Monday, March 22, 2010

I can see Passover coming around the corner. It's proximity has a presence in my life that's like an important guest coming to stay for a few days and whose requirements are substantial. I've been preparing by meal planning and menu constructing. Yes, I have moved from Denial to Procrastination. You, invisible silent reader, are adding the dilly to my dally.

*Matzah Ball Soup

* Green Salad with Balasmic Vinaigrette and Poached Egg

*Roast Chicken
Meat Lasagne with roasted veggies
sauteed mushroom

* Pears baked with macaroon crumble
Flourless Brownies

Seder 2
* Spicy rubbed chicken wings with boiled potato fans and Root Beer BBQ Sauce

* Roast with Charoset Chutney
Chicken cutlets baked in horseradish, chopped walnuts, matzah meal crust.
Roasted cauliflower
Brussell sprouts tossed in garlic and matzah meal

* Chocolate Chip Macaron Sandwiches (chocolate spread filling)
Passover Blondies

Friday, March 19, 2010

Passover Prologue

I am in Passover denial, I am so deep in denial that I've only just begun to admit that I am in denial, which doesn't leave me much time to loiter and dawdle around before needing to spring into action. The irony of Passover which is so striking to me, especially in the days of preparation, is that it is a holiday that celebrates freedom. I'm not going to bother to whine and whinge or let loose a feminist diatribe, been there done that, and have a few nicknames to prove it. I think I've arrived at a realization that acceptance of certain duties and responsibilities is best done gracefully- with a good measure of individuality. Then it can actually be fun- kind of like an extreme cooking challlenge a la Top Chef: No flour, No warming starches such as pasta, rice, beans. Eight Days. Go!
My Mom and Dad, and one of my brothers will be staying with us for the first few days of the holiday and that will be great. Hub's Mom and Dad will also be Seder-ing with us, so it will be a full house- which is nice for a few days. I really need to consider what I'll be making and coming up with menu's. I'm going to allow some experimentation when it comes to dessert, I developed a few Passover dessert recipes for that March article and I can build upon them. Yesterday I had a peach that was part of a quartet that is a few days away from being perfect- I'll use the other three for a pie or crumble type of thing topped with the honey matzah farfel almond granola and baked until it's alternately soft and crunchy.
Chicken cutlets baked in a savory walnut coating? A rich and saucy meat lasagne, the matzah layers absorbing the juices from the sauces and meat , becoming soft and toothesome and almost pasta-like in texture. A casserole of crepes filled with a meditteranean type of salsa (black olives, sun dried tomato, fresh tomatoes, red onion and roasted garlic) and a thin crust of melted cheddar on top.
When life gives you Matzah, make a drool-worthy Matzah pizza.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Book Group

Amid a week which was contained in a month that is part of a life that is pretty kid-centric, there was Book Group. Book Group is like a spa-day packed into 3-4 hrs. minus the facials, mani's and pedi's but heavy on the girl talk and emoting (femoting?). There is always plenty of wine, delicious food, and chocolate in one way or another. It was my turn to host, and for several days I ruminated over what to make. I wanted the menu to be decadent and delicious but at the same time light. Spring is starting to poke through all the snow, and that alone is cause for some celebration.

The evening began with my German dip which is a lot like Hungarian liptauer cheese, but not as pink (it's the paprika), and a white bean and sundried tomato dip/spread that has no cream or butter but is thick and creamy and tasty. I served the dips alongside wholegrain crackers, pita chips, soft pretzels, boiled fingerling potatoes and other fresh veggies. We sat in the den sipping wine and nibbling and waited for everyone to arrive. This month's book selection was "Olive Kitteridge" by Elizabeth Strout. What a great book! It's about this difficult woman-Olive Kitteridge- who lives her life in Crosby, Maine and the book is written from her perspective as well as the perspective of many number of people who live in the town and and how she, and they fit into each other's lives. Incredible writing, I really loved reading the author's words.

After everyone had arrived we moved into the sunroom/breakfast nook where I had set the table with my girliest pink tablecloth with matching napkins, festooned with eiffel towers and elegant dames. They all settled in, inhaled deeply and looked forward to Girl Time. I made 4 savory tarts; a balsamic shallot with sundried tomatoes and feta, a sweet onion and cheddar, a goat cheese mushroom, and a tomato gruyere. I made the dough for two of them, and it was well worth the moderate effort. For the other two I used puff pastry which was fine- but definitely not as good. I served Caesar salad alongside the tarts- which was a great complement, light, crunchy, green, savory.

A great thing about Book Group is that it is made up of wonderful women who are not part of my everyday life. So when we get together it's a special treat. I especially love it because the energy of our gatherings is so different from my everyday life of kids, and kiddie cooking classes, commitments, and homework and dinner and bath and bed. That's not to say that my life is devoid of fun social inetrludes. Of course there are the quick coffee breaks, and comfy dinners for two, also hot tub soaks- but also friendly miscommunications and the Differences between men and women. Book Group is like a support group on vacation. We have three or four hours uninterrupted hours to be with girl friends and drink wine, eat, and talk freely.

For dessert I made a chocolate layer cake. I used a cup of strong coffee and four 4oz. bars of semi sweet chocolate as well as cream and butter. It was good, and I got all the endorsement I needed when Shan took a break from Lent and enjoyed a small wedge of it. Remembering those soft and chewy peanut butter cookies from the Reading Street Terminal Market, I made a batch of PB cookies- not as soft and chewy, but still good. I sent Les Femmes de la Livre home with plates of cake and cookies. Today's root canal went down easier thanks to last night's group healing.

Ridiculously Chocolatey Chocolate Cake

Preheat oven 325F. Grease two round cake pans. In a large bowl combine 1 1/2c. sugar, 1 1/2c. all-purpose flour, 3/4 tsp. baking soda. In a saucepan simmer 1 c. strong coffee- remove from heat and whisk in 1 1/2 c. chopped semi sweet chocolate- stir until melted and smooth. Then in a second bowl whisk together 1/2 c. melted butter, 1/2 c. sour cream, 2 eggs, and 2 tsp. vanilla extract. Add the melted chocolate to the wet mixture, mix well. Add a third of choc-sour cream mixture to the dry bowl, mix well. In two more additions add remaining choc-sour cream mixture, mix well after each addition. Divide batter between two cake pans. Bake for about 35 mins or until it passes the toothpick test. Let cool.

For the Frosting: In a saucepan bring 2/3 c. heavy cream, 5 tbsp. butter, 3 tbsp. sugar, and 3 tbsp. water to a boil, stirring often. Remove from heat, add 2 c. chopped semi-sweet chocolate mix until melted and smooth. Add 1 tsp. vanilla. Refrigerate until cool and thick enough to frost cake with.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


Uggghhh. Why is the light so bright? And how can these kids have so much to say, so enthusiastically, so early in the morning? Put in a late night in NYC, but with little hesitation I say it was totally worth this morning's slo-mo feebleness.
We were a few minutes late for our 9 pm reservation at Otto Pizzeria and Enoteca. Noemi, our sometime foodie accomplice, was waiting for us at the door with a huge smile on her face, excited about the eating adventure we were about to take.
Otto is loud and crowded, but friendly and hospitable as well. Despite being late, there was none of that NYC 'tude, we did have to wait a little- but were seated before our drinks arrived from the bar (blood orange bellini for me).
Otto is Mario Batali's take on pizza, and pizza is just about my favorite thing to eat in this wide and varied world. My tastebuds were greedily anticipating a full frontal assault. We started with an assortment of Verdure, the trio of olives were meaty and nicely brined Other delicious culprits were the broccoli with pecorino. However, the brussel sprouts in a vinegary glaze stole the verdure show.
Next up, pizza and pasta. We chose 2 pizzas: Funghi and Taleggio, Pane Frattau. OK, here we go- thin crispy crust, the size of a dinner plate, totally delectable. The Funghi Taleggio was a white pizza that featured perfectly sauteed mushrooms and tangy Taleggio cheese. It was nice and savory, and would have been fantastic were it not served alongside the Pane Fratta. I guess I'm a pizza traditionalist because I loved the tomato sauce base, it was full of herbs and spices and just wonderful, the layer of melted pecorino was sharp and almost cheddar-like in flavor. But the sunnyside up egg shining happily in the center made it really special. Let's pause for a moment here and zoom in on the scene. Me alternately sipping my bellini and savoring pizza heaven. Noemi with her Negroni on the rocks, in a gorgeous silky blouse-might I add, enjoying her pizza. Hub, and his red wine, tentatively approaching his slice of Pane Fratta due to a bad experience he endured involving a fried egg pizza in Dahab, Egypt many years ago. Thankfully, he now has a delicious experience to replace the gut churning memory.
OK back to the meal. The Penne Puttanesca was flavorful- but not overly anchovied, a good thing for me. Blah, blah, blah...Dessert. The menu featured a large and exotic selection of gelato. I foisted my sweet tooth on the table and ordered the salted peanut, burnt caramel, and taking a chance- the olive oil. Salted peanut- good. Burnt caramel- good. Olive oil-phenomenal! In that dollop of gelato there contained several wondeful flavors; sweet, fruity, olive oil, creamy, unexpectedly amazing! Hub declared it was the best part of the meal, and he's not known for his sweet tooth.

The morning after may be as rough as the oatmeal I made the kiddles for brekkie. The sun is much more blinding than that sunny side up egg that graced the center of last night's pizza. And the pickings from my pantry are much less interesting than Mario's options. Yet, last night's lofty meal was well worth this morning's tumble.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Ode To Macaroni & Cheese

Macaroni & Cheese
Macaroni & Cheese
All kids love macaroni & cheese.

Ooey, gooey Macaroni & Cheese
yummy crummy Macaroni & Cheese.
Made with cheddar-what can be better?
Topped off with crushed chips-
had 'em licking their lips.

Macaroni & Cheese
Macaroni & Cheese
Just remember to always say please.

A perfect thing to make
when teacher isn't in the mood to bake.
Easy as can be
Macaroni & Cheese is a glorious recipe.

Macaroni & Cheese
Macaroni & Cheese
The best I ever had was at the "Bee's Knee's" (in Vermont)

The theme of the arts'n craft project
required just a little bit of logic
macaroni jewellery
minimized the unruly

Macaroni & Cheese
Macaroni & Cheese
The mom's at pick-up asked for the recipes.

Macaroni & Cheese

Preheat oven to 400F. Boil up a box of elbow macaroni. While pasta is cooking make cheese sauce. Pour 2 c. 2% milk in a large saucepan, heat until it begins to boil. Add 1 8oz. package of reduced fat cream cheese cut into cubes, stir until melted and thick. Add 3-4 c. shredded cheddar by the handfulls, stirring after each addition until smooth and thick and cheesey. Drain pasta and return to large pot, pour cheese sauce over and mix until noodles are covered in cheese sauce. Spoon macaroni into individual oven-proof ramekins or spread over a casserole dish. Crush 2 c. of potato chips (or 1 c. crushed potato chips and 1 c. french fried onions) and sprinkle over individual ramekins or casserole dish. Place in oven for 10 minutes or until potato chips turn golden