theater party

 Theatrical Bruschetta

Theatrical Bruschetta

I volunteered to make party food for the Irvington Theater’s season-kick-off benefit party this weekend. It’s a lovely organization that I’m excited to be a part of—and excited to be bringing some exciting stuff to this often-sleepy town.

I wanted to make a range of finger foods that had some theatrical color and variety and came up with a spread of different bruschetta. There’s an artichoke and parmesan; beet and goat cheese; red pepper and goat cheese and one with plum chutney and prosciutto.

The decision what to make was based, as usual, on what was on hand—and started with those weird green plums we got from the CSA. They were small and sour and no one was eating them so I boiled them with with some sugar, wine and water until they were pulpy and mushy. That’s basically what chutney is. I paired them with their opposite— salty crispy proscuitto fried in a pan and added a thin layer of the goat cheese mixture (goat cheese mixed with cream cheese for extra spreadability) below it all to soften the blow.

The beets were also CSA remnants, which I roasted in tin foil then peeled and mixed with some cider vinegar and salt. The red peppers were even easier—a bottle of roasted red pepper from Costco that I diced and mixed with red wine vinegar, garlic, sugar, pepper flakes, and teaspoon salt. Those also went over the goat cheese spread, although a whipped feta would work too.

 Left: Costco bottle pureed vs. right: Cook’s Illustrated recipe

Left: Costco bottle pureed vs. right: Cook’s Illustrated recipe

Finally the artichokes—I used a Cook’s Illustrated recipe that pureed canned artichoke hearts with basil, garlic, olive oil, lemon and parmesan but after realizing that the artichokes I bought in bulk were already swimming in an olive-oil mixture—I tried just pureeing the chokes with a bit of the liquid from the bottle and that worked too (a little more acidic than the original but definitely delicious—and since this version was extra I combined it with some sour cream for a dip I was asked to bring to a Friday night dinner party.

IMG_1125.JPG

I rounded it out with rosemary roasted nuts that I always make for Thanksgiving, crudite with a green goddess dip (made with all the herbs that were beginning their goodbyes in our garden) and a puff pastry cracker. Plus a couple basic cheeses and olives, all of which cost me a total of less than $100 to make. If it weren’t such a lovely non-profit, I would have quoted a much higher price.

hello again

So yeah it’s been a long time. Sorry about that. It’s not that I haven’t been cooking—quite the contrary. I have just been cooking (and running around) too much to sit down and write down.

Last week we were in Williamsburg for 4 days where I did zero cooking. Why would I when I can get Korean fried chicken and homemade kimchi delivered in 45 minutes; hot pepperoni pizza only three blocks away at Artichoke Pizza; juicy burgers from the Italian place downstairs and really good (if not authentic) Mexican food that even the kids will eat (with portions big enough for lunch the next day.) Ah Brooklyn.

When we got back, I declared a vacation-inspired no cooking zone and then quickly reneged on that when all four of us were home for three meals and innumerable snacks a day. Every night we said: Let’s go out. But where….? Then I wound up cooking.

So here’s a little synopsis of my recent kitchen outputs. I’ve actually taught myself a few new techniques and found or invented a couple keepers. (If anyone is reading this and wants recipes or more info, please ask.)

Wednesday (dinner party)
Wedge salad—I just quartered an iceberg head and made a dressing of blue cheese, buttermilk and sour cream then threw in a few croutons from our giant Costco bag which never seems to go stale...hmmm. 

IMG_9143.JPG

Sous vide steaks I’m obsessed with my sous vide machine! It's as easy as sticking the machine in a container of water to create a steady low temp cooking environment and then slipping in vacuum sealed meats. After an hour, you remove the steaks from the plastic and sear or grill them for 2 minutes. (See below.) There’s no better way to make tender meat and Serious Eats is the best source of recipes.

 Sous Vide Steak

Sous Vide Steak

IMG_9164.JPG

Spanish salted potatoes - these were from Milk Street magazine, created by the former editor of Cooks Illustrated, which is my new favorite cooking magazine. After being boiled in way salty water, the potatoes became encrusted with salt but they were creamy and not salty inside. Served them with a fancy take on Russian dressing.


Friday
Sugar-free ribs: We were headed to Long Island where my father in law is struggling with diabetes so I made up a ribs recipe without sugar:

I rubbed pork spare ribs with salt, pepper, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder. Then baked at 325 on a rack/baking sheet for 2 hours; brushed with sauce (salsa, chicory root sugar substitute, the spice rub mix and butter—all boiled down together) and cooked for another 1-1.5 hours.

Served with this homemade sriracha made by Asian Farmer Dumplings that we picked up at Irvington’s fabulous farmers market.

Saturday

IMG_9077.JPG

Oven-steamed salmon: This is a great way to get soft decadent salmon with no effort: put a pan of water in the oven as you cook the fish. Served with plain yogurt mixed with lemon juice and pepper.

Sous-vide salmon: Brine for 30 minutes, add salt, pepper and herbs and a little oil then seal in a bag. Cook at 125.5 for 40 minutes and then sear skin in hot pan.

 

Steamed broccoli topped with parm cheese, lemon and olive oil
Toast spread with the excellent salmon cream cheese from the Bagel Emporium in Tarrytown.

Sunday (dinner party)

image2.jpeg

Reverse seared pork loin with couscous greens and roasted spring onion. Served with tomato and mozzarella crostini. The reverse-sear method also belongs to Serious Eats and is similar to sous vide: cook low and slow then sear or broil (in this case) for a crust. It's stupid easy—season meat and cook. Then increase heat and cook more.

 

Of course the kids didn't eat any of this so there was plenty of takeout pizza this week too (but none as good as Brooklyn's.)

pre-turkey lineup

 Rosemary roasted nuts

Rosemary roasted nuts

For the last few years I have been making this dry brined turkey which always turns out perfect. And this year I added a vegetarian stuffing from Food52 which is a keeper. But since those standards were in place, I spent a little more time on these pre-gamers, aka special hors d'ouerves which I have to say probably got the most respect: rosemary roasted nuts, shots of butternut squash bisque, a NYT recipes for broiled feta with honey, and (below) olive rosemary crackers from Purplefoodie.com, which are incredibly easy to make and look super impressive.

OLIVE ROSEMARY CRACKERS

1 cup all-purpose flour, more as needed
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp parmigiano reggiano cheese, finely grated
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
2 tbsp black olives, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup cream or half-and-half, more as needed
1 Tablespoon milk, if required
Pink Himalayan salt or your favorite topping – coarsely ground pepper, sesame seeds or poppy seeds.

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. Put flour, salt, cheese, rosemary, olives, garlic and olive oil in bowl of a food processor. Pulse until flour and olive oil create little crumbs. In case you don’t have a food processor, simply whisk all the dry ingredients together first. Then add the oil and using a fork or a pastry blender mix till they look like coarse crumbs.
  3. Add about 1/4 cup cream or half-and-half and let machine run for a bit. If the dough is still a little dry after pouring in the cream, add a little milk. Alternatively (without the food processor), pour the cream into the dough mixture and combine it into the dough with your hands..
  4. Roll out dough until 1/4-inch thick or even thinner, adding flour as needed. Lay on pan and score lightly with a sharp knife or pizza cutter to break crackers into squares or rectangles later on. Sprinkle with the salt or topping of your choice.
  5. Bake until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Cool on a rack; serve warm or at room temperature.
 Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

adobo

This is one of those recipes that I've tried before and failed before but for some reason, this time it clicked. And it's super easy, that's the weird part. Why I couldn't make it happen before is a mystery. 

The basis of the Filipino dish is a mixture of coconut milk and soy sauce that cooks down (along with some chicken thighs) to become a salty/sweet/sticky coating for the chicken. Really good. I didn't even have coconut milk so used some evaporated milk instead. You can use bone-in or boneless chicken (or even pork) but stick with dark meat only. 


Easy Chicken Adobo

2-3 pounds chicken thighs
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup coconut milk
2 bay leaves
Steamed rice, for serving

Directions
Combine the chicken thighs, vinegar, soy sauce, garlic and bay leaves in a large pot. Cover and marinate the chicken in the refrigerator for 1 to 3 hours.
Bring the chicken to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat, cover and let simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the lid and simmer until the sauce is reduced and thickened and the chicken is tender, about 20 more minutes. Serve with steamed rice.

Tucci Love

We met a lovely woman named Janelle in Fire Island this summer who invited us to lunch at her house. As we sat on the deck eating grilled chicken and drinking wine, she told me about her favorite whole fish recipe. "You'll remember this," she said. "It's from Stanley Tucci." Last week I ordered two whole branzinos from Fresh Direct (they were on sale and seemed summery) and then remembered the recipe. I googled Stanley Tucci Fish and sure enough found it. I've grilled a whole fish before but never tried the roasting thing. It's super easy and yummy, and if you're okay with occasional bones, a beautiful presentation and meal. 

Stanley Tucci's Whole Roasted Branzino

1 (1 ½ pound) whole branzino, cleaned, gutted, and scales removed
Fine sea salt
6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 lemons, thinly sliced, plus additional for serving
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for serving
20 cherry tomatoes
¾ cup dry white wine

Preheat oven to 500˚F. Season both sides and the cavity of fish with salt. Arrange the 3 cloves garlic, lemon slices, rosemary, thyme, and parsley inside cavity.

In a large roasting pan, add olive oil. Transfer fish to pan. Toss in cherry tomatoes and remaining garlic in pan. Add ½ cup wine. Place pan in oven and cook, turning once and adding remaining wine, until skin becomes crispy, about 10 minutes. (To test for doneness, insert a metal skewer into the middle of fish for 5 seconds. Remove the skewer and if warm, then fish is cooked).

Transfer fish to serving plate. Arrange roasted tomatoes and lemon slices alongside fish, and drizzle with pan juices. Serve immediately.

fancy pants

I cook almost every night. I cook so often that my husband and kids are beginning to resent it. Every night, mom? Every night we have to put our tushy fully on the chair and use a fork and wipe with a napkin and eat a vegetable? Really?!

But didn't we do this every night while we were growing up? Why does it seem like such a chore with these guys? 

Anyway, recently even I was bored with cooking the same sorta stuff every night. But restaurants and babysitters are expensive and often not even worth it so we decided to create a restaurant experience at home. Last year, my friend Beverly gave me Ottolenghi's NOPI cookbook, which is all recipes that are more complicated than his usual ones. As he says in the intro

"The recipes here were created from a different frame of mind; that is, in an environment where a team of professional cooks labors for a few hours in preparation for a short pinnacle. It is the complete opposite of the way we cook and eat at home."

It's not the cookbook you turn to on a Wednesday night at 6 but rather a project that consumes the whole weekend, in a good way. 

When Bev gave me the book she said that I had to cook at least one thing from the book in return. So we invited her, Adrian and Remi to our house and with two days advance notice I started planning, prepping and cooking a Nopi meal. 

After weeks of spaghetti with butter, this was a hell of a lot of work. I couldn't believe how much time and energy went into just prepping the watercress puree that was to be hidden in the risotto. But not having done this kind of cooking for some time, I also loved every minute of it. 20 hours of work later we had an exquisite meal, the kind of meal you can't easily forget all while our kids watched a movie on the laptop in another room and music was playing in our darkening apartment. Not only was it a fun and delicious night, it's a good way for me to broaden my repertoire. I am taking reservations for Chez Shana.

Now my bragging rights (which really I owe to Ottolenghi's genius):

 

I used a side dish as a starter: Whole roasted celery root- that ugly knobby brown sphere that you usually avoid at the farmer's market but tastes really good with lots of cream and butter. This time I roasted the whole thing-skin and all-with a little olive oil and salt for about 3 hours. Then I peeled some of the skin off and cut it up and served it with lemon and a yogurt dip. It's not for everyone and it's not attractive but this group ate it up. 

 

Then we had a pepper-crusted beef tenderloin (which marinated in hand crushed black pepper and fresh herbs for 24 hours) and was topped by a very thinly sliced (mandolin in use) fennel salad with pecorino and truffle. I served it alongside the pearl barley risotto (mixed with a smooth green watercress puree) and topped with a thinly shaved (again) asparagus and pecorino salad.