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 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 32 – Scandinavian Night

In 1999 I did a bike trip through Denmark where the roads are flat, the people are pretty and the beer is awesome. I remember leaving Copenhagen and saying “I know I will be back.” What a wonderful colorful city. So when I asked my mom what she’d like for a menu, I was happily surprised to hear “How about a Scandinavian menu?” Excellent! It’s always good to please your mother. And it also gave me a chance to research new cuisines, and attempt to sketch a Danish port. What could be better.

My dad always wanted to be Scandinavian. He was half Finnish and kept grouping himself with the Scandinavians but really, that is a stretch. We also share a family rumor from my mother’s side that we have Viking roots (based on some hand issue my grandfather had that a random doctor in Arizona said had only been traced back to the Vikings…I know. Did the doctor quack when he said that?). Back to the food….

This is a simple menu with nods to Denmark, Sweden and Norway. I wanted to go fancier but my mother is the QUEEN of simple (except when it comes to popcorn toppings where she lets it all hang out), and since this is her menu, I thought I would oblige. If I dare say, it’s about as Scandinavian as you can get – pickled herring, delicious roast pork with cracklings (go Denmark with the cracklings), a new way to make potatoes (hasselback, accordion potatoes!), a cucumber dill salad and Sabayon Lingonberry Mousse. I chose simple dishes as I found those were very traditional and because I’m suggesting you make something that sounds and looks fancy “Sabayon!” but is actually pretty straightforward and must be made ahead. I just love the idea of this creamy, brandied mousse layered with pretty tart lingonberry jam. Go to Ikea and grab those lingonberries (Challenge! Try to get out of Ikea with JUST the lingonberries!). Then make everyone in your family research interesting facts about each Scandinavian country. See? I took care of your dinner, your dessert and your table talk.

Menu 32 - 3 3 2016

 

Tips and Notes

To start: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/herring-in-mustard-sour-cream-on-rye-bread

The pork, thank you very much: http://sweetsoursavory.com/blog/2013/11/17/danish-pork-roast-flskesteg

It’s not summer but who cares. Maybe like age, summer can be a state of mind….http://www.outside-oslo.com/2013/06/21/cucumber-salad-for-your-scandinavian-midsummer-menu/

Potatoes http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-hasselback-potatoes-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-199763

The Pretty Pretty Dessert: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/sabayon-lingonberry-mousse-109137

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 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.