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 34 – Saint Patrick, You Old Dog

I get it – you were over-served. Someone spiked your green beer you spent the weekend hungover. You hate Ireland and vow to never ever chase leprechauns and pots of gold again (while consuming copious amounts of alcohol). St. Patrick’s Day went from a Christian holiday to, let’s say, a religious experience where you ended up worshipping the porcelain god.

Time to redeem yourself. Time to reconnect with all that is good and Irish and enjoy the wonders that come from that beautiful country. Friends, time for Traditional Full Irish Breakfast.

Yes, now that the green haze is wearing off, invite your ne’er do well friends over this Saturday for brunch and go back to the land. The Irish know how to start the day. Pretend you’re in an old Irish manor house and serve a Traditional Irish Breakfast. This breakfast is meant to last you through much of a long cold work day. It’s got several types of sausages, bacon, fried eggs, baked beans, tomatoes, mushrooms and bread and ALL of the above (ex the beans) has been thoughtfully fried up in good old Irish butter. Procuring traditional white and black (i.e. BLOOD) pudding (sausage) might be hard – if you have time, order blood sausages online. If you skip that part and stick with regular pork sausage, I won’t tell. The beans – you can make your own or you can buy the canned version. Eggs are easy, fry them up preferably in the same pan you’ve fried up the meats and the mushrooms/tomatoes. Not a ton of cooking to be done here (you are recovering, after all) but I would urge you to try to make this low maintenance and delicious bread. The idea here is to eat enough to feel better about leprechauns. Wash all of that down with copious amounts of good dark tea, and begin to feel happy and lucky again.

 

Menu 34 - 3 21 2016

 

Tips and Notes

Make this bread! http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2015/06/ballymaloe-irish-brown-bread-recipe/

HERE is a wonderfully descriptive breakfast cooking plan (though it doesn’t include beans but how hard is it to add them? Dump a can of beans on a pot and you’re good to go. Excellent hangover food). I might skip the Boxty as that seems like more cooking than I want to do, but that’s just me being not fully Irish.

ORDER White and Black Pudding.

Menu 33 – GO TERPS!

Let’s start with a congrats to 5th seeded MARYLAND in the NCAA Tournament!! Actually I’m conflicted here since I didn’t go to Maryland (Georgetown! Oh but we didn’t make the tournament..) and I have family history in Kansas…but I’m partial to Maryland food, so here we go with a Maryland themed menu. Game one against the South Dakota State Jackrabbits (jackrabbits? The ignominy) is Friday – you have tons of time to plan this…read on!

 

My Maryland History

One of the best memories I have of growing up is going to our church Annual Crab Cake Dinner. Crab cakes, green beans and something for dessert. I barely remember dessert because it was really all about the crab. From 1976 – 1999 my family lived in Hyattsville, Maryland. When we moved there from upstate New York I remember thinking how nice it would be to live in a place called “Mary – Land” and that I would probably be friends with Jimmy Carter’s daughter, being a neighbor to DC, you know.

Maryland is a lovely place to grow up. The state itself is remarkable – country, city, beaches, mountains. A little Northern and a little Southern…the best of both. This week host a Maryland Pot Luck (Marylanders like to share, so make your friends contribute to making this menu) and celebrate the state that is the birthplace of “The Star Spangled Banner”, where jousting is the official state sport, where school is closed if they PREDICT snow and where pizza is cut in squares!

 

This Maryland Menu…

You’re expecting a bushel of crabs? That would be awesome but obvious. We’re getting a little more creative here…do you know Maryland is also known for its fried chicken? Best food EVER. Maryland fried chicken is distinguished from other Southern fried chicken as rather than cooking the chicken in several inches of oil or shortening, the chicken is pan-fried in a heavy cast-iron skillet and covered after the initial browning so that the chicken steams as well as fries. Let’s give this a try. Don’t worry – of course we will start with crab and there will be a LOT of Old Bay.

As people arrive, have a few bowls of Old Bay seasoned popcorn around and serve a local beer. There are a number of good craft beers in Maryland, but if you aren’t there, have one from your own state. Then set out big trays of bite sized crab cakes (mostly crab, very little cake). Next, the fried chicken with gravy – and (hold on to your seats) Old Bay & Cheddar biscuits (OMG). We aren’t skimping on seasoning here (Maryland itself by the way has four true seasons). If you want to serve some greens right now like kale, cabbage and spices do so – you would be nodding to yet another Maryland specialty of stuffed ham (which seemed a little over the top even to me, but the greens would be nice here). And last but not least, have someone make Maryland’s Official State Cake (another thing that makes Maryland AMAZING – we have our own CAKE). Read about it HERE and then lick your fingers. You’re full of carbs, crab and Maryland goodness. Flop down on the couch in time for Terps v. the Jackrabbits, this Friday at 4:30PM EST, Hon!

Menu 33 - 3 14 2016

Tips and Notes:

Old Bay Popcorn: http://www.abeautifulplate.com/old-bay-stove-top-popcorn/

Mini Crab Cakes – keep the recipe really simple: http://www.inspiredtaste.net/25964/maryland-style-crab-cake-recipe/

Fried Chicken and Gravy: Good method but absolutely add OLD Bay to the mix here, and cut your salt: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2015/01/maryland-fried-chicken-white-gravy-recipe.html

Amazing BISCUITS! http://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/cheddar-biscuits-with-old-bay-seasoning/0ab8660c-5ae7-4cb2-827a-00d53aedde06

Maryland’s Official State Cake: http://www.smithisland.org/cakerecipe.html

 

Maryland Fun Stuff:

Menu 28 – The Super Bowl…of FOOD

“Because I’m all about that food, that food, NO football…”

 OK I’ll stop. But I will admit, I had to look up who’s playing. Don’t we all agree that unless your team is in it, the Super Bowl is really about commercials and snacks?

And what could be better! Fun commercials and an excuse to eat ridiculously indulgent food. I’m all over it like Defense on the QB 🙂 (I’m trying over here. Really.)

It’s not the Super Bowl without dip. This Blue Cheese Caramelized Shallot dip is ugly (it turns kind of blue and brown with the cheese and the shallots) but it doesn’t matter – it’s delicious. Get the best potato chips you can find and cut some vegetables if you feel you must. Set this out right away. Also, Jerk Wings. There’s really no recipe for these – but they’re always just right. Go buy Walker’s Wood. Dump a bunch of it in a bag with your wings. Pour in a beer. Close it and marinate for a few hours. Roast the wings for about 45 minutes at 400 degrees. They’re sinus clearing and amazing (just don’t touch your eyes). And now the main event – the Cuban Sandwich. I’m always looking for reasons to eat a Cuban Sandwich. Break it down – roasted pork, ham, cheese and a pickle – all pressed and delicious. For a Super Bowl crowd, make it like a slider. These sandwiches beg for rice and beans on the side. Try the recipe below and set out a bunch of hot sauce. To finish, toffee bars. So good and bad at the same time.

We’re not trying for a lot of coordinated flavors here – we’re going for indulging in awesome hot sticky slow roasted fattening deliciousness. Wash it all down with a lot of local beer and no matter who wins, you will be a happy watcher.

Menu 28 - 2 4 2016

Tips and Notes

Make this dip. Don’t think twice. http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/blue-cheese-and-caramelized-shallot-dip-104792

Cuban Sliders!! SHOWSTOPPER http://www.beantownbaker.com/2013/01/cuban-sandwich-sliders.html

Must have Rice and Beans: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/rice-cooked-in-black-beans-em-moros-y-cristianos-em-364829

Brownies are so last season. Try these gooey sticky toffee bars. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/amy-thielen/toffee-bars.html

 

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 21 – Get Those HOLIDAY Cards Done!

Getting holiday cards is great. Preparing holiday cards is dreadful. All of the signing and stuffing and addressing. It’s self-inflicted pain – we could outsource most of that to a nifty service but my husband (god bless him) likes to add a personal note to the cards. Fine. Since it’s a pain, let’s try to make a night of it. Enlist the kids. Invite another family over with their dreaded box of cards and have a festive meal. Reward yourself with treats. Everybody wins.

Start with Negronis and an Italian meat board. Everyone likes to pick at things like this. Then serve Chick Pea – Pasta Soup which, because you’re a great planner, you made ahead of time. Last, enjoy the biscotti you also made the day before.

I know what you’re thinking…you’re thinking this is a bad idea…eat soup while I stuff cards? Sounds dumb. Absolutely NOT dumb – just break up the timing – stuff cards/drinks and apps/address cards/enjoy the soup/lick cards/have dessert! See? It works. And it’s far better than licking 200 envelopes by yourself while listening to the news and eating Pad Thai out of a box. Trust me.

Menu 21 - 12 11 2015

Tips and Notes

I want to be able to smell THIS SOUP.

Never made biscotti? Not hard. Very rewarding. Try these.