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 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

Menu 35 – Easter Day

When your dad is an Episcopal priest, Easter is more than bunnies and chocolate. It’s about getting to church early so you can get a seat, and seeing parishioners you haven’t seen since the Christmas Eve service. It’s about looking serious while you prepare communion with your dad because you are an acolyte and this represents the body and blood of Christ (“for heaven’s sake stop that smirking”). It’s about wearing a spring dress on a cold April day so you bundle up with a winter coat and make the best of it. It’s about tulips lining the alter. There was one Sunday my mother got all commercial on us and we woke to bunny prints (powdered sugar!) all over the house which eventually led to a monumental basket of chocolates. That was a great day. But then, off to church.

It wasn’t all about bread, wine and hymns. Dinner was an event in our house. Usually ham. Often scalloped potatoes. A green vegetable. I don’t know if we had dessert. My mom isn’t big on desserts.

I almost never go to church now. This is for another blog post OVER HERE sometime. In short, Easter for me is another way to be present with family – kids and grandparents – and enjoy hunting for eggs together, making a meal together (definitely an expression of love and perhaps rising again) and coming together at a table. This year will be no exception. I have never hosted Easter, but if I did, I would make this menu. Lovely deviled quail eggs that are a cute surprise. A braised lamb dish that is (yay!) cooked ahead and dreamy – and comes alive with a bit of lemon. Serve with, as the recipe suggests, over fregola. It’s a day partly about bunnies so let’s make some delicious carrots. And then this cake – I’ve wanted to try this cake for a year. I even bought a special tart pan. Rhubarb is barely around and worth grabbing up. Happy Easter everyone, whatever that means to you and your family.

Menu 35 - 3 25 2016

Tips and Notes

Eggs: http://www.dartagnan.com/deviled-quail-eggs-with-bacon-and-thyme-recipe.html

Lamb: http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1018017-braised-lamb-with-egg-and-lemon

Order Fregola: http://www.amazon.com/Rustichella-Abruzzo-Fregola-Sarda-17-5/dp/B000B38C6A

Carrots: http://www.marthastewart.com/863971/glazed-carrots-thyme

Cake: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/rhubarb-almond-cake

Menu 31 – Not an Oscar Menu

Geez you really want an Oscar menu? You’re having an Oscar party to see how Chris Rock handles the tone deaf lack of Oscar diversity? Well that’s the only reason I plan to watch too, so I can relate. I am not providing a full Oscar menu but here’s a suggestion: eat whatever you want as long as it’s diverse – since, you know – diversity is GOOD FOR US as a society and as individuals. We can’t survive on hummus alone. Mix it up and you’ll have a much healthier, richer and more interesting experience. Oh and start with a bubbly champagne cocktail.

We had a great dinner with my husband’s mother and her boyfriend a couple of weeks ago. It was cold as bones outside and right before Valentine’s Day. This is a lovely meal for four that can easily be expanded for a larger party.

Start with a simple hors d’oeuvre – maybe a bowl of marcona or smoked almonds and a cocktail. Nothing heavy. Nobody makes meatloaf anymore, so we made meatloaf and it was delicious. Ina has a great recipe from a place in the Hamptons – The 1770 House. It calls for beef, pork and veal. None of my local stores were selling veal so I left it at beef and pork and were none the worse for wear. It calls for a garlic sauce. This part needs work. It was somehow tasteless and took some gussying (a bouillon cube; more butter; a dash of Worcestershire). I would make that part again but next time I might start with a roux and homemade beef stock.

We’re going homey here – let’s make a blinged up Potato Celery Root Puree (when I think BLING I think CELERY ROOT). Ina Garten buried a ridiculously good potato/celery root puree within a scallop recipe – I’ve linked to it for you below. I followed it almost exactly (I added a little milk to the cream to just cover the vegetables). This can be made earlier and reheated.

And then we roasted broccoli. It’s really the best way to eat it. Just before serving grate some lemon zest on top and well, it’s just like mom used to make but better.

We weren’t skimping on dessert. I had a disc of holiday sugar cookie dough left in my freezer so made round sugar cookies, topped with royal icing (pink) and then decorated with hearts (red). They were delicious and GONE. I think you should do the exact same thing but decorate however you want. Serving homemade cookies never gets old.

Menu 31 - 2 25 2016

Tips and Notes

Behold, meatloaf: http://www.barefootcontessa.com/recipes.aspx?CookbookID=33

Ignore the scallop part, focus on potatoes and celery root here: http://www.weeknightgourmet.com/fish/shellfish/barefoot-contessas-seared-scallops/

Broccoli – start here but eliminate the lemon juice part. I find it gets bitter. Do everything else and then just toss some lemon zest on it before serving. http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/roasted_broccoli/

Best Sugar Cookie recipe: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/ultimate-sugar-cookies

Easy royal icing for your splendid cookies: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/the-most-royal-of-icings

My cookies: cookies

P.S. Why the rooster? My mother-in-law has a thing for birds like this so I thought I would draw one.

P.P.S. Sneak preview for next week….my mom requested a Scandinavian menu….Ooohhh Challenge! Tune in later for that one…

Menu 27 – Ladies’ Night!

It takes forever to find a date. Babysitting/husband/partner/work/travel schedules have to align. But when that night arrives, you cherish it. You know what I mean, that evening when it’s just you and your girlfriends. The talk swings from houses to hair to new business ventures to books to how to form an LLC to the best kids’ apps to wine to how to tell your assistant her skirt is too short and on and on. Make it happen. And make it happen over dinner, at someone’s house. Restaurants are great but at someone’s house you can sit on the floor with friends and laugh and get to the table and grab a bowl of soup and then head back to the floor for dessert.

But we all know that everyone doesn’t eat everything. Now things get hard. What to cook?

The answer is soup – THREE soups to be exact…one meat, one seafood, one veg. Offer a Boeuf Bourguignon Soup (made in advance) and a side of noodles; Ina’s Seafood Chowder (made day of); and last, make Potato Leek soup (in advance) for a vegetarian option. Voilà! Problem solved.

That should cover just about anything people throw your way in terms of restrictions. Also, people always ask what to bring. Get someone to bring a salad – a great winter salad of under-appreciated collard greens and life changing crispy shallots. Ask another to bring dessert (which MUST MUST MUST be these amazing lemon bars!). Stocking up on wine goes without saying. Now go send an email to those friends and pick a date. You won’t regret it.

Menu 27 - 1 28 2016

 

Tips and Notes

The Salad: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/collard-green-and-radish-slaw-with-crispy-shallots

The Soups:

http://www.marthastewart.com/296351/a-perfect-pot-of-boeuf-bourguignon-soup

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/seafood-chowder-recipe.html

http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/potato_leek_soup/

The Lemon Bars!  (I cut the sugar in these down to 3/4 of what it says)

http://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-heavenly-lemon-bars-with-almond-shortbread-crust-recipes-from-the-kitchn-191597

 

Menu 22 – NOGGFest 2015!

I know. There are so many parties. Does it even make sense for you to throw your own? OF COURSE IT DOES! Do it. You know you want to. Especially when I say that you can still be in bed by 10PM watching Netflix! (This assumes you’re like me and want people out of your house by 9. Cool if you’re more of a partier than I am.)

Have an open house and call it NoggFest! People love this kind of thing. Friends can stop by this Saturday or Sunday afternoon, grab a snack and a cup of NOG and wish you the merry merry, happy happies that are so this season.

It’s all make ahead and easy. Make your own eggnog but stock up on extra boxed (we run out every time). Doctor the boxed with nutmeg and booze. Everybody loves Chex mix. Make a lot. Sausage stuffed mushrooms? Oh yeah. Lobster Chowder…I know it’s spendy but it’s the holidays and it’s a real treat. And it’s delicious (thank you Ina). The puff pastry can be assembled early and left in the fridge until you’re ready to bake it. Everything looks awesome in puff pastry (look at the pic). Kale salad. Well. Don’t you need something green other than your tree? And these cookies – they are the best ever. They smell like Christmas. Add a little ground clove and they are even better (yes, better than Martha’s original version). Throw it all on a table, mix up the nogg, throw open your doors and it’s HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Menu 22 - 12 17 2015

Tips and Notes

(P.S. this is also a great menu for 12/26, Boxing Day or maybe a New Year’s Day open house…)

You will not regret making your own eggnog…

Even better snack mix

Happiest mushrooms ever

Once again, Ina Garten kills it: Lobster Corn Chowder

This looks SO good: Puff Pastry Salami and Cheese

Come on, you know you feel like you need to make a salad

Add a half a teaspoon of ground clove to these and you will be so happy: Molasses Cookies

Menu 16 – Baby Care Package

One of the things I vividly remember about having a new baby is the sense that all of a sudden you are one-handed. Everything needed to be done with half the usual hand/arm resources. I am not sure why it didn’t occur to me at the time that the baby could be put down (maybe I just didn’t want to). It’s nice to hold a baby.

Yet you still need to eat. And for new mothers, this often means you need to eat A LOT. I was famished. Breastfeeding takes it out of you. This week we are preparing a care package for a friend with a new baby (or, as the case may be, babIES if twins arrived!). Fork and finger friendly foods are the way to go here. It’s also nice to provide basic items that are a godsend at 3PM or 2AM…already cut up fruits and vegetables; soup that one can drink from a mug; a vegetable pasta great hot or cold. Also, make a frittata that can keep easily in the fridge and precut it for her – what a great way to start the day after you’ve been up all night. Seriously, you need sustenance. And yes I am suggesting you cut up fruit and raw vegetables and put them in containers for your friend. TRUST me, she will be grateful. Boil some eggs while you’re at it (9 ½ minutes is perfect).

I had a lot of ideas here, so preparing this may take a bit of time…but think of your friend who just dealt with nine months of baby prep. And, if you double everything, you’ll have a stocked fridge too. Not so bad 🙂

Menu 16 - 11 4 2015

 

Tips and Notes

Baby was up all night, Frittata

I need a quick lunch that I can drink…Broccoli Soup

The witching hour is coming I need a SNACK to get me THROUGH DIP

Did we make it another day? QUICK pasta dinner while the baby sleeps!