Category: Tapenade

Summer Wine Party:  Crostini with Homemade Ricotta, Grilled Tomatoes, Caponata, Tapenade, and Prosciutto

Summer Wine Party: Crostini with Homemade Ricotta, Grilled Tomatoes, Caponata, Tapenade, and Prosciutto

“Man (and woman) cannot live by bread alone,” was always the truth. Even the very best of bread, which is some of the most wondrous and healthy food in the world, must have its topping, its gilding, its raison d’être–its reason to exist. Bread bakers, feel free to chime in disagreeing here.

Add wine, of course. How about other necessities like song and laughter? That would mean a party and the most memorable parts of the current season (the touch of hot summer sun lingering on glistening skin, a crash of sudden wild storms cracking open in the distance, the heady sniff of freshly cut grass, hot orange day lilies along the path, sleazy dog-eared paperbacks sporting just such language) all call out for such a gathering to occur at night and out of doors.

Continue reading “Summer Wine Party: Crostini with Homemade Ricotta, Grilled Tomatoes, Caponata, Tapenade, and Prosciutto”

No-Hassle Easter

No-Hassle Easter

Cupcakes–Make them and freeze them tonight.  Defrost and frost Saturday or Order plain from the bakery and decorate at home.

no hassle Easter menu  serves 8

Deviled Eggs*
Make-ahead Green Bean Salad with Shallot Cream Dressing**
Pan-Grilled Double Lamb Rib Chops with Tapenade**
Oven-Roasted Rosemary Whole Carrots**
Czech Easter Bread, optional *
Cupcakes with Jelly Bean Frosting (Buy or Make)*

My choices for wine:  Bethel Heights Pinot Gris
           Fisher Cabernet Sauvignon — your choice— or ask your winemonger for a great Cab for Easter

**Recipes below
*Click link for recipe/choose your own

Czech Easter Bread (Link to recipe above.)
This menu promises full tummies and smiles all around for the Bunny-Cooks who
 bake up/buy some cupcakes in the next day or two, 
 make short work of the  leftover boiled eggs turned starter deviled eggs,
 throw some fresh vegetables into the microwave briefly to create a spring salad extraordinaire,
 and then grill a few tiny, but fat double lamb chops while quick-roasting a pan full of long, slim carrots covered with pepper and rosemary.  Phew. 
Just a few tulips–the perfect centerpiece.

 Or why do it all yourself?  You might get your cousin to do the cupcakes, your sister to do the salad, and so on.  Make the day easy on yourself since someone had to clean the house and put out the egg-shaped candles, afterall. But if you’re doing it all yourself, here’s how:

No cupcakes for these guys.

 GAME PLAN:  


1. Today or Tomorrow:   Do grocery shopping.  Make/buy carrot cake cupcakes. Freeze plain cupcakes. 
2.  Friday:  Make tapenade and store well-covered.  Keep others out of it until Sunday.  Boil eggs.
3. Saturday:  Used boiled Easter eggs and make deviled eggs.  Store loosely covered in refrigerator. Do not sprinkle with paprika until ready to serve.  Here are three recipes or make your own. 
4. Saturday or Sunday morning:  Make the salad and dressing. (recipes below); refrigerate them separately until Sunday.
5.  Sunday: 

  • In the morning:  unthaw and frost cupcakes if not already done.  Store out of reach of the dogs and kids.
  • ”    ”      ”       :  set and decorate table
  • 1 1/2 hours before dinner:  Bring lamb chops to room temperature.  Uncork/decant red wine.
  • Set out deviled eggs and uncork white wine for starters.
  • Peel/prepare carrots and place on a half-sheet pan.  Prepare chops for cooking.
  • Pan-grill, then roast chops and oven-roast carrots.  Place chops and carrots on a large platter with tapenade and pass at the table.
  • Just before eating:  Spoon salad into large serving bowl, drizzle with dressing, and toss well.  Pour red wine. Place bread on table if serving.
  • Serve cupcakes and smile. 

  recipes:

 Make-Ahead Green Bean Salad with Cream Shallot Dressing
    serves 8

This recipe calls for you to blanch the beans and fresh peas briefly in boiling water, drain, and cool quickly in an ice bath.  You can also cook them, separately, in the microwave for 2-3 minutes with just a couple of tablespoons of water in a microwave-safe covered bowl.

  • 6 cups fresh haricots verts or green beans, trimmed, blanched, cooled in ice bath, and drained
  • 3 cups fresh green peas (or frozen), blanched, cooled in ice bath, and drained
  • 2 cups sliced celery
  • 1/2 c each diced red  bell pepper, yellow bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup thinly-sliced carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
  • 4 cups mixed salad greens
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper



Dressing:   2T minced shallots, 2T lemon juice, 1 cup half and half, 2T finely minced flat-leaf parsley,  1/4 tsp each sea salt/ fresh ground pepper, 1 tsp grated lemon zest,  2 drops Tabasco.  Place all ingredients in a jar with a tightly-fitted lid and shake vigorously when making and just before dressing salad.

  1.  One day ahead:  Mix all salad ingredients—except lemon juice– together in a large bowl.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate. 
  2. When ready to serve, add lemon juice and toss well.  Drizzle with dressing and toss again.  Taste and re-season.  (You’ll have leftover dressing.  Store in refrigerator 2-3 days.)

Note: This salad is loosely based on one from the book SALAD FOR DINNER by Patricia Wells, who is one of my favorite cookbook authors.

Pan-grilled Double Lamb Rib Chops with Tapenade and Oven-Roasted Rosemary Carrots

  serves 8

  A. Up to two days ahead, make tapenade and store tightly covered in the refrigerator:

Tapenade- Chopped olives, garlic, parsley and anchovies.  Great with sliced baguette or crackers, too.
  • 2 cups pitted kalamata olives
  • 3 anchovies
  • 1/2 cup chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil                                              
  • 1T red wine vinegar
  • 1T fresh lemon juice
  • Pinch fresh ground pepper
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper
  • salt, if needed, to taste   

Process all ingredients in a food processor fitted with the metal blade.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Store, well-covered, in refrigerator until needed.  Serve in a bowl on the table for guests to help themselves or spoon a bit on each chop if you like. 

B.  For chops and carrots ( recipe, see below) — about 45 minutes before dinner time.

  •     8 double lamb rib chops at room temperature
  •      olive oil
  •      kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper

 

  • 2 dozen long, thin carrots, peeled and trimmed
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher Salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 4T finely minced fresh rosemary

 
 Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. 

 Place carrots on a large baking sheet/s, drizzle with oil and dust generously with salt, pepper, and   rosemary.  Place pan of carrots in the oven on a rack in the bottom third of the oven and roast until tender and somewhat crispy.

Heat grill pan or large, heavy skillet/s for the chops over medium-high heat.  Place another rack, for the chops, in the upper third.

  1. Meantime, drizzle chops with olive oil on both sides and salt and pepper thoroughly on both sides.  Brown chops very well on each side and remove to a roasting pan or oven-safe casserole.  When all the chops are browned, place pan/casserole in the oven and roast until done to your liking. 
  2.  Use instant-read thermometer to determine if chops are done.  I like mine fairly rare (quite pink) and took them out to rest when the temperature was between 120 and 125 degrees Fahrenheit.  If you’d like them just pink, try 140 degrees.  Quite done is about 160.
  3. Remove pan/casserole from oven and remove chops to serving platter.  Let sit 2-3 minutes. 
  4. Remove carrots from the oven and add them to the platter. Serve hot with tapenade  

Note:  If you’d like to use nice big and thick bone-in pork chops instead of lamb chops, they’ll work just as well using the same process.  You’ll want them cooked to 145 degrees Fahrenheit (medium rare) and allowed to rest a few minutes.  Great with tapenade.

Happy Easter and Sing a New Song,
Alyce

Afternoon Open House

Afternoon Open House

Hot Spiced Cider with or without Rum (Pum Pum Pum)

An afternoon open house is the perfect party …  No main course.  Everyone’s gone by dinner time…  And folks show up because  other commitments are for evening.  Few dishes to wash.  Food that’s easy to prepare ahead. Your goal:  everything out and ready for guests to help themselves.  Your reward:  To be able to enter your own party!

Ginger cookies, Chocolate Snowballs, Date bars–Made ahead and frozen

A couple of perfect festive drinks (Sparkler and Hot Cider), as well as a pot of strong coffee and some thick cream (for those who must dunk cookies or are heading to a serious evening party), make set-up much easier than a cocktail  or dinner party.  People come dressed comfortably.  Yes.

A festive few dishes and a candle or two.  Not much more needed.

Your best cookies,  a couple of great nibbles…Always vegetables…A bit of cheese-

Lots of vegetables–some fresh, some grilled. Herb Garlic Cheese Dip with Pine Nuts

Something they’ll remember later…like my taste-like-jelly-filled-donut shortbread sandwiches:

Raspberry Shortbread Sandwiches

 

Crowded is ok. They’ll come and go.

All set up ahead leaves time for visiting and listening to the great Christmas playlist you put together for the party.  Everything from Revels to Tony Bennett to Harry Connick, Jr. to Cambridge Singers.

Something  filling for those who skipped lunch.  Here, a great tapenade.  Don’t skimp on the olives; buy the best you can find.  Grill your sliced baguette on the stove if it’s too cold outside.

Spicy Tapenade with Crostini

Spanish Cava is a lovely, inexpensive sparkler.  Whatever’s leftover can be used for New Year’s or for
mimosas for brunch.  There’s usually a discount if you buy a case.  Think ahead.

Cava and Cranberries.  Back-up bottles  all chilled in the frig.

 

Leave flutes set up with cranberries and folks will pour the sparkler over them.

 

David Lebovitz famous Pretzel and Nut Mix.  No Chex Mix needed.

Something crunchy is a must.  Nuts, pretzels, chips…for the salty people.

My take on  Eli Zabar’s shortbread recipe..Bittersweet chocolate and sea salt..  I like Valrhona chocolate for dipping, but could only find Callebaut locally this year.  Makes excellent hot chocolate, too, by the way if you’ve any leftover from dipping.  Valrhona is French chocolate; Callebaut is made in many places, but is basically Belgian-French in origin.

Menu:

*Hot Cider with or without Rum (I leave the rum plainly marked in a pitcher on counter.)
*Pot of strong coffee and Hot Water for tea.  The best cream you can find.  Lemon, sugar.
*Cava (or your favorite bubbly)–Add a couple of  fresh cranberries to the $1. glasses
*Cookies–4 of your favorites.  Homemade or beg from friends-even buy at great bakery.
*Garlicky Rosemary Cheese Dip with Pine Nuts and  Lots of Veggies (Recipe below)
*Spicy Tapenade and Crostini (Grilled Bread) – Recipe Below
*Cranberry Almond Bars with Tangerine You must have chocolate. Make it yourself.
*Alyce’s Go Nuts!   Salty, hot, and sweet pecans.  Great protein.
*David Lebovitz Pretzel and Nut Mix–gotta have something that crunches.

                                  Other Recipes

 Herb Garlic Cheese Dip with Pine Nuts 
12 oz goat’s cheese (chevre), softened
32 oz (4 c) ricotta cheese
Zest of one lemon
Hot sauce- a few drops
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced or grated
2T fresh dill, minced  (Can choose just one herb if you like.)
2T fresh basil chiffonade
2T fresh chives, minced
1T fresh thyme, chopped (plus a few sprigs for garnish)
1T fresh Rosemary, finely minced
1/2 t coarsely ground black pepper (or more to taste)
Pinch of kosher salt
Garnishes:
1/2 cup of pine nuts
1/4 cup sweet red pepper, diced
Rosemary sprigs 


Place all ingredients except garnishes in the food processor and pulse until well-blended.  Taste and readjust seasoning.  If making the day before, the garlic will settle down a lot overnight in the frig. Store in a tightly-covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.  Spoon into serving bowl and garnish with pine nuts, peppers, and sprigs of rosemary  Serve with fresh vegetables or crackers.  If too thick, add a few drops of milk and stir well before serving.

Spicy Tapenade  (Basic recipe courtesy Tyler Florence)

2 cups pitted mixed olives
3 anchovy fillets
2 small garlic cloves
Generous pinch of crushed red pepper
Big handful of flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Tiny pinch  ea kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
Process all ingredients in food processor using steel blade.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Store tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to a week.  Serve with crostini (Many people make this in the oven, but I am fond of grilling the bread on a large, stovetop grill if the weather is inclement.  Grilled crostini is luscious with salt and pepper, but none is needed here when serving with tapenade.)

Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood

This week, we’re buying a few small gifts, making a vat of barbequed brisket,  going to a choir party, taking some friends out to dinner and to a Rose Ensemble concert, baking a manger scene (yes!) and stollen, watching every Christmas movie we can, and picking up my sister at the airport.    Emily and I are getting our hair done together tomorrow, so we’ll be all cleaned up for the whole deal.  Work is slowing down, though I still have a couple of pieces to rehearse and direct.  Probably need to get that Rutter out and practice!  Dave’s week will be intense and then crawl, alternately….as co-workers world-wide try to get ready for Dell’s week-long break, but still make time for Christmas parties.

We’ll be at church on Christmas Eve, of course…it’s my favorite service.  If there’s time, we’ll stop by a couple of open houses, but we’ll come home to cookies and eggnog in the wee early hours of Christmas morning and fall into bed to listen for the sleigh bells.

Christmas Day is a different story:

For years, I never even made Christmas dinner and I’m an avid cook.  By the time Christmas Eve services were done, I was done, too.  No one’s happier to see Christmas day arrive than a church musician.  A great meat tray and the perfect basket of croissants sounded good to me.  Maybe a big bowl of shrimp and sauce and fresh veggies.  But one year Dave began cooking on Christmas Day and that continues.  I do a mean pan of cinnamon rolls and stollen and and an egg casserole for brunch after presents and he’s in the kitchen the rest of the day often cooking up something out of Tyler Florence’s books. It’s a hoot for him to get me out of that kitchen and to just putter on his own.  No timetable.  I stay in my jammies and watch movies.
 
 
   
Last year’s Christmas Day rolled flank steak with roasted tomatoes.
Christmas Day.  Toys, movies, the pups.
Gabby and Tuck have been good all year, but they’re still worried there’ll be  nothing in their stockings.

Maybe there are others with the same fears….

                                                                courtesy Share Our Strength

 

Want to feed some kids before the end of 2011?

 

No Kid Hungry this Holiday Season

With your help this holiday season, we can connect hungry children with nutritious meals all year long! Every $1 you donate to Share Our Strength helps connect a child with up to 10 meals. Through December 31, our No Kid Hungry Partners are matching the first $500,000 donated during the holiday season.   Click here to donate.

John O’Donohue is fond of talking about “entering your own life,” but I love the idea of entering your own Christmas.  It’s time.

Merry Days to you!   Do the fun things.
Alyce

Pasta Primavera with New Peas, Ramps, Leeks, Asparagus, et al or I Guess I’m Home Because the Cream Soups are Unpacked

Pasta Primavera with New Peas, Ramps, Leeks, Asparagus, et al or I Guess I’m Home Because the Cream Soups are Unpacked

If you have a yard surrounded by old lilacs, spring is a good time for a dinner party.
And, if it’s spring, it’s a good time for Pasta Primavera (Spring Pasta).
And, if it’s time for Pasta Primavera, it’s a good time for pink wine.  French rosé.  Or Oregon rosé.

You needn’t be picky about the wine, though it must be dry and young (2010).  It shouldn’t cost much–not more than $15 and often much less.  Just make sure you have enough.  A variety of choices would be a kind gesture to both you and your guests.

And if you were really loving that day, you might make an appetizer platter of tapenade and local goat’s cheese blended with fresh basil and grated lemon rind.  Some proscuitto and tiny tomatoes make the plate.
The rosé will be quite stunning with that goat’s cheese.  Promise.

I’m sold lately on lemon ice cream.  In fact, it’s a perfect solution to dessert.

Picture taken later after the ice cream had been in the freezer.

I used a recipe from epicurious. com (Gourmet, 1993), though I didn’t use as much sugar.  I thought 2/3 c was plenty and it was.  The brightness and/or sourness of the lemon can easily be overwhelmed by too much sugar. (Click on the purple recipe.)  Note that the mixture must be made ahead, cooked briefly, chilled very well, and have more half and half added right before freezing.

About the Primavera... you could look up twenty recipes for Primavera and they’d all be different, except that they should all have spring vegetables of some sort (leeks, ramps, scallions, peas, asparagus, baby greens, fennel, etc.).  If you go to the farmer’s markets now (when you think there’ll be nothing), you should find some spring vegetables.  If not, pick up your favorites at the grocery and use those.

A gorgeous fennel bulb..use the fronds for garnish.  There’s a core here much like in cabbage.  Cut it out and slice the fennel into half moons.

Fresh pea shoots–leaves, shoots, and tendrils from pea plants.  Yummy greens.

 The basic directions (serves 4) that would include your choice of vegetables  would look like this (and I don’t think the Primavera police are out tonight if you want to change the process):

Ramps–quite like scallions

 

1.  Bring a big pot of salted, peppered, and herbed pasta water to a boil.  (Fresh herbs only–parsley, if it’s all you have. Parsley’s a perfect herb and quite nutritious.) Lower the heat to low until you need the water in a few minutes.  That is,  unless you’ve timed it perfectly. Ha.
2.  Meantime, in a large, deep skillet, saute in a tablespoon of olive oil a half cup of sliced something(s) from the onion family:  scallions, leeks, ramps (kind of like green onions…sort of between them and lilies of the valley), a mixture…even a bit of garlic, though just a bit–say 1 clove, minced.  I would include fennel here (another half cup if you have it) as it requires a similar cooking time. Do not brown these vegetables, just cook until softened.  A shake of salt and pepper wouldn’t come wrong here.  Remove them from the pan and reserve.
3.  Add a bit more oil, heat it to medium-high, and cook a cup of freshly sliced mushrooms for three or four minutes until golden.  They needn’t be –though they could be!–expensive; button mushrooms will do.  Don’t salt them til later.  Do, however, add a tablespoon or so of fresh chopped herbs to them  and pepper it all lightly.  (I like marjoram, but rosemary or thyme is so good, too.)  Remove them from the pan and add to the onion  mixture.  Note:  Like meat, you must leave mushrooms unmoved for best browning.  Don’t stir until well-browned on one side.  Watch closely!
4.  A little more oil, medium heat, and cook 1/2 cup each new peas (or frozen if you can’t find new), chopped asparagus, chopped haricots verts (very slim green beans), even a bit of zucchini or yellow squash sliced thinly–despite the fact that they are summer vegetables.  We’ll let you slide by with it.  After they’ve cooked a couple of minutes, add 1T cup each of your favorite fresh herbs (basil, rosemary, etc.) and a generous pinch of crushed red pepper.   Throw in the onion-mushroom mixture, taste and adjust seasoning,  and set aside.  These vegetables should be just barely done…not crunchy like a salad, but not granny-done, either.

5.  Cook your pound of  pasta as directed (10 minutes for dried thin noodles like spaghetti or linguine…just a few minutes for fresh), drain it and add it the vegetables.  Mix well.  I do not believe in the ubiquitious addition of pasta water here.
6.  If desired, a 1/2 cup – 1 cup of very fresh ricotta can be included here, as well as 1/2c-1 c fresh baby greens (pea shoots, baby spinach, watercress…).  Serve warm or at room temperature.  (Good cold, too.)
7.  Pass Parmesan (you’ll need 1-2 cups grated), chopped parsley, cherry tomatoes (heirlooms are tasty), and white pepper at the table.

Alternatively, and much more quickly, you might try this method for ease of preparation:  Bring a 10-12 qt (2/3 full) pot of well-seasoned water to boil; add 1 lb pasta and cook 7-8 minutes.  Throw in peas, chopped asparagus, chopped green beans, etc. and continue cooking 2 more minutes.  Drain well and drizzle with olive oil. Add a handful of mixed fresh herbs (parsley, basil, etc.), 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes, and 1/4 c sliced green onions.  If you like ricotta, and have some, stir in 1/2-1 cup.  Season quite liberally with salt and pepper and a pinch of crushed red pepper.  Serve hot and  pass a generous bowl of Parmesan and a grinder for black pepper around the table.  

Nothing like fresh ricotta.

This is a fun meal to make if you like interactive dinners.  Have each guest bring their favorite vegetable, cleaned and chopped.  Someone who doesn’t cook can bring a couple of different rosés.  Let a strong person grate the cheese, a detail-oriented friend supervise the pasta, and definitely get a wino to make sure everyone tastes all the wines.  The ice cream can be put into the freezer (if it’s a small one) when you sit down to dinner.

If you’re a fan of Mark Bittman (NYT), as am I, here’s a link to his recent take (and ideas for variations) on Primavera, which he contends is American.  Who am I to argue with Mark Bittman?  Mr. Bittman also has ideas for pastas that, since they require fewer ingredients (and seldom meat), are pretty inexpensive.  Which is always good.

Well–all that said:

It’s spring.  The flowers are in bloom.  Sit outdoors if it’s not too cold.  Put spring flowers on the table and think loving thoughts. 

Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood

The house is still in process, but crystal is in the china cabinet, boxes are out of the living room, and I am walking, gardening, and practicing again.  

I must be home.  The cream soups are here.

House being prepared for paint.

 St. Paul Farmer’s Market Scallions
Made rhubarb pie yesterday…may blog it!  From…

Farmer’s market rhubarb.

Flowers at the market downtown–a fine way to spend Saturday morning.

Our side yard (south)

Front yard tree.

  Our house from the north.

Our driveway garden becoming a jungle.

I’m planting herbs, columbines, tomatoes, impatiens, pansies, alyssum…and looking for more light in the yard!

 Happy Spring as you sing a new song, my friends!
Alyce