I’m a big believer in tradition, especially when it comes to holidays. I also believe there’s nothing wrong with updating a classic. Brisket was the time-honored Passover meal when I grew up, and I watched my mom make it every year. A beautiful brisket nestled in a hearty sauce of crushed tomatoes dotted with the classic carrots, onions, and celery, and some red wine added in the last half hour to beef up the flavor of the sauce. I love that recipe (and it was something I could make with three toddlers at my feet), and that was our dinner on the first night of Passover.
Well, it took me a bit longer than expected to cross off the first item on my culinary to-do list, but the time has come, and vegetable stock is a great one to start with. Stocks are easier to make than you might think, and these staples will prove their value every time you reach for them in the freezer. I’ve gotten in the habit of making chicken stock once a month, and hope to do the same with vegetable stock.
Note: Apologies for my sudden (and longer than expected) lack of posts during January. A very important person in our family became ill late last month and I’ve been spending most of my time helping out. My schedule is still not back to normal, but I hope to be posting more frequently. Many thanks for your patience and understanding.
Now that the New Years’ celebrating is over and everyone is settling into always-seems-to-be-snowing 2014 in earnest, I’ve been tossing around some things I’d like to accomplish this year, an informal to-do list of sorts. I’ve given up on setting resolutions, so this list is really more of a rainy-day/too-much-snow-on-the-ground/just-wanna-stay-in/play-hookie-from-life list that I can pick away at during the year. Mini goals, in no special order. Fun ways to spend time in the kitchen, to be sure.
Hello, again, and Happy New Year. From my lack of posts, it appears that Thanksgiving really took its toll on me. I took some time off to handle non-blog business, and as all bloggers hope, I thought I’d be able to eke out time to write a post or two. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. But I’m back now, so thanks for sticking with me, and I hope you all enjoyed a lovely holiday season.
We rang in 2014 with a cozy dinner – and my husband and I cooked together. Not something we do often (he likes to stay out of the way, but is the first in line for tasting!). However, over the years he’s learned some skills, and was a very good sous chef last night. Here’s what he did to make this dinner come together: he prepped and made the mustard-shallot vinaigrette for the string beans, peeled the shrimp for the appetizer, minced the garlic and zested and juiced a lemon for the herb crust on the rack of lamb. But his biggest job of all? Stirring the mushroom risotto. Of course, ever the lawyer, he asked questions. “Do you really have to stand here just stirring?” “Can you stir too much? I’d hate to over-stir this.” And there were others I’ll leave out of this post. Despite the mild line of questioning, he stirred and added stock, and stirred some more, until the risotto was done. As you’ll see, it was cooked just right! (Thanks, honey.)
After days of chopping and peeling and cooking and freezing, Thanksgiving finally arrived, and all the preparations gave way to thawing and warming and roasting and serving. As our family was coming in during the day, the appetizers made their entrance, just the ticket to keep everyone sufficiently satiated until dinner. The onion dip with cracked pepper was heated to almost bubbly, we took the chill off the eggplant and white bean puree, and the creamy herb dip punched up raw veggies.
It’s been a busy – and productive – week since my Thanksgiving post last week. Since then, my nice, neat dining room with some stacked dishes and serving pieces has turned into Thanksgiving Supply Central. We’ve added wine, a large coffee maker, paper goods, and food from the first trip to the grocery store.
On the cooking side, I’ve finished making the squash soup (and froze 2 large batches) and I made one sweet potato torte (see recipe below) and froze it yesterday as a test. I’ve never frozen the torte before, but thought if I could make it early, it would free up precious oven time on Thursday. I’m going to thaw it tomorrow and if holds its consistency after it’s warmed up, my experiment will have worked, which means I’ll make the other one this weekend and freeze that one, too.
My kids say that if you know nothing else about me, you know I’m fanatical about Thanksgiving. From the time I could pull up a chair next to the stove where my mom was cooking, I’ve been totally enchanted with the pomp and circumstance of this one day. Food, family, football. Did I say food?
Growing up, the production of putting on Thanksgiving was a fascinating home movie for me. I watched mom’s every move – planning the menu at the kitchen table; making a grocery list; pulling out the good dishes, the good silver, the tablecloth. I went food shopping with her, and helped with whatever I could handle. She prepared the food the day before and the day of. It was a traditional menu (turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes with mini marshmallows, green bean casserole, etc.), and although she doesn’t consider herself a gourmet cook, her food was absolutely delicious and the holiday table looked beautiful.
Well, I guess it’s my turn to be a little under the weather. I thought my allergies were kicking into high gear again. I do, after all, live on what used to be swampland in southeastern Pennsylvania. What I thought were allergies turned into what I thought was a cold. Sneezing, watery eyes, you know. A day later, what I thought was a cold turned into sinusitis. Blecchhh.
It’s been fall for about a month and it’s starting to get a little cooler here in Philadelphia, but I’m not quite ready to make soups and stews just because the calendar says so. I still want to keep summer going (and… my neighbor was kind enough to give me some of the last of his basil), so I thought, how about some basil ice cream? The chef who taught the culinary techniques course I took last year treated the class to basil ice cream one night and it was absolutely – and unexpectedly – delicious.
Sometimes things have a way of working out perfectly. When it happens once, it’s great, but when it happens a second time, we cheer up and down and high-five and are generally grinning ear to ear. After much talk last year about going to New York, my friend Jennifer and I finally got there last August. That first girls’ food day began with a long walk to see Eataly (http://www.eataly.com/) and ended with dinner at The National (http://www.thenationalnyc.com/). We spent a few hours walking through the maze of Eataly’s marketplace and ate lunch there. We checked out Fishs Eddy (www.fishseddy.com), a vintage-y kitchen shop with everything from old-time open stock china and flatware to dishes, glassware, barware, kitchen utensils, and more. Kitschy and cute and great deals. Had we driven to New York, the trunk of the car would’ve been filled. We toted our packages at least 25 blocks to midtown and finished our day with a terrific dinner at hip, quasi-casual The National.
So how did we top last year’s trip? For starters, after we got the confirming email for tickets for the Oct. 3rd taping of The Chew, we went into planning mode. Jennifer got us a reservation at Barbuto; she also suggested a shopping tour of Chelsea Market, an idea I loved since I’ve never been there. And, as if we really needed an big dinner (with a lot of food) after the amazing lunch we were going to have, I pitched Bar Americain, one of our favorites. (OK, the tuna tartare was calling. Can you blame me?)