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.


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.

annie's ruined us

After years of eating Annie's boxed Macaroni and Cheese, my kids won't touch the homemade stuff.

So last week I set out to find a mac and cheese recipe that would rival Annie's—that my kids would eat. My first attempt was a stovetop cheese sauce with this easy (no roux) method. The sauce was tasty but too clumpy, a dead giveaway. Let's face it, much of feeding kids is tricking their senses into familiarity. 

Next I reached out to an Alton Brown recipe which called for evaporated milk (that stuff in a can), egg yolks and cornstarch which I thought made an excellent cheese sauce that held up well to pasta but the boys found it "too cheesy." I know. And it's ok to wonder at times like these: why did I have children?

Finally I went all out. I ordered some sodium citrate from Amazon which according to the molecular gastronomy world can make cheese sauce out of water and it's true. It's magic! You take the tiniest bit of water and add a pinch of the powder, bring to a boil and then start adding shredded cheese and you get cheese sauce. We played it like a science experiment (again) which got Mack's attention just long enough to take this iphone shot.


The result was superb., A thick gooey cheese sauce that actually tastes like cheese. I was most proud of this one but before I got the chance to use it for mac and cheese, the Superbowl came along so I used it for some kick ass nachos. Check these out:

Unfortunately, the cheese ended up kind of hard, dry and almost invisible as it cooled. I'm going to try this magic sauce with the macaroni because it's just so cool and easy, why wouldn't I? But you can probably predict the dinner table results. 

Anyway, Annie's is now banned from my house. Too bad for my kids they will never enjoy mac and cheese for dinner again. 

turning squash into spaghetti

At the tail end of our market bonanza, I went looking for eggs and came back with this, and vague memories of eating some delicious spaghetti squash years back. Michael was less than excited about my new find but I stashed it in the bottom of the stroller so he promptly forgot it ever existed until I unveiled last night's dinner, which, as Mack now says, "blew his head off." And yes Mack loved it too.

Spaghetti squash has flesh that when cooked and removed with a fork resembles spaghetti (actually more like sauerkraut) but which can be prepared to taste pretty close to a cheesy heap of pasta. Here's the easy secret: microwave it whole. Poke some knife slits in and microwave for 5-10 minutes until soft. When it cools, slice is open length wise (should be easy to cut) then scoop out the seeds. Trade the spoon for a fork and begin de-stranding.

What next? I took the easy route again: sauteed some garlic in olive oil in frying pan, then dumped in the squash. Cook for 5-10 minutes then add some Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. I added a spoonful of ricotta at the very end to make it a little more creamy.

pizza bagels

We ate these all the time as kids—made with mini Lenders of course. I didn't have minis or Lenders but I did have some whole wheat everything bagels which I scooped out and gave to the boys with a bowl of tomato sauce and cheese. The boys liked making them, probably more than they liked eating them though Nate finished most of his. We all agreed next time--less cheese. When I asked what other ingredients we might add, Mack suggested a fried egg and Nate said bacon. Duh.

pistachio pasta

 Yesterday Nate told me he made up something new to eat.
“You did?!” I gasped as if he had learned to fly.  
“I put a banana on top of a pistachio.”
 “YUM! You put those two things together?: I tried to be cool.
 “No!” he said “I put the banana ON TOP of the pistachio.
 “Oh that’s cool. Like you mix cheese and pasta.”
“Or banana and pasta,” he suggested.
“Hmmm. Or tomatoes and bread!”
“Or banana and pasta.”
“What about pistachio and pasta?”
“Hmm… he thought about it. “Or banana and pasta. “

Eight hours later when it was time for dinner, I announced with great excitement “Pistachio and pasta for dinner”! Okay, he said. Nate shelled and crushed the nuts so he felt like he was helping. We made a joint decision to add some parmesan cheese. In the end it was almost a pistachio pesto—crushed nuts, cheese and olive oil…very sophisticated and yet childlike.

Of course, Nate refused to eat it and started picking out the bits of nut. I realized then that I should have left them whole. That when Nate said banana ON TOP of pistachio he meant NOT MIXED TOGETHER.

This is a good lesson for me. But wait isn’t it me who is supposed to be giving the lessons…clearly we are still on the wrong path.  

car talk

Whenever we drive to my parents house in Maryland, Michael and I have the same conversation (usually while eating the sandwiches I packed for the ride.): Am I capable of making a winning sandwich. The answer is almost always no. I don't get it. I don't have the knowledge, passion, instinct for making a perfect sandwich -- aka one of Michaels favorite things to eat.

This year as we discussed the sandwich, I noted some lessons I have learned:

1. never put mustard and cheese on same sandwich, use mayo instead

2. hard thick bread is best but Rye is also good

3. Salami stands alone-no other meats or cheeses. add mustard.

4. hot peppers and other toppings are welcome if they don't sog the bread

The thing is I like softer soggy mustardy sandwiches. I like when the bread mushes into the filling. I don't like stacks of salami. We are clearly on opposite sides of this issue--Michael would say he's on the right side but maybe we just have to agree to disagree -- at least until the next five hour car trip.

cheese sauce

My favorite veggie dish growing up was cauliflower with cheese sauce. I tried to make my own version tonight, steamed cauliflower with nouveau-trashy cheese sauce.

nouveau-trashy cheese sauce

  • 1 can “healthy request” Campbell’s cheddar cheese soup
  • ½ cup milk
  • ¼ cup chicken broth
  • 2 slices American cheese torn into pieces
  • ½ teaspoon yellow mustard
  • salt/pepper

    simmer and whisk until smooth and hot (about 10 min.)