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Monday, March 29, 2010

A Momento and a Meal

Continuing my discoveries among the pages of my Silver Palate cookbooks article from the New York Times Magazine November 4, 2001, "The Meal Must Go On...." by William Norwich. I do not do it justice by paraphrasing it...but it spoke of how the world changed a few weeks earlier and that friends with kitchens took in friends without kitchens and food... and eventually they went out again to restaurants to laugh and be "grateful, optimistic and reaffirming."

2001 was a year of losses and I kept that article pasted to my refrigerator for several months and read its ending message over and over..."happily or defiantly the meal must go on, now and for the duration." And life would be "delicious" again.

I will fold the article back up and put it in the brand new hardcover New Basics Silver Palate that arrived late last week ( a gift from my husband). It certainly looks better than the three ring binder!

And in celebration of life, family and friends here is the menu from last year's Easter dinner:

Beginnings: Tomato and fresh mozzarella. Strawberry tomatoes were cut in half and topped with small slices of the cheese, a small leaf of fresh basil and a splash of olive oil.

Entrees: A honey spiral baked ham (from Honey Ham).

Stuffed Boneless Leg of Lamb. This was adapted from two different recipes - "Stuffed Leg of Lamb" from the West Point Market Cookbook and "Roasted Garlic-Stuffed Leg of Lamb with Kalamata Olive Sauce" from the Bistro-Style Cuisine. I stuffed the Lamb with sundried tomatoes, shallots, garlic, feta and fresh herbs following the WPM recipe and served it with the Kalamata Olive Sauce following the BSC recipe.

Sides: Scalloped Potatoes with Cheese.

Mashed Yams

Roasted Asparagus

Wine: Sonoma Cutrer and Wild Horse Pinot Noir

I hope this Easter finds you with family and or friends.



Saturday, March 27, 2010

Zucchini Strips and Pasta with Veggies

favorite kitchen toys for this dish

Having the right kitchen tools/gadgets can help make preparing and cooking fun. The handheld mandolin on the far right has three different inserts for cutting/slicing. For this dish I used the medium blades to size the zucchini strips similar to the linguine.

The cheese grater is great for shredding cheese while cooking and to use on the table for the freshest of cheese.

The knife was a recent gift is a pleasure to have a very sharp knife, and yes I have cut myself with it a couple of times. Nothing as serious as I did with my favorite serrated blade knife, twice. Years ago (or was that just yesterday!) my daughters high school boyfriend was selling Cutco to make some summer money and he asked if he could practice on us. We ended up buying the knife at a price that rivaled what I would have paid for a set of golf clubs! But as I have mentioned, I was not the primary cook in those days nor a good golfer. So I have thought of this "nice young man" with a very Irish name on occasion. I understand he is now a lawyer so it seems his persuasive powers paid off.

Entree: Zucchini Strips and Pasta with Veggies. To cut down on the amount of pasta for a meal I will often add sautéed zucchini strips. While the pasta is boiling the zucchini strips, sliced shallot and carrots are sauteed with olive oil and a healthy amount of garlic. When the pasta is drained it is mixed with the zucchini mixture and seasoned with fresh ground black pepper. The sundried tomatoes, roasted pine nuts and fresh basil are stirred in and topped with grated Parmesan Cheese.

Wine: Primus Chilean blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and carmenère.



Friday, March 26, 2010

Sea Bass

I have been consulting my "reference cookbooks" more and more when I am cooking seafood. The correct temperature and time can make the difference between delicious or disaster. This time I did not overcook the sea bass and it was as good as I have had it in restaurants.
Entree: Sea Bass in Broth
In a sauce pan I sauteed shallots and garlic, added glace de fruits de mer gold, fish stock, chicken broth, fresh ground black pepper, and sherry, then reduced. The sea bass was seared for about 3 minutes on one side and 50 seconds on the other and then placed in the oven for about 12 minutes.

The broth was ladled into the serving bowl and the sea bass was added. It was topped with asparagus spears.

Side: Asparagus. The asparagus was cooked in chicken broth.
Wine: Jadot Pouilly Fusee

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Weeknight Soup

There are more "Silver Palate" tales to tell but I wanted to share a delightful soup that I prepared last night. I even surprised myself because typically I make soup as a last resort...tossing in whatever I have in the frig or cupboard that looks like it does not have much life left, and that is usually how it tastes! But last night's was much different.

Yesterday a chill returned to the air, and we needed something light and quick. I did turn to the pantry but attended the soup this time instead of leaving it on its own.

Entree: Weekday Soup. I sauteed onion and garlic, added chicken broth, a tad of poultry demi-glace, and sherry, and let that reduce and then simmer for about 30 minutes. I then added maybe a 1/3 cup of water and boiled/simmered the cheese tortellini (more torts!!)

I sauteed asparagus pieces,zucchini pieces, more onion, broccoli pieces and carrots, just until tender. This was seasoned with dried oregano, thyme, sage, and fresh ground pepper. The veggies were added to the broth, and heated together just long enough to retrieve the bowls from the oven warmer.

Side: Cheese Bread. Topped crusty bread with grated cheese and tomatoes and broiled.

Tasty! Not overcooking the broth and adding the just tender veggies at the end made the real difference for a fresh tasting soup.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Trip and more Torts

The story continues...but as always there is a dinner idea...

As I continued to explore my notes among the pages of the Silver Palate books, I began to see this young wife/mother trying to impress with her cooking skills. At some point it seems she gave up on intimate elaborate/noveau cuisine dinners and moved toward appetizers. Not sure if she found them easier to cook, easier to entertain with, or just easier to avoid the disapproval from the primary cook. But she persevered, bought the second Silver Palate, “Good Times,” and a few years later her daughter bought her the “New Basics” as a birthday present. She was touched because the daughter had been with her when she purchased the first "Silver Palate",and had been part of good meals and bad meals, welcomed meals and scorned meals, and was apparently still trying to encourage her mother's cooking!! However the daughter today would totally dismiss the mother's attachment to the tattered “Basics…” roll her eyes and say…“just get a new one!!”

One my discoveries among the loose note pages was a three page party plan. It listed appetizers and time line for the first cocktail/appetizer party for friends and colleagues, which I planned and executed solo. The occasion was actually a surprise party for the “primary cook” who was defending his dissertation at a University eight hours away and then driving home. The party was on Friday, and the timeline started on Monday with general notes of cleaning, Tuesday grocery shopping, Wednesday get beer and wine…etc. By Friday it was hour by hour…leave office 11:15, Mac machine – 11:30am, Gourmet Shop 11:35, French Connection 11:45, Quaker Bakers noon and Florist 12:15, home to prepare food and arrange table. Be ready by 5:30pm, serve “pockets hot” at 6pm, 7pm and 8 pm.

With prepared purchases and my own cooking, the menu included more than 16 different offerings as well as two cases of beer, a case of red and white wine, soda and three bottles of champagne. And a note to call for pizza if we ran out of food!

What amused me as I read all of this, was there was no indication that I had a back up plan for the food and 25-30 guests if the defense was unsuccessful or if turnpike traffic was backed-up. Today I would never think of being so risky…. on second thought... make up a story and enjoy the food, wine and friends. Plus the "primary cook" is no longer in MY kitchen!

And now for a dinner idea…from my notations about a tortellini salad prepared years ago, I offer this updated version. I know tortellini was in my last blog, but today's idea is my own creation. I have served this dish as a main offering when having an informal gathering, and as meal on a summer evening.

Entree: Torts Antipasto: I particularly like Barilla’s bagged three cheese torts for this dish. The cooked (cooled) torts are arranged in the center of a large platter, surrounded by roasted red peppers, aged provolone, slivers of Parmesan, black and green olives, cherry tomatoes and prosciutto. Olive oil,garlic, fresh oregano and fresh basil are mixed and then poured over the top.

Wine: I have served both red and white wine with this pasta dish.

To be continued...


Monday, March 22, 2010

"Basics.." and Firsts

I mentioned in one of my first blogs that a favorite cookbook, "The New Basics," one of the Silver Palate books was falling apart, but that I hated to replace it because I had many notations on the pages...Last week more of the often used pages came loose so I set out to transfer the entire book to a three ring binder. I figured the 800 page book would take me an hour, maybe two to punch and file. It took me at least six, and led to much more...

I found myself reading all of the notations, the interesting side bars by the authors and the sections which included pristine pages, obviously never consulted. I also read the endless hand written planning notes and menus that I had made on note paper and tucked in the pages. I couldn't help but wonder "why did I keep these.." Certainly I did not think that someday I would write a blog. Maybe I figured if I ever became famous someone would include them in my biography!! Right! But I had to admit that these particular hand written lists were not the only ones I had. Others were in other books and journals.

I reached for the first "Silver Palate" cookbook and remembered why I came to embrace these particular cookbooks. I was not the primary cook in my family of three and the purchase of this first book was made during a rather painful period. The mere thought of me purchasing a cookbook was a significant event and it became symbolic of becoming confident and independent not only in the kitchen but in life.

But this blog "promised daily dinner ideas," so I will pause "my story" and offer today my first two attempts at being a "cook."

Entree: Tortellini with Gorgonzola Sauce. As a novice and out to impress I probably did follow the recipe. My accompanying notes claim that it was "Superb." I also noted that we enjoyed Pinot Noir. I was surprised to know that I even knew about Pinot Noir in the early 80s.

Entree: Glazed Blueberry Chicken with blueberry chutney (that was a new word to me). My notes indicate that this second attempt was for my daughter's birthday dinner. My notation states "different, delightful."

It was not long after these two meals my life began to return to normal. Could it have been the food? We just will never know!

To be continued
... and I hope you try the Tortellini or the Chicken...after all these years I think I will attempt them again and this time with one of my favorite Pinot Noirs.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Salmon, spinach and salsa

Yes salmon again...we like it and it is healthy. This time however I was looking for something that would go with a spoon of fresh vegetable/fruit salsa in new little ceramic spoons.

Entree: Salmon on a Bed of Sauteed Spinach The spianch and garlic are sauteed in a little olive oil. The skinless salmon is cooked using the one side method.

Side: Spoons of Fresh Salsa. Red bell peppers, cucumbers and canteloupe and mixed with a dash of olive oil and vinegar.

Wine: HK Pinot Noir. This is one of our favorites from a Sonoma winery Hop Kiln.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Chicken With Wild Rice

This meal was adapted from the recipe Wild Rice and Chicken Salad in The Sonoma Diet. It was a cold dish with a vinaigrette dressing. I made mine into a warm dish w/o the oil and vinegar.

Entree: Chicken with Wild Rice. Onions and garlic were sauteed. I then added chicken broth and apple juice. The wild rice cooked in this mixture. I roasted the chicken breasts in a little olive oil. When the rice was finished I then tossed in the cubed apple, sage, and pecans.

Side: Broccoli with Roasted Red Peppers

Wine: Dom. du Pegau 2006 Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Reservee. SUPERB


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tapenade and Tuna Wrap

Last week for an appetizer I made a green olive tapenade. I have always made a black olive tapenade but I was out of fresh black olives and had a jar of green olives from a great deli in Philadelphia Pa. One of my favorite cookbook's "Caprial's Bistro-Style Cuisine" has a trio of tapenades - the two olives and a wonderful sun dried tomato tapendade. I served the green olive tapenade with crostini crackers. We enjoyed a Sancere with this appetizer.

Now to today's dinner. I mixed the left over green olive tapenade in tuna fish for Tuna Wraps. My usual tuna wraps use tuna from a pouch blended with onion, mayo with olive oil, diced cucumber, chopped roasted red pepper, and capers. Add thinly sliced tomato, lettuce and then wrap.

Side: Steamed green beans and sweet potato fries (roasted not fried)

No wine with the wraps.

Just in case you "can't wait" for the next entry - it will be on Thursday, because tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day and I always find a place that I can enjoy a Guinness in memory of my gram and my dad.

So to keep you interested for the next will be Chicken with wild rice, pecans and apples.

Till then, enjoy

Monday, March 15, 2010

Fish with Artichokes

I adapted this meal from a recipe in the Flat Belly Diet. According to the book, the fish and sweet potato are just about 400 calories per serving.

Roasted Fish with Artichokes: Using flounder I roasted the onions first and then added the fish and topped it with the onions, cherry tomatoes and artichokes. This was then sprinkled with a mix of parsley, lemon zest and garlic and roasted until done.

Side: Baked sweet potato

Wine: Jordan Chardonnay. Of course the wine adds calories but wine is always worth the few extra calories...remember it is about dining not just eating!


Thursday, March 4, 2010

A garlic dish

If I could write an ode for my little garlic dish I would. It provides a convenient method for creating the freshest dipping oil for good crusty bread.

We found this little garlic dish during a visit to California wine country. We were in a little store in Healdsburg and the potter was there with her display. We should have shipped several home to give as gifts but we thought surely we would be able to find similar "back home."...not.

Garlic Dipping Oil: I start with a whole garlic clove and rub about half of it over the ridges of the bowl. Half of a clove is enough to create a strong garlic taste. Add extra virgin olive oil. The result is a very fresh tasting dip for good crusty bread. I also add various herbs - dried oregano or fresh basil and at time a touch of balsamic vinegar.

Before I had this little dish, I made my dipping oil by crushing the garlic in a press and then adding to the bowl of oil. But this little garlic dish does it better and it has an honored place on the shelves of my pottery collection.

So if you are ever in Healdsburg look for it!


Monday, March 1, 2010

Lemon Chicken with Olives and Roasted Peppers

If you are a follower of this blog it has become evident that I like olives, lemon, garlic and roasted red peppers, and use them often. They can add color and flavor to pale looking/tasting food. I also believe in the health benefits of broccoli, so it is included in many meals.

Today's offering is a dish adapted from a Lemon Chicken recipe in the Flat Belly Diet but I did skip the potatoes.

Entree: Lemon Chicken with Olives and Roasted Red Peppers. Roast the chicken and a bed of onions. Drizzle with a mixture of olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, oregano, minced garlic and black pepper. Most recipes call for salt, but I rarely add or use salt.
When the chicken and onions are done I toss in the olives and roasted peppers just to heat them and mix with the herbed drizzle.

Side: Broccoli. The broccoli is cooked with a few tablespoons of chicken broth and put in the microwave for 2 to 2.30 minutes.

Definitive Pinot Noir. This was recommended by a local grocer.