I roasted a chicken on a bed of pineapple sage and lemon verbena leaves, surrounded it with black garlic with its wonderfully complex flavor, potatoes from my friend's garden, carrots, big shallots and turnips. I poured some white wine and chicken stock into the pan and roasted it till the skin was crisp, the flesh tender and the aromas wafted through the house. A simple green salad completed this utterly satisfying meal. And, a couple of nights ago I used up the last of my green figs. I toasted in a saute pan, in olive oil, some fresh bread crumbs and when they were browned and crisp I emptied them into a bowl and browned some pine nuts in the same pan, and they, too, went into the bowl. After adding more oil to the pan, I gently softened some chopped garlic, then added the quartered figs and cooked them on a low flame, turning them from time to time. Meanwhile I cooked some fettuccine, and when the pasta had finished cooking I drained it, saving some of the water to finish the dish. I strew some lemon zest and fresh rosemary over the figs, tossed them with the paste, added a bit of lemon juice, then topped the dish with the crumb-pine nut mix and a generous showering of parmesan. I ate this marvelous dish with enormous gusto and unseemly self-congratulations.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

figs and dates

A trip to the mideastern grocery to buy from the new crop of walnuts, and then I was unable to resist the bin of soft, plump fresh dates. So, today I made a date chutney, very lightly spiced with curry and red pepper, and cooked with tawny port and red wine vinegar,brown sugar and salt and peppe. Absolutely delicious, it'll be perfect on a cheese platter or served with roasted fowl. As will the fresh fig conserve I cooked up, with fresh thyme and orange zest. Tomorrow I'll use the remaining green mission figs in a fettucine dish enhanced with cream and freshly grated parmesan. I also harvested the remaining tarragon in my herb garden and made a tarragon pesto, wonderful on salmon and most any baked,roasted or broiled fish.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

bounty from a friends' garden

Gary, my food-obsessed friend and his wife, charlotte, dropped in with overflowing boxes of potatoes, tomatoes, baby leeks,corn and watermelon from their garden. As if that weren't enough Gary had been fishing in Florida,so that night I sauteed the freshest, most delicate mahi mahi I'd ever eaten.I prepared it simply, finishing it off with capers,white wine and, of course, butter. So good. The tomatoes made a lovely end-of -summer sauce and I have plans for a leek tart.Tonight my niece arrives from Texas, and we'll have chicken paprikash, buttered parsley and garlic egg noodles and broad beans cooked gently in tomatoes and onion. We'll begin the meal with a caesar salad - no dessert, we'll probably indulge in ice cream later in the evening.

Monday, September 5, 2011

chipotle chili

In the mood for a bowl of chili,I decided on one of my favorites, chili with chipotle and chocolate. I coated a saute pan lightly with vegetable oil and over medium-high heat sauteed diced onion, sweet red pepper, garlic and ground turkey until the turkey was browned and the vegetable tender. I added brown sugar,chile powder,cocoa,ground cumin,salt and pepper,diced tomatoes with their juices, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce low salt chicken broth. I simmered this till it thickened slightly then added some good unsweetened chocolate,stirring it to melt the chocolate. I enjoyed this hugely over rice and topped with sour cream. If only I'd had some cornbread!!

dishes for the freezer

humid,rainy weather with no possibility of working in the garden - a perfect opportunity to spend some time in the kitchen. Every year during peach season I make a favorite; curried chicken with peaches. I browned chicken pieces in a combination of vegetable oil and unsalted butter. When the chicken was crisp on the outside I removed the pieces and cooked till soft and tender thinly sliced onion and garlic,then added curry powder,cinnamon, ginger and flour. I cooked this briefly, then added chicken stock and brought it to the boil.stirring constantly. When it thickened I added salt and mango chutney. I returned the chicken to the pan, covered the pan and simmered for forty minutes. When done I added a bit of lemon juice and some thick slices of marvelously juicy and flavorful white peaches. When cooled I divided it into containers for the freezer to be served to friends a couple of weeks from now. I'll accompany the dish with white rice, chutney, cucumber raita and green beans with shallots. A gewurtztraniner or dry riesling will be perfect.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Monsoon Dinner

Last night, dining alone, I regaled myself with a surprising little salad - manageable chunks of a lare green tomato, two plump and succulent calimyrna figs, also chunked, a showering of the tiny leaves of piccolo mundo basil ,salt and pepper, some lovely meyer lemon olive oil and a bit of balsamic. Wow - gorgeous to look upon, refreshing and delicious, just the thing on a night of pounding rain and unrelenting wind.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

a late-summer dinner

Dinner for five last evening.We started with drinks on the deck and a lazy susan serving up a selection of cheeses and clusters of red grapes. After an hour of easy conversation we proceeded to the dining room, where, on antique green glass plates perched piedmontese peppers - red pepper halves stuffed with coarsely chopped tomatoes, fresh from the garden. I added minced anchovies, baby basil leaves, paper thin slices of garlic and a generous grind of black pepper. A drizzle of olive oil and into the oven for a half hour. I then added some roasted red onion slices, a few black olives and a bit of a basil and olive oil emulsion. Beautiful to behold, and delicious. This was followed by tuscan chicken, the butterflied birds having marinated overnight in a heady mix of lemon zest, rosemary.garlic and olive oil. My daughter the grillmeister did a perfect job, and I served the succulent chicken with a creamy corn pudding and fat asparagus spears topped with nothing by gray salt. Dessert was a white peach tart, the peaches glistening and slightly caramelized with their brushing of home-made peach preserves.

Monday, July 25, 2011

sixteenth birthday dinner

Last night was a celebration of my grandaughter's sixteenth birthday and it was all about comfort food. With drinks, we had guacamole with some particularly good, low-salt taco chips I picked up at Zabar's in NYC. I laid out dinner on the counter - macaroni and cheese topped with fresh,toasted bread crumbs mixed with parsley; oven-fried chicken that had been lightly coated with lemon zest enhanced flour; a pan of heavenly carribean influenced corn bread and a green bean salad - the beans cooked to a crispness then combined with sauteed garlic and shallots, rosemary, some sliced perfectly ripe peaches and lime juice - I'd harvested the beans just hours before and they were so good. Dessert was an ultra rich chocolate cake, filled with a sheet of baked meringue topped with a mix of peanut butter, chopped peanuts, and, of all things, rice crispies. The cake layers were frosted with a chocolate ganache - not for the calorie counter, but this was a night for indulgence.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

casual dinner with friends

The evening was cooling off a bit, so we had drinks on the deck, accompanied by a white bean, lemon and rosemary spread served with paper thin toasted pitas. Dinner in the kitchen, enabling us to look out at the garden. We started with a platter of mixed yellow and red tomatoes interspersed with sliced melon, strewed with dwarf basil and tiny signet marigolds and drizzled with a lovely olive oil. On to the main course, scallops cooked with garlic, parsley and lemon juice - this was mixed with spaghetti not quite fully drained, drizzled with olive oil, and topped with toasted bread crumbs - it was devoured - delicious. Dessert - ah, dessert. A french tarte de granmere, an almond flour crust filled witht he most luxurious cherry preserves I could find, enhanced with a bit of lemon juice, topped with big pastry stars, and painted with an egg wash. I could barely restrain myself from cutting a slice. There were moans of pleasure - and guess what I had for breakfast the next morning. A truly extraordinary tarte.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

dinner last night

Late in the hot afternoon I calmed myself shelling the last peas from the garden.For supper I cooked them briefly and put them aside. I'd previously harvested and precooked little turnips from the garden. I sauteed these little jewels in butter and when they'd caramelized I added the peas, a good pinch of sugar to further caramelize the turnips and some marjoram. These were my accompaniment to a slice of turkey meatloaf. A small salad completed the meal. I was tempted by the luscious lemon ice cream I'd made earlier in the day but decided to defer that pleasure. I'd indulged in vegetable gluttony and enjoyed every bite.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

a quick and simple supper

After a long and somewhat tiring day, very hot and humid, I wanted a simple supper, quick to prepare. I heated an already baked curried zucchini tart,the thin layer of custard strewn lightly with currants whose sweetines offset some of the heat of the curry. With this a salad of greens gathered an hour earlier to which I added sliced baby beets - infanticide in the vegetable patch is a habit - and I dressed the mix with an herbaceous, lemony vinaigrette. Simple, quick and eminently satisfying.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

hot night-cool dinner

Sunday night I cooked for friends. With drinks we had kale chips, crisp chips of fresh kale, roasted in the oven after being sprinkled with olive oil, gray salt and pepper. They were addictive and disappeared in record time. We followed this with a room temp orzo salad - the pasta mixed with chopped spring onions, lots of bronze fennel, feta cheese and roasted shrimp, tossed with a lemony vinaigrette. With this, batons of grilled zucchini topped with basil pesto. Oh, I forgot- we began at table with a cold soup, puree of scallions,spring onions and leeks and potatoes, blended when cooled with Greek no-fat yogurt. Dessert was strawberry shortcake, the biscuits split and lightly buttered. All perfect for a summer night, and enlivened by lively conversation and a chilled Viognier.

Monday, April 25, 2011

April dinner with friends

Though spring has made only tentative appearances, hope springs eternal, so I set the table with yellow and leafy green linens, palest mint-colored candles and a fat bunch of daffodils and narcissi from the garden. There were five of us, the conversation was easy and provocative and the wine flowed. With drinks before dinner I served little tartines of soft goat cheese spread on sliced, thin ciabatta, topped with thin slices of strawberries which I then drizzled with balsamic syrup. A turn of the pepper grinder, a shard of basil leaf and voila. Pretty to look at and delicious. At the table, a salad of boston lettuce, belgian endive and baby artichoke slices with a meyer lemon vinaigrette. The main course was chicken roasted on a bed of sliced onion, new potatoes, garlic and carrots,and a cup of armagnac. After the vegetables were lightly softened in olive oil, I added the chicken and brandy - then the enameled steel casserole went into a 400 oven to roast until beautifully bronzed. The aroma when the lid was lifted - sublime. Dessert was a martini glass layered with sliced peaches which had marinated in fresh tarragon and gran marnier and whisked mascarpone lightened with whipped cream and just a bit of sugar. I topped each serving with crushed amaretti cookies and sliced roasted almonds. Good friends, good food - it doesn't get much better than this.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

lunch with a friend

A good friend was coming to lunch and,for the first time in a long while the sun was shining, so I cut some daffodils, set the table with sunny yellow linens and made lunch. First, the simplest of soups, a mix of cubed fennel and zucchini, fennel seeds and chicken broth, quick to put together and delicious. I topped each serving with fennel fronds and next was a salad - crab louie. I lined a platter with baby romaine leaves, red and greed, then mounds of artichoke heart, grape tomatoes, poached asparagus, radishes and green beans. In the center, luscious lump crab with the sauce Louie on the side. With the salad, toasted wheat, raisin and walnut bread that I'd brushed with olive oil before grilling. A most satisfying lunch, not least for the conversation and laughs.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Winter's Tale

Yesterday was cold and windy, so what better for lunch than a bowl of hot, nourishing soup. I had a rich, slightly lemony chicken stock on hand, so after heating it I added sliced scallions, tiny, mushroom-stuffed tortellini, shredded swiss chard and a few shredded carrots. Simple, heart-warming and much enjoyed.
Tonigh, good friends for dinner. We'll start out with wine and gruyere wafers, then, at table a salad of escarole and roasted walnuts. Our main course will be duck stuffed with a combination of sauteed apples, prunes and onion seasoned judiciously with sage and mixed with cubes of seven-grain bread. A squeeze of lemon and some heavy cream to complete it. With the duck I'll serve thin-sliced turnips cooked slowly in olive oil till they're caramelized, then strewn with a bit of parsley. For dessert, individual chocolate tarts topped with a dollop of whipped cream. A fruity red wine with the duck, some good conversation - a perfect Sunday evening.