You don’t have to be ill to make chicken soup, but if by chance you are, this week’s Chicken-Vegetable Wild Rice Soup would certainly encourage healing or at least comfort until you were well once more. I’m grateful to be healthy currently (THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!! Hope you are, too.) and have not been in dire need of chicken soup for medicinal purposes. I was, however, looking for a veggie-heavy broth featuring whole grains or beans and lean poultry or fish to fortify us for playing pinochle. A pinochle lunch, so to speak. So what’s a pinochle lunch? It’s a simple, healthful meal we prepare to eat together before we play cards most of the afternoon. I mean, we need stamina, energy, and awareness — not stupor from food that sits like a box of rocks in our bellies. The four of us, and we meet once or twice per month, must have our wits about us as we are pinochle newbies and hence have trouble remembering things like a 10 is higher than a king. How could that be?? Who made these rules?? There is also usually a little wine at this meal, you see. Great for digestion and singing a little ditty or two but questionable in its help for our memories, which are sorely needed for pinochle.Continue reading
When good friends Patti and Jim came for dinner and to watch the movie “Chocolat” a couple of weeks ago, it was easy to choose a quintessential French do-ahead cold weather meal like Bœuf Bourguignon (aka Beef Burgundy or BB). The movie, a forever fave starring Juliette Binoche, Alfred Molina, Judy Dench, and Johnny Depp, is set in France and why not follow a great location theme for our menu? I had been wanting to make the fun Salmon Rillettes out of Dorie Greenspan’s AROUND MY FRENCH TABLE and so that was tidily in the bag (with Kir to drink), as was dessert. Patti, a much-in-demand local caterer and baker extraordinaire, decided to make Julia Child’s Queen of Sheba Cake ( Reine de Saba–a famous chocolate and almond confection) and who wouldn’t take her up on that… My stumbling block was a first course salad. I wanted green, green, green because “BB” is a hefty-heavy meal and there was chocolate cake, too, wasn’t there? I liked the idea of totally simple and fairly quick but stunning– a show stopper sitting on the table when they arrived sort of deal. (I don’t like to be too busy when friends come and I want them to see what’s ahead food wise.) Of course I didn’t want just a green salad. Tooling through the produce aisle trying to figure it out, what looked the very best to me were some skinny green beans also known as haricots verts, which while lovely on their own tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper, lemon zest, and crushed red pepper needed a boost or larger venue for this special meal. I brought them home, cooked them until just past “crisp” and settled on lightly slathering them all in a two-vinegar, very very Dijony vinaigrette. Which was great. Fine. Totally.
Except, we couldn’t just eat green beans. Well, we could… but. So I dolled the whole shebang up with crisp mixed greens, bright white crunchy fennel, juicy cherry tomatoes, tender roasted red peppers, and creamy goat’s cheese. In other words, not so much that you couldn’t see what was there but just enough to show it all off. Thinking hard about balance — comes right after color– there was nothing to do but finish it off with yellow-yellow lemon zest for acid and capers for salinity. Right after I chose the best big round platter in the cupboard, you see. (24″ in diameter and made in Provence) And that’s how I got “Lemony Green Bean and Goat Cheese Salad.”Continue reading
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I’m not a big cake baker and certainly not much of a cake eater, but lately I find myself working on cakes. There are probably a few reasons but one is the number of impressive cakes posted on Dorie Greenspan’s engaging and active facebook group, BAKE AND TELL. Some of these folks bake their kids’ favorite chocolate birthday cake (more my speed) and others create pastry visions (think marzipan) unseen at many professional bakeries. Yikes. But it’s all fun and there’s lots of learning and togetherness– the internet at its best. Another thing going through my mind has been finding a cake my good friend Tony can eat and still stay on his healthy regime, which means no white flour, no dairy, and not much sugar. (I’m nearly there on that one; a pan of cake with his name on it is in the freezer for the next time we play Pinochle. We’ll see what he thinks.) This last Sunday, I woke early to drink coffee and exercise (I know–me?!) and saw a few cartons of sorta sad-lookin’ berries (Poor babies.) in the fridge when I got the milk. There was also a container of ricotta — couldn’t even remember what I’d needed that for, but it passed the sniff test. What could I make with berries and ricotta? Well, folks, that’s what Google’s for, isn’t it? Up came Ina Garten’s “Blueberry Ricotta Breakfast Cake.” Luckily I have the book it’s in (Go-To Dinners) and read it through twice thinking about how Alyce would make and bake this cake. And here’s what happened; I changed it as I went along…Continue reading
Just for fun, I often ask people, “What’s your favorite meal?” It’s a conversation starter or a way to get to know someone better. We’re often identified by or known for the things we like best. As in, “I’m a chocoholic” or “I don’t drink coffee to wake up. I wake up to drink coffee.” I am no longer surprised to discover many people answer, “Burgers” or “Burgers and fries” because it’s happened so many times. (Pizza comes in a fast and close second.) You have to wonder why and I have. I think it’s because we are 1. a going-out-to-eat country and burgers are — in case you hadn’t noticed — everywhere in the fast food world. They’re even on top-shelf restaurant menus because you never know when someone goes out to a swank spot if they’ll still crave a big ol’ cheeseburger with ketchup and onions. In other words, we can eat these warm, tender sandwiches (hardly any chewing involved) out of hand–like small children– easily and quickly, maybe even cheaply. and 2. Burgers are synonymous with months of outdoor cooking, whether just for dinner or at parties, picnics, and celebrations. I like a good home-grilled burger a time or two in the summer but rarely order one out the rest of the year. Always watching my red meat intake and the calories associated with a restaurant burger are typically above my lunch limit. But give me a veggie burger of any sort or a fish burger anywhere at all and I’m a happy, happy puppy. Lent seems to give me the excuse to figure out a new fish or even seafood burger every year and this time, with crab calling my name from the fridge after making crab pizza last week, there was little question about what I was making.Continue reading