Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Spring at the Greenmarket.

Chilly as it was over the weekend, flowers abounded at the Greenmarket. Daffodils, hydrangea and cherry blossom branches were particularly plentiful, as they often are at this time of year. But it's still too cold for the orchids, who warmed their toes by the warmth of a little transportable heater.

It's still too early for spring chickens, but their eggs are on full display, along with small, bluish pheasant eggs and their large, pale duck cousins. Me? I settled for some delicious chicken eggs from Knoll Crest, my favorite of all.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Wait - I thought it was spring!

Those of you who live in the northeastern United States no doubt shared my disappointment in the subfreezing temperatures we experienced this weekend. It's the end of March; I shouldn't be schlepping to the Greenmarket in gloves, a scarf and my winter coat!

But schlep I did, and I'm better off for it. Root vegetables abounded, and I decided that some celeriac (also known as celery root) soup would be just the thing for my lunches this week. I didn't want to do anything too complicated, so I just sauteed some aromatics (leeks, shallots, garlic), added some celeriac and other root vegetables (carrots, potatoes) and threw in a few sprigs of thyme for good measure.

When the soup was done, I tasted it and decided it needed something a bit richer to balance out all the veggie goodness. In went a touch of half-and-half and a smidge of browned butter. The result? Creamy, satisfying soup, the perfect antidote to an early spring chill.

Celeriac Soup with Browned Butter

2 tbs. olive oil
2 small leeks (white and light green parts only), cut into half-moons and washed
1 medium shallot, chopped
1 clove garlic, sliced crosswise
1 pound celeriac, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 small, waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 sprigs thyme
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 cup half and half
2 tbs. butter
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Set a medium pot (I used my 3 1/2 quart French oven.) over high heat. After a minute or so, add the olive oil and reduce the heat to medium-high. Once the oil is hot, add the leeks and saute for a moment, then add the shallot and garlic. Saute until the leeks are translucent and just beginning to brown. Add the celeriac and stir to combine well with the leek mixture, then add the carrots and potatoes, along with a healthy pinch of salt and some pepper.

Add the thyme sprigs to the pan and pour in the wine. Allow to cook at high heat, stirring, for a few minutes, until it doesn't smell too boozy. Pour the chicken stock over the vegetables and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 25 to 30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and easily pierced with a fork.

While the soup is cooking, melt the butter in a small skillet or saucepan set over medium heat. Continue to cook the butter until it begins to turn brown and smells nutty. Take off the heat immediately and set aside.

Once the vegetables are tender, remove the soup from the heat. Pull out the (now bare) thyme sprigs. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until it is thick and smooth. (If you want to go crazy, you can also pour it through a strainer or chinois to make the soup super-smooth.) Stir in the half and half and browned butter.

If serving immediately, taste and adjust for seasoning. If not, allow the soup to cool to room temperature, cover, and transfer to the fridge. Reheat gently over medium heat, taste for seasoning, and serve.

Serves four.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Queenie's Treasury

The weekend is here, and I am psyched! I'm not so psyched about the weather, though; I went to the Union Square Greenmarket this morning when it was still below 30°F, and the tips of my ears are still recovering from the trauma. I did make out pretty well, though, with a haul that included the first chives of the season. And ramps are expected next week! In the meantime, here are some things to cuddle up with in the warmth of your living room...or bed...or coffee shop. Wherever, so long as it's warm.

First up, something to help with that whole warm thing. I saw this recipe for corn soup on Food52 last week, and have been dreaming of it ever since. Like Jenny, I rely on frozen corn (and peas) to keep me going through the winter months, and find no shame in it. The vast majority of the time, it's better than what's available fresh. Her recipe includes curry powder and mint, and sounds comforting and refreshing at the same time. Sign me up.

Next up, courtesy of Design*Sponge, a peek into the home of the founders of Paris' famed Hidden Kitchen eating club. It's a gorgeous place, all glamour and comfort and, well, Paris. I would move there in a New York minute.

Finally, another tidbit from Design*Sponge. (I know, I'm kinda boring this week.) Look at this pantry. Don't you want it? How could you not? It is, quite simply, amazing. To have everything you need so readily accessible, and so beautifully stored? I swoon and sigh at the mere thought.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fried rice, Reichl-style.

I don't know about you guys, but I pretty much worship Ruth Reichl. She's funny, she's humble and she's too damn talented. Her memoirs (especially Tender At The Bone and Comfort Me With Apples) are on my read-this-at-least-once-every-two-years list, and I'm still deep in mourning over the loss of Gourmet, the magazine she helmed spectacularly for 10 years. (Until Condé Nast shuttered it in October 2009. Grrrr.)

Most recently, I've been re-reading Tender At The Bone, Reichl's first memoir. It spans about 20 years' time, from her childhood in Greenwich Village to her move to Berkeley in the early 1970s. Somewhere in there, she penned her first cookbook, entitled Mmmmmm, A Feastiary. I first heard the book mentioned by name when Reichl did a Q&A on eGullet a few years ago, and promptly searched eBay for a copy. I snagged one in pristine condition for just a few bucks, and it's occupied a precious spot on my shelf ever since.

On Sunday, when confronted with a refrigerator full of leftover rice, steamed chicken and broccoli, I decided a bowl of fried rice would be just the thing to eat for lunch. And I knew Ruth was just the person to tell me what to do. When a browse through the Gourmet cookbook didn't rustle up what I needed, I turned to Mmmmmm, and was not disappointed. Right there on page forty-three is a ridiculously simple recipe for fried rice.

Reichl encourages an improvisational approach, telling the reader to use whatever bits and bobs populate the recesses of her crisper drawer. She also Americanizes the recipe somewhat, suggesting sherry in the place of Shaoxing cooking wine. No matter what you throw in or what wine you grab from the shelf, though, the result is a fast, piping hot, satisfying lunch.

Cleaning out the fridge is a pretty good side benefit, too.

(And, since matzo abounds this week, I think Mmmmmm's matzo brei may be next on the list.)

Ruth's Fried Rice
Adapated from Mmmmmm, A Feastiary by Ruth Reichl

1 cup cooked rice
2 tsp. vegetable oil
1 egg
1/4 cup white onion, diced
1 clove garlic, smashed
Any vegetables you want to add (broccoli, cabbage, carrots, peppers), thinly sliced
2 tsp. Shaoxing cooking wine (or sherry, or vermouth)
1/4 cup water or chicken stock
2 tsp. soy sauce mixed with 1/4 tsp. sugar
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Sriracha (optional)

Heat a skillet until very hot. Add the oil and a bit of salt; swirl the pan to coat the bottom. Break the egg into the pan and scramble lightly. Add the onion, garlic and vegetables to the pan, and stir to combine with the egg.

Add the meat and then the wine, and stir the contents of the skillet for another 30 seconds. Add the rice and stir to combine evenly. Cook for another 30 seconds to a minute, until the rice is hot and has lost all of its refrigerator stiffness.

Add the soy sauce mixture and grind some pepper over everything. Serve immediately, topped with a few squirts of Sriracha.

Serves one, generously.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

My vinaigrette.

Every cook needs a classic vinaigrette in his or her repertoire. Much like roasting a chicken or making an omelet, whipping up a vinaigrette is one of the basic foundational skills of good cooking. To do it, you need decent knife skills (if you include shallot or garlic, that is), a good sense of proportion and the ability to season properly.

It's the simplest of the classic sauces and is a great opportunity to make your own mark. Every cook I know has his or her own formula, typically representative of his or her entire oeuvre.

My vinaigrette is no exception. It includes several of my favorite ingredients (shallots, sherry vinegar, mustard, honey), and I'll eat it on almost anything. I use my vinaigrette on simple green salads, my summertime composed salad, my green bean and new potato salad, on top of grilled chicken or steak...you name it, I'll put this dressing on top of it.

It took me a while to land on this recipe; for years, I used white wine vinegar and olive oil, but about four years ago I fell in love with sherry vinegar and never looked back. The honey tempers the tang of the vinegar without diluting its flavor, and also helps to emulsify the dressing without using too much oil. Mustard is a classic ingredient in vinaigrette; in addition to being yet another emulsifier (hence its appearance in most homemade mayonnaise recipes), it adds a winey, earthy flavor to the proceedings. And canola oil is light, neutral and far cheaper than grapeseed.

I hope you like this dressing - and I hope you'll share your own signature vinaigrettes in the comments below!

Queenie's Vinaigrette

1 large shallot, minced
2 tsp. good Dijon mustard (I use Maille.)
1 tsp. honey
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1/3 cup canola oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Combine the shallot, mustard, honey, vinegar and a pinch each of salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Stir with a small whisk to combine.

Whisking constantly, pour the oil into the bowl in a thin stream. Continue whisking until the mixture is emulsified. If using immediately, taste and adjust for seasoning.

Otherwise, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator. The dressing will keep (and will actually get better for the sitting) for up to 10 days.

Makes enough vinaigrette to last one person at least a week.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A cook's tools.

I do not have a dishwasher.

This is not an unusual situation for a New Yorker; in fact, it's considered the norm for most rentals, especially those built before the most recent real estate boom. And since I live alone, it's not too much of a pain to do my dishes by hand.

What it does mean, though, is that I'm particularly tuned in to which dishes and utensils get more use than others, and I've noticed something interesting. While there are always a bounty of forks available in the cutlery drawer, I am frequently out of spoons, and my whisks and knives are constantly dirty.

I realized that, aside from actually eating (which, let's face it, we can do with our hands), almost every task I need to accomplish in the kitchen can be tackled using a combination of knife, whisk and spoon. Making a salad? Knife, whisk, spoon. Making a cake? Whisk, spoon. Making soup? Knife, spoon. An omelet? Knife, whisk, spoon. You get the idea.

It's not that I don't love my tongs or my fish spatula or my vegetable peeler. But if I had to choose three tools to take with me on the road, or to a desert island, the trio of knife, spoon and whisk would win, by a long shot.

How about you? What are your most essential kitchen tools?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

A few weeks ago, Louisa and I paid a visit to Frankie's Spuntino on Clinton Street, where we had an absolutely fantastic meal. Ever since, I've become obsessed with recreating two of the dishes: cavatelli with hot sausage and browned butter, and the roasted beets with avocado and balsamic vinegar.

Others have come before me where the cavatelli is concerned (and I'll be offering my version shortly), but I wasn't able to find any versions of the beet and avocado salad anywhere online. The salad is deceptively simple and relies heavily on the inclusion of superlative ingredients - the best beets, avocado and balsamic vinegar that you can find.

That last one means you'll have to shell out a bit - you need a vinegar that's been aged long enough to become thick, sweet and complex. The young, sour versions just will not do. Not to worry, though - the cash will be more than worth it. You only need a tiny bit, and the flavor is incomparable.

The salad combines two slightly different textures - the tender, toothsome beets and the creamy avocado - and three delicate flavors to create a distinctly refreshing and exciting dish. I tried to stick to the three ingredients in my version, but ended up needing a little help to bring out the depth and excitement I remembered in the Frankie's version.

Luckily, I'll soon be able to see how close I was to the truth: Frankie's Spuntino is coming out with an eponymous cookbook in early June. Pre-order? Don't mind if I do.

Frankie's Roasted Beet & Avocado Salad

4 small beets
Olive oil
Juice of one lemon
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
2 ripe avocados, halved and sliced into 1/4 inch slices
Very good balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Clean and trim the beets. Spread a piece of foil on a cookie sheet, place beets on the foil, and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Fold the foil to form a packet, and place the packet (on the cookie sheet) in the oven. Roast for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the beets are tender when poked with a fork. Remove pack from oven and set aside to cool.

Once the beets are cool to the touch, peel them and slice them into 1/3 inch wedges. Place the wedges in a medium bowl and toss with the lemon juice, a bit of salt and pepper and the cinnamon.

Leaving the lemon juice behind, divide the beet wedges between four plates or bowls and arrange them in a starburst pattern. Add the avocado, building on the starburst. Sprinkle each salad with a bit of salt and pepper, then drizzle generously with the balsamic vinegar. Serve immediately.

Serves four.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Reichl and Bourdain: the mashup.

In case you've missed the fun over the last couple of days, I think it's my obligation to clue you into some of the silliest, most wonderful times being had over on Twitter.

If you follow Ruth Reichl, you know that her tweets are gorgeous pieces of poetry, evoking a life lived in freshly baked bread, briny oysters and flaky croissants. They make you smile, salivate and hungry for more. And we tweeps aren't the only ones who've noticed. Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert have started airing a segment called "The Tao of Ruth" as part of their radio show. They read Reichl's latest tweets reverently, like haikus, all the while playing Beat era percussion in the background.

It's hilarious.

But the most recent development in this saga is even better - an anonymous genius has created Ruth Bourdain, a mashup of Reichl's tweets with Bourdain's foul language and penchant for exotic foods and illicit substances. The result is pure brilliance.

Even better, Reichl appeared on Bourdain's and Ripert's show this week to laugh with them about their segment and ponder the identity of Ruth Bourdain's creator. One thing's for certain, though: that picture is scary.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Queenie's Treasury

Happy Saturday, folks! It's a stunning morning here in New York, and I'm getting ready to go get pretty at the salon this afternoon. I'm sure most East Coasters, at least, are out and about today (I'm hearing good things about the weather out west, too) - but, just in case you're not, here are some fun treasury items to psych you up!
First, what seem to be the ultimate answer to (the pure, unadulterated nastiness that is) the Cadbury Creme Egg. Vosges has created a series of Easter eggs, the most intriguing of which (to me, at least) are the Wink of the Rabbit (caramel, pecans and dark milk chocolate) and the Bacon and Eggs (bacon caramel and dark chocolate). These will definitely be making an appearance in my Easter basket. Swoon.

Next, a recipe for Dijon chicken from Kerry Saretsky's French in a Flash series over on Serious Eats. This looks like a delicious, easy one-pot meal, and I predict that I will make it for lunch sometime soon. Mustard and wine and thyme - what could be better?

Finally, some ridiculously delicious looking apple dumplings. These look absolutely insane. I must have them. Now. Immediately. Many thanks to Design*Sponge and their contributor, food photographer Stacy Newgent, for making my day.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A little bit of Maine in the East Village.

Continuing our tradition of exploring the city's best lobster rolls, my brother Jeremy and I met up for a pre-theatre lunch at Luke's Lobster on Saturday afternoon. Luke's, in the East Village, has a distinctly different sensibility than our last lobster roll venue, Pearl's. While Pearl's is a sit-down restaurant with wine and desserts, Luke's is a strictly order-and-eat-at-the-stool-in-the-window kind of place. Both, though, have their roots in the classic New England seafood shack.

Where Pearl's roll is more of a salad roll (mayonnaise, onion, celery), Luke's is pure and simple. The generous heap of lobster meat is served in a butter-toasted hot dog roll (the classic choice) and topped with more butter (drawn, this time) and some dusty, diner-style black pepper. The lobster itself is fantastic - juicy, tender and full of that wonderful, clean flavor of the North Atlantic.

Even better, you can feel good about eating the seafood at Luke's. It's all sustainable, caught in Maine, and shipped in quickly. I'm not saying that being virtuous makes the food taste better, but it sure doesn't hurt.

Jeremy also ordered a cup of the clam chowder, which was stellar. It's hard to tell from this photo, but the soup was full of little chewy bits of fresh clam and tender potato. It was creamy, but not overwhelmingly thick, and had that nice sweetness I look for in a seafood chowder. I can't wait to go back and try the shrimp and corn chowder, and soon.

Overall, our verdict is that Luke's is a fabulous bargain ($14 for a lobster roll) and delicious. Our heart, however, remains at Pearl's. Both of us prefer a lobster roll that bites back, even just a little bit. And it's no secret that I love me some mayonnaise. That said, I highly recommend a trip to Luke's - a must for any seafood-loving New Yorker, for sure.

Anyone have a vote for where we should head for our next lobster roll?

Luke's Lobster
93 East 7th Street (Between 1st and A)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A late dinner.

After Louisa's most excellent reading at the Lady Jane Salon, she and I and our friend Arie decided to walk a block west and get some dinner at Lupa. Now, normally I don't get to eat Italian food with Louisa, since it's Nick's least favorite cuisine. But she was sans Nick on this trip, so I decided the time was right for an introduction to my beloved Roman pastas.

We started with the verdure misto, a platter of seasonal vegetables, each prepared in a unique way. The night we went, the platter featured assorted olives, broccoli rabe with ricotta, marinated squash, beets with pistachio sauce, treviso and brussels sprouts with pecorino. I enjoyed the sprouts, but thought they had a bit too much cheese going on - it was hard to find the spicy bite of the sprouts under all of that. The beets, though, were the star of the show. The pistachio sauce was insanely delicious, and the light nuttiness played beautifully with the sweetness of the beets.

Next, we each ordered a plate of pasta. I went for the bucatini all'amatriciana, a long, hollow pasta with tomatoes, red onion and guanciale (cured pork jowl, similar to bacon). I make this a lot at home, since it can be thrown together with ingredients I always keep on hand (I use fresh tomatoes in the summer, canned in the winter.) - and, I have to say, I like my version better. This one was good and bacony, but the red onion was a bit too sweet to act as a foil to the tomatoes, and there wasn't enough red pepper going on. The pasta was perfect, though.

Louisa's dish, on the other hand, was stellar. She ordered the bavette cacio e pepe, a classic Roman dish. Bavette is a thin, flat pasta - a bit like fettucine, but made without egg. The pasta is tossed with copious amounts of cheese (cacio) and pepper (pepe) until it's both creamy and mildly spicy. This version was perfect - silky, smooth, creamy, but with a bit of a bite.

We drank a bottle of Italian white and stumbled out into the chilly spring evening. Fortified by pasta and beets, though, it didn't seem so cold anymore.

170 Thompson Street (Between Houston & Bleecker)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Membership has its privileges.

Remember my glorious New York Sunday a few weeks ago? Well, I completely forgot to post about the wonder that is the Cooper-Hewitt, the National Design Museum (It's part of the Smithsonian.). I first fell in love with the Cooper-Hewitt a couple of years ago during one of my annual staycations, and have been going back regularly ever since. It's an easy walk from my apartment, and is a wonderful place to spend a few hours. (It will be even more wonderful once its renovations are complete and I can lounge in the back garden of the Carnegie Mansion on gorgeous days.)

On my most recent visit, I gave in to fate and signed up for a membership. This means I get to go whenever I want, get discounts on the awesomeness that is their museum shop, and attend members' functions with like-minded, design-obsessed folks. I couldn't be happier.

Moral of the story: the next time you're on Museum Mile, save an hour or two for the Cooper-Hewitt, wouldja? You won't be disappointed.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The cake!

Finally! I found a decent picture of the (unsliced) cake from Caroline's shower. This creation was a labor of love on the part of Ellie's mom, Mrs. Maletta. Isn't it gorgeous? And, I hasten to add, it was delicious. Three layers of plain yellow cake (Caroline's favorite) with one layer of dulce de lece and one of nutella in between.

I die.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Queenie's Treasury

The treasury is back, and I'm ready to rock! In penance for my absence last weekend, I've got a couple of extra tidbits for you here. Let's get to it!

First up, a house I would move into this very instant, though I can't imagine its inhabitants would ever willingly leave. Design*Sponge posted this amazing tour of Fitzhugh and Lindsay's Brooklyn brownstone earlier this week, and I've been wiping the drool off my chin ever since.

Next, one of my new blog obsessions, Mrs. Lilien. If you love colorful, preppy-modern fashion, this is the blog for you. It's like a daily shot of happiness, the blog equivalent of eating a tiny little clementine each morning. While I chafe slightly at the "Mrs." moniker being used to apply to all the (imaginary) stylish women conjured by the author (Kelley Lilien, an incredible designer and stylist), I can't help but love the jewelry. And the shoes. And the sunglasses.

I know I just threw a party, but I'm already hankering for another one, and this post from Such Pretty Things isn't helping matters one bit. This is pretty much the most adorable slumber party ever, complete with natural soda, candy, a great cake and popcorn for the movie. Want, want, want.

Before I go, here's one last adorable apartment. Imagine having your mom, professional interior designer, fix up your first apartment. Just imagine! I'd love to have that now, for goodness' sake. Regardless, we can all crib ideas from Lauren McGrath's adorable home. I love that lucite bench with the vanity, and the yellow lamp makes me plotz.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Wakey wakey.

Sometimes you need a little incentive to get up and moving on a weekend morning. Of course, there are those Saturdays where you spring out of bed, at peace with the world and excited for everything that the weekend has in store - but, let's be honest, those are hardly the only kind of weekend morning around.

Last Sunday, after a whirlwind of preparation for and execution of Caroline's shower, I had a different kind of morning. I was a little achy, a bit tired and generally not inclined to leap out of bed to greet the day.

The solution? Some sweet, milky coffee and a fresh croissant. I recently added a box of FreshDirect's parbaked croissants to one of my orders, and I've been enjoying an occasional breakfast treat ever since. While they don't measure up to the best croissants out there, it's delightful to be able to pop one in my own oven for a few minutes while the coffee brews and just enjoy it right there on my couch. It's the laziest thing I've done in a while, and I kinda love it.

And since the croissants are made the old-fashioned way (with lots and lots of butter, and not with icky preservatives), I don't feel too bad about it, either.

Monday, March 8, 2010

A celebration.

Growing up, Caroline and I spent pretty much every afternoon together. We rode our bikes all over our little town, clambering down hidden paths and through marshland to get to the tiny coves and tidal pools ringing the shoreline. We took my dog, Buster (cutest dog ever) for long walks and introduced him to shellfish and seaweed at the beach. We ate whole packages of Chips Ahoy at her house, and baked endless batches of Tollhouse cookies at mine. We made gingerbread houses every Christmas, and Caroline was one of the few people who kept in touch with me when I went off to boarding school in 9th grade.

So when our friend Ellie suggested that the two of us throw Caroline a shower (and volunteered her parents' lovely home as a venue), how could I disagree? We started off by talking about some of Caroline's favorite things: birds (she's had at least one bird as a pet at all times since we were little), the color blue and candy. Lots and lots of candy.

My incredibly talented friend Miya created some gorgeous invitations for us, and we were off and running. Next came menu planning (ladies who lunch with a Southern twist, plus a ton of candy), decorations (Can you say tissue paper arts and crafts?) and games.

I headed out to Connecticut on Friday morning to spend the day cooking and crafting with Ellie and her incredibly gracious mom (known to one and all as Mrs. Maletta). We chopped and baked and boiled and mixed for hours; the menu we'd chosen was simple, but preparing food for 25 when you're used to cooking for - at most - six is a completely different proposition.

By Friday evening we settled in to make decorations for the dining area. Inspired by the profusion of pom-poms and poofs I'd seen on event planning and wedding blogs, I'd decided to make a bunch of them in different sizes and hang them over our tables. We also hung a wall of streamers near the front door, the better to make a little spot for photo ops.

And, of course, we had candy. Jelly beans, Reese's Pieces Easter eggs (Twice the peanut buttery goodness!) and M&Ms. A little chocolate, a little gummy, a little peanut butter: most of the major candy food groups covered.

We started with two hors d'ouevres: my trusty homemade gravlax, and my Aunt Cathi's ridiculously delicious endive leaves with goat cheese, walnuts, oranges, chives and a bit of balsamic. They are even easier than the gravlax, and will definitely be a recurring feature in my repetoire. In fact, they were so popular with the assembled ladies that I only managed to snap a photo of the last one on offer.

Next, we moved into the dining room and onto lunch. We feasted on a green salad with cucumbers and artichoke hearts, green beans with butter and herbs, curried chicken salad, beet salad with oranges and Thomas Keller's buttermilk biscuits. I chose the menu items based on a couple of criteria: things Caroline loves, things that are easy to serve in a buffet and things that will be hearty enough for a vegetarian or someone who gave up meat for Lent.

A little present opening (during which the bride-to-be was presented by yours truly with Peeps) and a Schramsberg toast later, and things were winding down. We sent everyone home with orange sugar cookies shaped like birds and sent the bride and groom home with a trunkful of goodies. And Mrs. Maletta? She liked the pom-poms so much that we left those with her.

Endive with Walnuts, Goat Cheese and Oranges
Adapted from Cooking Light

2 heads Belgian endive
1/4 cup goat cheese
1 blood or Cara Cara orange, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch segments
1/3 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
2 tbs. chives, finely chopped
A few tablespoons very good balsamic vinegar (It needs to be thick and sweet!)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Separate the leaves from the endive head and place them on a platter. Crumble a bit of goat cheese into each leaf, then add one orange piece to each. Add the walnuts, diving them evenly amongst the leaves. Top with the chives.

Sprinkle each endive with a few drops of the vinegar, and top with a bit of salt and pepper.

Serve, and watch your guests swoon.

Serves 6 as an hors d'ouevre.

Curried Chicken Salad
Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa

3 whole (6 split) chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups good mayonnaise
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup Major Grey's chutney
3 tablespoons curry powder
2 large stalks celery, cut into a quarter-inch dice
2 thinly sliced scallions, white and green parts
1/4 cup raisins
1 cup whole roasted, salted cashews

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan and rub the skin with olive oil. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is just cooked. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Remove the meat from the bones, discard the skin, and dice the chicken into large bite-size pieces.

In the meantime, make the dressing. Combine the mayonnaise, wine, chutney, curry powder, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Process until smooth. (You can also do this with an immersion blender - or a normal blender as well!)

Combine the chicken with enough dressing to moisten well. Add the celery, scallions, and raisins, and mix well. Refrigerate for a few hours (or overnight) to allow the flavors to blend. Add the cashews and serve at room temperature.

Serves 6-8.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Don't look at me like that!

Hello, dear readers! I know, I know - it's been a few days since last we met. Things have been crazy on my end, thanks in large part to the owner of the adorable dog staring so plaintively at you above (He just wants some of your food - is it so hard to share?). I have a crazy weekend approaching, as well - I (along with two partners in crime) am throwing a bridal shower for an old friend on Saturday, so I may well be MIA till Sunday.

I'll try to post a bit before then, though. I really, really will!
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