Menu 47 – Middle East FEAST!

My first favorite entertaining phrase is “make ahead.” My second is “room temperature” especially in summer months. There are few things that make for a relaxed party or dinner than a made ahead meal served room temperature.

This past weekend I had my mother in town AND my mother in law – two women who love me no matter what I serve, but who we also love to cook for. So we did. And boy what a feast it was – the oohing and ahhing – and not just because they are The Moms – they actually liked it!

This menu is Middle East/Jerusalem inspired. Start with almonds – roasted and salted – and olives (the best you can find). Next, a series of salads. Tomatoes and cucumbers; raw squash with a light dressing and feta; burnt eggplant with pomegranate seeds. I also made Green Couscous (for the love of Yotam!) and it’s so easy and different and good.

For the main, we went grilled rack of lamb. You have a lot of leeway here with the main – the salads would go nicely with grilled or roasted chicken, steak, pork or even fish. It’s hard to go wrong so go with what you like best. Since we had the grill going, we toasted up some flatbreads too.

Of course we wanted dessert. We got the most amazing baklava – two kinds – pistachio and walnut. No way was I making baklava. I am not insane. There are certain things one should almost always buy. Support your local businesses – buy baklava.

And that was that. It’s a fair amount of washing and chopping but with a bit of planning (LOVE planning), you can have everything done by 3pm and resting, then just fire up your grill. Put everything on your table on large platters and have at it. One of my favorite menus ever.

Menu 47 - 8 11 2016

 

Tips and Notes

Tomatoes and Cucumbers – this doesn’t really need a recipe (Kirby cucumbers; colorful tomatoes cut into odd shapes; a little red onion; maybe you grate a garlic clove on it; red wine or sherry vinegar; olive oil; salt/pepper; time to come together). But if you must – this is a good basic version: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/rachael-ray/tomato-onion-and-cucumber-salad-recipe.html

Burnt Eggplant – Oh how I love Yotam. Seriously buy his cookbooks. http://www.athoughtforfood.net/blog/burnt-eggplant-with-lemon-garlic-and-pomegranate-seeds

Raw Squash and Feta – puurrty…http://cookieandkate.com/2013/summer-squash-salad-with-lemon-citronette/

More Yotam, Green Couscoushttp://www.marthastewart.com/348890/green-couscous

And the Bakalva – if you don’t have a middle eastern store near you, look here: https://www.amazon.com/Baklawa-Baklava-Walnuts-28-30-Pieces/dp/B0002HDM06

 

Menu 46 – Life Happens

Sometimes, even with the best of intentions, home cooking just doesn’t happen. Too busy, too hot, too tired. Whatever it is, sometimes it’s just too much.

Our last three weeks have been this way. It hasn’t been abnormally busy – everyone is always busy, la di da. No, it’s not that. But I’ve been distracted and not so high on plan, shop, prep, cook, clean. The kids have eaten a lot of pizza and pasta. And look, they’re still alive 🙂

This coming weekend will be a little different. We will reconnect with the cooking process and having a proper sit down family meal. I snagged this menu from HelloFresh, which I’ve done a couple of times. I won’t review the experience here but I will say that if it makes your life easier to have the planning, shopping and measuring done for you, these services (Blue Apron, HelloFresh, many others) are great so go for it.

They posted a menu HERE that is simple, healthy and good. Pan-Seared Salmon to start with Arugula Mint Pesto – really fresh flavors that don’t require a lot of time – good bang for your buck. A quinoa salad that has almonds and peppery arugula…one of those things you’ll make and say “wouldn’t it be nice to have this around more often?” And last a fun side of broiled snap peas. Honestly, this is the kind of meal you could double and serve to company – it’s pretty, fresh and easy.

It wouldn’t be a family dinner without dessert. But on this night we go no fuss and dish up ice cream. Make sure you get some that everyone loves. Not a bad way to get back in the cooking groove, if I do say so myself.

Menu 46 - 7 18 2016

Tips and Notes

You can download the whole process here: https://ddw4dkk7s1lkt.cloudfront.net/card/55d34f5cf8b25e5a1e8b4567.pdf?t=20160707142638

Menu 45 – 10th Anniversary Feast!!!

10 years ago on this day, June 24th, we got married. What a day – what a weekend that was! There was canoeing and fishing; golfing and bird watching. There were golf carts and big hats; peonies and a string quartet. We had a backdrop of mountains and brilliant blue sky. We had a moose head! There were friends and family from far and wide. We had very few slow songs and a LOT of dancing. It was one of the best weekends of our lives, and thinking about it this week has been a fabulous walk down memory lane.

Planning our wedding was a great experience for us as a couple – we absolutely loved it. We started by listing things that we like and then tried to incorporate as many of those things as we could into the weekend. Ten years later, we still like planning and as such, tonight we are reliving part of that glorious day with a menu inspired by what we served that night. I’ve posted a very simple written menu of what we actually ate that night – you will see that tonight’s menu is clearly inspired by the same.

Tonight we will have a salad with shaved zucchini in a lemon dressing – lots of shaved parmesan gets tossed in as well. Then ribeye straight from the grill (my husband is the BEST grill master) and béarnaise. We will also have grilled asparagus because – you know – béarnaise. Ten years ago we served gratin dauphinoise – tonight we will make due with baked potatoes with sour cream and chives (so good). For dessert rather than cake at our wedding we had pies – LOTS of pies – five kinds to be exact (strawberry rhubarb, wild main blueberry, apple raspberry, maple pecan and peach). Tonight we have friends coming over who offered to bring a sweet and that makes me so happy.

Rather than a drawing this week I added a few shots from our wedding. They are pictures of pictures because – old school – I don’t have digital versions at the moment (SO old fashioned, I know). We’ve had a really amazing decade and I feel so blessed to have the husband and family I have…I hope you enjoy this little walk down memory lane with me.

 

Menu 45 - 10th anniversary

dad pic
I love this picture – my dad’s hand on Alexander’s arm…
wedding
Actually getting married here – here we go!
the walk
Woohoo!
walk
Priceless Alexander face
walk away
Photographer “walk away! walk away right now!”
moose
The Moose. Just the Best.

Tips and notes

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/champagne-vinaigrette-353469

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/tyler-florence/filet-mignon-with-blender-bearnaise-recipe2.html

http://gratineeblog.com/2009/10/julia-childs-gratin-dauphinois/

Menu 40 – Mother’s Day Menu

I don’t know about you, but I just don’t think taking your mom to a crowded pricey brunch with bad champagne and poorly cooked yolks is the right way to shower her with love. She BIRTHED you for heaven’s sake. All the scars, the body aches, weight gain, bloated feet, the resulting butt wiping, nipple soreness (if you just cringed, imagine how your mom felt), 2AM wake-ups, barfy clothes, whining, cajoling, Cheerios, rotten milk in car seats, playground anxiety, pretending Dr. Seuss is interesting, Kraft mac n cheese smell, lunch-making…(I haven’t even gotten to the teenage years!)…

And your way of saying thanks is with overcooked eggs and questionable hollandaise. *shaking head*

We can do better, and we will. We will make an effort. With moms, effort counts.

When I think of my mother many things come to mind but one of the biggest memories I have is of her making me clothes. She had two sewing machines when I was a kid – one super functional and the other was her grandmother’s – an antique Singer sewing machine. It is quite beautiful. It still works. It mends, it makes, it creates, it is sturdy…just like my mom. Sewing is a bit of a lost art. My mother (and in fact both of my mothers-in-law) is an expert. She made it look easy. And isn’t that sometimes what mother’s do? We get dinner on the table, make/mend/buy clothes, we pick up and arrange, we organize, etc…and it’s like it just happens.

It doesn’t JUST happen. There is work and effort and thought behind all of that. So for your mom, give her some of the same. This is a lunch or dinner menu. It looks fancy, is absolutely delicious and totally doable. Start with Minted Pea Soup, served cold. Add a bit of crème fraiche before serving and it looks gussied up. Next, Potato Crusted Halibut over Wild Mushrooms and Haricot Vert. You make this plate look above and beyond with swirls of carrot reduction and a truffle vinaigrette (hard to spell – not hard to make). Last, in the best glasses you have (cognac snifters would be nice), serve your very deserving mother Panna Cotta topped with a gorgeous Strawberry Rhubarb Compote.

All of this can be made and prepped ahead except the halibut, which you cook before serving. If your mother likes to cook, ask her to help with this part. Doing things with your mom is as rewarding as doing things for your mom.

Now get out there and shop. Make this one really count for your mom.

Menu 40 - 5 6 2016

 

Tips and Notes

Soup: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/minty-pea-soup-51154900

So the fish. Apparently to get the Wild Mushroom and Haricot Vert part of this recipe you need this book: http://www.amazon.com/Its-About-Time-Recipes-Everyday/dp/1586420879 It’s worth buying…For the fish part follow this: http://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/recipes/a6136/potato-crusted-halibut-recipe/.  For the Wild Mushroom and Haricot Vert part, basically in some butter and olive oil, saute sliced shallots, then your mushrooms, then your blanched haricot vert. Add salt and pepper. A squeeze of lemon juice. To plate, veg on the bottom. Fish on top. If you buy the book, you get the benefit of fancy truffle vinaigrette and carrot reduction.

The panna cotta: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/easy-vanilla-bean-panna-cotta and the compote: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/strawberry-rhubarb-compote

Menu 39 – Home Sweet Home

It’s Spring Break season here in NYC – so some people (not us) got away for vacation. Even if I’m not on vacation, I like thinking about it. Dare to dream.

One of the best things about taking a vacation is coming home. Isn’t that a beautiful thing? Back to your own bed, all of your clothes, your familiar surroundings. And cooking. Back to your own cooking. I love eating out but every night gets to be a bit much. On those nights when we return home, we’re often excited to eat our own cooking.

But not with a lot of effort. There’s unpacking to do and people are tired. So you need an easy and highly satisfying menu to cook on the night you get home from a vacation.

Grill to the rescue! So many benefits to grilling – the great outdoors, no kitchen mess, my husband does it. Everyone wins. But wait! Are we going standard burger and hot dogs? Not tonight, we’re not! We’re going seafood and making a few things that are super tasty on their own with no work. Grilled clams to start. That’s it. Everyone forgets about grilling littleneck clams but it’s the easiest thing in the world and SO satisfying. Next, break out that package of skewers you have tucked away. Skewer shrimp/chorizo/shrimp/chorizo (make the kids do this – kids love putting things on skewers). Since shrimp and chorizo are flavorful to begin with (and you’re tired because you just got home), you can grill those and leave it at that. If you want to do more, I’ve added a slightly fancier recipe below. Last, actual vegetables. Everyone likes grilled vegetables and since we are leaning Spanish we are spiffing these up with just the littlest bit of cooking (I know, you’re tired). The grilled vegetables are topped with a super simple garlicky mix of breadcrumbs. Everything is better with breadcrumbs.

And last, you want dessert. Spanish Rice Pudding. I did include a recipe below if you actually want to cook but I have a great cheat for you. Buy the rice pudding (Kozy Shack is the BEST), and then add just a little cinnamon and vanilla. It’s basically the same and easier.

See! Now you’re unpacked. You enjoyed a really simple menu that felt like vacation but had all the benefits of arriving back home. Life, and home, is sweet.

Menu 39 - 4 28 2016

 

Tips and Notes For grilled clams, you do just that, put them straight on the grill. Take them off when they open, which is likely after a few minutes. You can stop here and just eat them. Or you can add a little pepper and a squeeze of lemon. OR if you want to get a teeny bit fancy, put some herb butter on them like this one.. http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/grilled-clams-with-herb-butter

Skewers! http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/brian-boitano/shrimp-and-chorizo-skewers-recipe.html

Only the smallest bit of non-grill cooking involved here: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/spanish-style-grilled-vegetables-with-breadcrumb-picada-238806

If you want to make it yourself: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/spanish-rice-pudding-351306

Menu 37 – It’s been a long week, and it’s only Tuesday

Sometimes you just don’t want to think about much. Sometimes what you really need is a simple meal that comes together like magic, and that warms the soul. Sometimes you want to focus on simple things like a wall of potted herbs that somehow look like a work of art. Today might be one of those days.

Menu 37 - 4 12 2016

When I have those days, I often turn to cooking. The chopping process. The melding of ingredients. The process of creating something good for yourself. But it can’t be hard, and it shouldn’t require a lot of effort. For me, this means my mother’s spaghetti sauce. It’s mostly a pantry sauce. From the store you don’t need much – sausage, ground beef, an onion if you ran out. Everything else I tend to have around. From there it’s a memorized process, so simple and so satisfying. We should all have these types of recipes on hand – ordering out just isn’t the same. Make yourself something nice. Enjoy a simple task like chopping an onion. And then settle into your evening knowing you’ve treated yourself well that day.

Tips and Notes

Click on this Dino’s Sauce_2016 for my sauce recipe. It is really simple and, I think, delicious. It takes me back home and around our family table growing up.

On my drawn menu “garlic bread” got cut off – don’t let this happen to you. Mash garlic into butter, spread on bread. Toast until brown. Not much harder than that. Google around if you want something fancier.

Menu 36 – Host an Art Party!

SaveGourmet is an exciting project for numerous reasons. One of the most satisfying elements of this project has been working on a drawing every week. What to draw? How to represent a meal / a theme in an illustration? Once I figure out what to draw, I have to figure out how to draw it. I am (clearly) not a trained artist, so settling on drawing a crab, for example, means I actually have to figure out how one might draw a crab. For me, this process is fun, immersive and meditative.

The benefits of coloring are well documented. This week let’s take that a step further and pick up a pencil and actually draw something. Anything. A flower. Your computer. The mug on your desk. A sphere. For most of us, there comes a sad time in our lives when we eliminate drawing from our activity set, probably around 5th or 6th grade. My kids draw all the time. Why not adults? People say “oh I cannot draw” or “I am not an artist.” Who says! I challenge you right now to stop reading and draw whatever is sitting in front of you. Your phone, most likely (amiRIGHT?). Everyone draw an iPhone – take two minutes.

Back now? Wasn’t that fun! Is it terrible? Who CARES. You made something. The world now has you re-thinking your role in it – not just consumer, but creator.

Let’s not be defeatist. Let’s not assume crayons are just for kids. Make it easy – host a party, an art party, where you set up a still life and other random objects on a table. Lay out watercolors, crayons, pencils, erasers and markers. Send the kids out back to play (because that is what they do – play) and all of the adults sit around your table and draw for an hour. That’s right, an hour. It’s a little silly and nerve-wracking, so serve some cocktails to loosen everyone up but I guarantee people will surprise themselves.

And then, eat. Since we are making everyone think of themselves as artists, let’s make dinner a French theme (I know artists are from all over the world, but let’s give France a little shine – when I think of France, one of the top three things that comes to mind after Food and Wine is Art).

This is not a hard menu and, as is often my custom, it is best made ahead. Start with springy asparagus soup. Pretty, green, easy. Next, coq au vin over buttered noodles. Something of an old school dish – a classic and you can’t go wrong. Last, serve a wonderful raspberry tart. I have made this one several times and it’s delicious, and pretty with the green pistachios sprinkled over bright berries. Happy Spring and happy creating, friends!

(Below is an attempt at watercoloring and I have to tell you, it’s fun! I am not happy with how the bag turned out but I like the red flower, the wine bottle, the brushes and the brown frond on the right.)

Menu 36 - 4 04 2016

Oh and if you want a quick read on art benefits, read this article http://jamesclear.com/make-more-art from James Clear. He says it better than I can and references medical studies backing this up. Then close your phone and pick up a pencil.

Tips and Notes

Take advantage of springtime asparagus: http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/creamy-asparagus-soup.aspx

There are numerous coq au vin recipes online – this one is thoughtful and gives you step by step instructions. http://www.seriouseats.com/2015/02/how-to-makethe-best-coq-au-vin-chicken-braised-in-red-wine.html

This is a delicious and pretty tart (a work of art, one might say J). http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/raspberry-tart-with-a-pistachio-crust

And, a great art idea:

http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/everyones-painting-their-own-abstract-art-and-you-should-too-229632?utm_source=RSS&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Category%2FChannel%3A+Main