Menu 41 – Spanish Night!

Last week got away from me – no menu. This happens. Dinner making becomes dinner ordering. Totally unsatisfying.

Let’s come back from a non-cooking week strong with a menu that takes you on a vacation – to Spain! And outside – to your grill! Yes this week we are grilling paella.

Break out the castanets.

My mother is coming to visit this weekend, and in general, she hates a fuss. I can respect that, so we are keeping things relatively easy and making three things only – including the cocktail! A beautiful sangria (click!) to start things off. She is always worrying that people will ruin their appetites with starters so we’re going right for the big game tonight – get grilling and cook a lot of paella. I’ve included a simple recipe below. The beauty of this is that cooking on the grill reduces your clean up needs in the kitchen…simple…win! And to finish, after you’ve had your fill of crab and squid, indulge in this lovely citrus almond cake. Might want to make a lot of the sangria – I bet it goes well with the cake.

Menu 41 - 5 18 2016

Tips and Notes

http://www.tastingtable.com/cook/recipes/cocktail-recipe-basic-red-sangria-recipe-berries-cynar-jim-meehan

http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/easy-grilled-paella

http://www.thevintagemixer.com/2013/03/tarta-de-santiago-recipe-a-spanish-almond-cake-from-spain/

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 38 – Spring, At Last!!

Are we ALL singing Etta James by now, “At Last”??!?! Spring finally decided to show up and warm us from what was an endless winter season. I mean come on – opening day required beer, hot dogs, hats gloves and blankets. Enough is enough!

So…At Last.

There is a wonderful tree in front of my house that we watch bloom every year around this time. It’s like watching change in motion as the tree buds and grows leaves. The other night at dinner the kids and I watched a marvelous bird enjoying the breeze and the sun. I tried to replicate the bird here – so proud and happy.

Time to celebrate Spring with a dinner. Start with a Sparkling Paloma which is citrusy, so a nice “goodbye!” to winter when citrus is at its best and a refreshing way to ring in the new season. Next a biting bruschetta with radishes. I love radishes and these offer crisp radishes with capers all on top of crusty bread. You cannot go wrong – and they’re pretty. For the main it’s a slight hodge podge with grilled lamb chops – always so good – and a bright Lemon Spinach Orzotto. And to finish, have (almost summer) strawberries in this lovely compote, that you serve with orange almond shortbread.

Now THAT is how you ring in Spring. Enjoy it while it lasts!!

 

Menu 38 - 4 21 2016

Tips and Notes
The cocktail: http://www.loveandlemons.com/sparkling-paloma/

Radishes my friend: http://frenchpressmemos.com/spring-tastes-like/

Grill some lamb chops. Very little seasoning. Salt pepper…

What is orzotto? Glad you asked: http://www.purewow.com/recipes/Lemon-and-Spinach-Orzotto

Save room for dessert…http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/orange-almond-shortbread-with-strawberry-compote

 

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

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