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Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Delicious Year. Indeed!

Holiday Brunch and Dinner

Holiday traditions need to be creative and flexible when “combined families” are involved. For the past few years a brunch on Thanksgiving and one at Christmas includes all the daughters that are “home,” and now husbands and children. The dinner later in the evening becomes more intimate and formal for a smaller number.

This year we were blessed that all three daughters, husbands and four grandchildren were present for brunch. And an extra bonus was my mother was here. She usually travels with a sister to the sunny south for the holiday so this was the first year in several that she shared our table. My husband’s mother was to attend but unfortunately was hospitalized for a few days (glad to report, she is home and doing fine!) For dinner it was five adults and two toddlers. Even when it is only family I continue to write up a menu card and keep them. It is fun to look at what was served from year to year and who was present.

Even though the card highlighted a festive turkey - there was none at our table. Turkey is not a favorite of mine nor my husband’s and because a tenderloin roast has been a Christmas tradition for me and my daughter for many years (and I only cook and eat beef once a year) my spouse suggested a few years ago that when we host Thanksgiving dinner we should do the beef . But, we always include mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie.

Preparation for the day’s menu begins several days ahead. Shopping, timetables, and making what I can ahead allows time for creating the set up and presentation which I enjoy as much as the cooking.

This year’s menu included many of my standard favorites but also some new ones.

- Miniature Bloody Mary’s. I used Zing Zang mix and Absolute Vodka. Celery sticks and lime slices were added. The tulip mini glasses were a hit!
- Vevue Cliquot Champagne. My favorite and one must please the cook!
- Baked Brie with Raspberry Pepper Preserves and Peach Pepper Preserves from Robert Rothschild Farm (
- Wild Mushroom Soup*
- Smoked Salmon Toasts*. These were adapted from a recipe in the November issue of F&W
- Onion Soufflé* – Another dish adapted from a recipe in the November issue of F&W
- A variety of cheeses, crackers and bread
- Olives, Grapes, Beer, Apple Juice
Wine: HK Generations Pinot Noir, Sonoma Cutrer
- and of course chicken nuggets and pizza bagel bites for the toddlers

*Wild Mushroom Soup. I originally made this using a recipe in the Silver Palette Cookbook but over the years have made it my own by adding various kinds of fresh and dried mushrooms, and wines. This year I sautéed leeks, shallots and garlic in evoo and set aside. The dried mushrooms included morels, porcini, shitake and chantrelles. The fresh mushrooms were crimini, button and shitake. These are sautéed in batches in butter and evoo. As they softened I added Madeira, beef demi glace and a small amount of chicken broth and beef broth and let each batch reduce. I season with fresh ground pepper, fresh thyme and sage. I then put all in the food processor. I make this one or two days ahead of when it is to be served. On the morning of the brunch I add chicken broth, beef broth and more Madeira and cook on low for at least two hours. The consistency of the soup is creamy, but with no cream. It has been a favorite of family members, (old and new) for several years.

*Smoked Salmon Toasts. The F&W recipe used butter, but I chose to stick to cream cheese. I mixed the cc with honey Dijon and grainy Dijon. The small pumpernickel bread slices were browned under the broiler. When cooled each slice was spread with the cc/mustard mixture, topped with smoked salmon and a couple of capers.

*Onion Soufflé. The author of this recipe described it as a fixture at Thanksgiving and Christmas meals when she was growing up in the south. I can say without a doubt that it will become a fixture on my table at holiday time. It was a enjoyed at brunch and was also served at dinner (and again the next day).

You can find the recipe in the November issue or at FOODANDWINE.COM, but it includes sweet onions – I sautéed 2 ½ ponds in butter. In another bowl I mixed flour and baking powder, 4 eggs beaten with heavy cream and ½ to ¾ cup of grated parmesan cheese and then folded in the onions. I baked it in a casserole dish. F&W also suggested small gratin dishes. The casserole baked for about 45 minutes in a 350 oven. SUPERB!

And now for Dinner
Although I have no photos of the dinner, I assure you that unlike the "Meat Miracle on 2nd St", posted in December 2011, I did remember to pick up the meat and prepare the following in a timely manner for an early evening dinner.

Mushroom Soup - The "crowd" begged for more.
Roast Tenderloin Roast with Shallot Port Sauce
Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes, Green Beans with Almonds
Yorkshire Pudding and the Onion Soufflé
Wine: Silver Oak Cabernet and Clos Pegase Cabernet
Pumpkin Pie (just in case you thought I had a “baking moment”… was made by my mom)

Tenderloin Roast. Each time I make this I insert slivers of garlic in the meat and then pat it with ground black pepper and ground thyme. I follow cooking instructions for rare to medium rare.

Shallot Port Sauce. Adapting a recipe I found on the internet, I sautéed shallots, fresh rosemary and thyme in butter and added cognac, port and beef broth.

A wonderful and blessed day. Hopefully these items give you ideas for your upcoming Holiday entertaining or Thanksgiving 2013.

Second Day idea – Having enough tenderloin left over for the meat lovers I served it as part of the meal the following evening. Not wanting to recook the tenderloin, I set it out to take the chill off. I reduced the mushroom soup to a sauce like consistency. The very hot mushroom sauce was poured over the sliced tenderloin. All report that it was very good.

Happy Holidays and may 2013 be a great year!


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Roasted Red Pepper Soup/Asparagus and Carrot Medley

Roasted red bell peppers are one of my favorites – in sandwiches, appetizers, in salad, pasta, on a antipasti platter etal. And knowing that it is one of the healthiest foods available makes it even more attractive.

This was a soup that I first made in another life time, but was reminded how much I like it when the NYT Sunday Magazine ran an article on red bell peppers a few months ago. I reference this magazine a lot – many times it provides a variety of ways to prepare or use a certain item - tomatoes, red peppers, bacon, pears to name a few recent examples; or at other times various salads, desserts, or soups. It is a great source of inspiration and ideas.

This particular RRPSoup is a combination of my memory, the NYT article and what I had on hand.

Entrée: Roasted Red Pepper Soup. The RRP was sautéed with onion and garlic and pureed in the food blender. The amount of RRP was equivalent to 2 whole bell peppers. Fresh herbs, thyme, oregano, sage and basil were added along with beef and chicken broth, a small squirt of tomato paste and fresh ground black pepper and a tiny amount of sea salt. I like this soup somewhat creamy but without adding cream so the amount of broth I use keeps the thickness rather than diluting it. I topped the bowls with parmesan wafers (noted in previous entry).

Side: Balsamic Asparagus and Carrot Medley. The asparagus was steamed and the carrots were finely shredded. The balsamic vinegar was reduced over a medium heat until thick. The vegetables were plated and drizzled with the balsamic vinegar.

A store purchased flatbread was drizzled with evoo, garlic and shopped basil and heated per package directions.

The photo above of the RRP soup is not indicative of the quality – it was very very good and one that I will make again soon. I just chose to highlight the side dish because it was a colorful addition!


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Chicken Salad on Zucchini Bread

Several years ago a photo of zucchini bread in the New York Times Sunday Magazine inspired me to make a loaf. The following day I was preparing chicken salad and thought that it would make a nice combo for mini sandwiches. It was a surprise to those I served but all agreed the sandwiches were very tasty. Over the years I have seen various recipes for zucchini bread and accompaniments - so I am not sure why it took me so long to try to duplicate the dish. Unless it was my “fear of baking!”

While making chicken salad from a store prepared chicken, I recalled the zucchini bread and had a green and yellow zucchini in the frig. Using several cookbooks as references and an internet recipe (one cannot be too cautious when baking – or should I say, I need to reassure myself about attempting to bake) I prepared the bread.

Chicken Salad: This was a very simple salad which included chopped chicken, onion, celery, a teaspoon of sweet relish and a mixture of mayonnaise and Miracle Whip. The bread was cut in squares and served with the salad on top. Lettuce, cherry tomatoes and a small wedge of blue cheese were served on the side. Like red sauce, if blue cheese is served with something, my spouse will eat it.

This was certainly not an elaborate dinner or even one to linger over with a good bottle of wine, and may even make a better luncheon dish, but we both had seconds.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Vegetable Lasagna

Happy post thanksgiving! It was a great time. Three generations sharing our home which does not happen often because of distance. The joy of toddler laughter is still echoing off the walls. We did not have the traditional turkey day dinner, but I will post the menu items later this week. I thought this entry might be just right after four days of left overs!

Entrée: Vegetable Lasagna: The vegetables, green beans, zucchini, red peppers, onions, and mushrooms were tossed with evoo, and a mix of fresh herbs - thyme, sage, rosemary, basil, chives, oregano and grilled.

The ricotta cheese was mixed with softened garlic and fresh rosemary and thyme.

I only used two layers of pasta noodles (no pre-cook Barilla, one on the bottom and one on the top. A few spoonfuls of jarred sauce was placed in the casserole and then layered as follows: zucchini, red peppers, green beans; ricotta, shredded mozzarella; arugula, mushrooms and onions; repeated the cheese, then another layer of first three vegetables, some sauce, then cheese, then second set of vegetables. Topped this with pasta noodles and covered with more sauce and grated parmesan, romano and fresh basil. The Lasagna was covered in sauce, keeping some to use at the table if more sauce was desired.

I covered the casserole in aluminum foil and baked at 350 for 30 minutes and then removed the foil and baked another 20 minutes.

It was utterly delicious!

Wine: Barbera d' Alba. Nice.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Simple Soy Salmon and Wrapped Asparagus

And then there are the days the preference is to keep it simple.

I do try to keep frozen salmon filets in the freezer for just such occasions – no time to be creative or plan. Truth be known, I had ate a late lunch out and was not hungry myself so this dinner was prepared for one - #1 fan of my cooking!

The entrée: Salmon in Soy and Brown Sugar. This is a very simple and easy marinade. Soy sauce and brown sugar are combined and brushed on the salmon. A small amount is set aside to drizzle on the finished salmon before serving. The samlmon was cooked on a grill pan on the stove top.

Side: Steamed Asparagus wrapped in Roasted Red Pepper. I typically roast red peppers weekly so that they are available for a lunch time wrap or to “adorn” other vegetables.The asparagus was steamed and then wrapped with a slice of red bell pepper.

Crusty bread was served with an evoo, basil and garlic dip. I continue to use and recommend Lucini Premium Select Extra Virgin Olive Oil ( for all dressings and dips.

The combination of colors on the dark plate made an otherwise simple dish attractive, and “tasty,” according to the grateful diner.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Vegetable Minestrone

This entree soup was inspried by a recipe in the November Food & Wine .

The vegetables in the F&W recipe are onion, carrots, parsnips, broccoli stems (or kohlrabi) butternut squash and lima beans. Seasonings include garlic, rosemary, and black pepper. One-inch pieces of angel hair pasta are added and it is topped with fresh pecorino cheese. You can check out the exact recipe at FOODANDWINE.COM if you do not have the issue.

My version of Vegetable Minestrone. The onion, garlic and rosemary were cooked in olive oil until soft. I sliced or diced carrots, broccoli stems, zucchini, yellow squash and a small yam and cooked for about 2 minutes and then added chicken broth and sherry and seasoned with fresh ground back pepper. This mixture simmered for about 15 minutes. In the meantime I browned small pieces of whole wheat angel hair pasta. The pasta and lima beans were added to the soup to cook for about 5 minutes. I had diced the rosemary so there was no need to remove it prior to serving. While the soup was cooking I prepared romano and parmesean wafers. The grated cheeses were placed on parchment paper and put in a 350 degree oven until melted. Once they cool they are lifted from the pp and placed on top of the soup which has been ladled into bowls.

Crusty bread was of course served the soup.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Pear Salad, Whitebean and Prosciutto Flatbread

As I mentioned in the last entry, this is one of the entrées inspired by a recipe from the November 2012 issue of Food and Wine. I used a store-purchased flatbread instead of pocketless pita rounds and added garlic to the white bean mixture.

If I made it again, I would pulse the white beans in a food processor. The recipe called for mashing them, but it just ended up with too many half beans, which overpowered the other ingredients.

First course: Pear, Blue Cheese Salad. Iceberg lettuce and spinach leaves were topped with sliced pears, blue cheese, and pecan bits. The dressing was a mix of evoo, balsamic vinegar, fresh ground black pepper and a half teaspoon of honey Dijon mustard.

Entrée: White Bean and Prosciutto Flatbread. The flatbread was brushed with evoo. The white beans were mixed with crushed red pepper, garlic clove, and chopped fresh rosemary. The mixture was spread on the flatbread and topped with sliced prosciutto, roasted almonds and Fontina cheese. It was placed on a preheated oven stone and put under the broiler for 2-3 minutes.

Quick and easy.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Chicken and Biscuits

This week's meal planning was inspired by several recipes in the November issue of Food and Wine Magazine. As a routine,when I am in airports I pick up the latest issue of the cooking magazine that I do not subscribe to – Over the years I have alternated subscriptions among Food and Wine, Bon Appétit, Cooking Light and Gourmet (R.I.P)
So at Midway in Chicago (much nicer than O’Hare the nightmare) I purchased F&W and circled the dishes I wanted to try.

I came across a Vidalia Onion Soufflé which I am going to include in a Thanksgiving Brunch so stay tuned, or if you make it first let me know how it turned out!

So far this week I have made or adapted the Chicken and Biscuits; White Bean Flatbreads with Prosciutto and Cheese; Root Vegetable Minestrone; and Chicken in Pineapple Sauce. I will not be doing a post on the latter – it was most likely my adaptation but it was sooooo bland and we did not even have a bottle of wine to console our taste buds. ….note- not that we did not have wine in the house (heavens!) we just did not open one.

But today I will offer the Chicken and Biscuit Meal.

Entrée: Chicken and Biscuits. I followed the recipe which includes sautéing shallots, mushrooms and carrots in butter; adding the dry white wine and stirring in a tablespoon of flour and chicken broth; boiling and then reducing and seasoned with fresh ground pepper. The prepared rotisserie chicken and peas are added and the pot is simmered until thick.

The self-rising flour is mixed in a food processor with fresh chopped sage and thyme, and butter. Small spoon fulls of the biscuit mix are placed on top of the Chicken and baked in the oven. After 25 minutes the pot sits under the broiler for 1-2 minutes until biscuits are browned.

Delicious and oh so comforting on a rainy and cloudy Fall evening.

Wine: Meoimi

Dessert: Sliced Pear and Lemon Stilton on Sweet Olive Oil Torta. The pears were steamed in Cognac, and cooled. The sliced pears and crumbled Lemon Stilton were put on top of a store purchased torta and drizzled with the reduced cognac. NICE!