Curried Cashews Make a Great Last-Minute Gift from the Kitchen

If, like me, you are running late, but still hoping to make edible gifts for this holiday season, consider these delicious curried cashews with currants. They take only about 30 minutes to assemble, roast, and cool!

I included these nuts at a Holiday Open House cooking class last week, and was thrilled when almost everyone in the packed room said they were planning to prepare them!

These nuts are definitely addictive. Just try eating a mere handful! Seasoned with a tempting blend of both sweet and salty notes, cashews, along with currants, are coated with a maple syrup mixture scented with curry, cardamom, and ginger. The nuts are Continue reading

Savory Gorgonzola Cheesecake is the Star of the Party

When my husband and I hosted an annual supper last week for his freshman class at Amherst College, I served a familiar menu, one I’ve cooked for more than a decade. A vegetarian dish of rigatoni tossed in a spicy tomato sauce again anchored the meal partnered by a mixed greens salad and warm crusty bread. As usual, for dessert I set out a bowl of fresh berries and fruit along with several chocolate treats, including a chocolate caramel cake and chocolate almond shortbreads. When it came to appetizers, though, I decided to try a new opener—a savory Gorgonzola cheesecake garnished with apple wedges, toasted croutons, grapes, and some fig jam.

Right before the young people arrived, I had a moment of panic. What if this new cheesecake offered as an opener rather than a dessert was a flop. What if the students were not adventurous eaters and the dish was untouched. Fortunately, I didn’t have to worry long! From the moment the group gathered around our coffee table in front of a Continue reading

Three Thanksgiving Side Dishes that Don’t Need Oven Space

 

I’ve started my Thanksgiving count-down list. This week I’m concentrating on the table, polishing silver and ironing napkins. I’ve also ordered a local turkey and am finalizing the menu. I won’t have extra oven space because my turkey, cornbread dressing, and potato gratin all call for plenty of time, so I’ve been looking for sides that don’t need to be baked or roasted. While culling my past blog posts, I discovered a beautiful dish– a colorful mélange of fall vegetables that includes diced butternut squash, brown mushrooms, and Brussels sprouts all cooked on the stove top and sprinkled with grated Parmigiano and toasted pecans. I marked “yes” to that one!

In addition I’ve decided to add a cold weather salad of tender green beans or haricots Continue reading

A Delicious Fall Appetizer Perfect for Cool Nights

Earlier this fall in a cooking class, I included the recipe for some polenta squares with Gruyère, walnuts, and fresh rosemary. In the class they were served as a side dish to racks of lamb, but later I discovered that they worked beautifully as appetizers. A few days after that class, my husband and I ended up hosting an impromptu Sunday supper for family and friends. There were ten of us and I needed a quick opener. Why not turn that delicious side dish into a starter, I reasoned! The polenta squares turned out to be the stars of the evening, and were simple to assemble well in advance.

I have loved polenta since I first tasted it prepared by Italian chefs back in the 80s. Those chefs used water and coarse meal. However, when I started making polenta, I found that replacing the water with chicken stock added another layer of flavor. Instead of coarsely Continue reading

A Decadently Rich Dessert Memory from Paris

This summer while in Paris I dined in a new restaurant, Le St Joseph, located outside the city in the suburb of La Garenne-Colombes. Chosen by my good friend, and impeccable Paris food critic, John Talbott, the bistro turned out, as they say in the Michelin guide, “to be worth the detour,” or in our case, a 30-minute cab ride.

From the beautiful cream of pea soup garnished with tiny diced feta, golden croutons, and grilled spices to a salad of roasted eggplant, fresh orange segments, and yellow tomatoes, topped with transparent goat cheese chips and toasted pepitas, everything was delicious. I remember best the dessert; a coffee panna cotta covered with a dark chocolate ganache, and a sprinkle of crushed peanuts and cookie crumbs.

Long after I returned stateside, visions of this delectable confection swirled in my mind. Panna cotta (Italian for cooked cream) is a gloriously smooth custard made without eggs, bound with gelatin, and served chilled. The recipe here calls for both whole milk and heavy Continue reading

Comfort Food for Trying Times

After 9/11, I remember being at a loss for what to offer the readers of my syndicated column, “That’s Entertaining,” that I was writing back then. Who, I thought, would feel like entertaining during such a horrific time? Then it came to me: food and the thought of food restores. In particular, such comfort dishes as roast beef with mashed potatoes and gravy or golden chicken pot pies can lift spirits as well as satisfy our hunger.

After all that has happened this autumn–the hurricanes that have struck our country and the Caribbean, the earthquakes in Mexico, the mass shooting in Las Vegas, and now the fires in California, I have found myself once again thinking of comfort food.

This time I’ve chosen taleggio-stuffed meatballs and spaghetti, with a spicy tomato sauce. These meatballs distinguish themselves from more traditional ones in several ways. They are prepared with ground dark meat turkey, and shaped into bite-sized spheres –around 1.5 inches in diameter. I stuff them with small cubes of creamy taleggio cheese, and then Continue reading

Roasted Grapes, Olives, and Walnuts for a Simple Fall Dish

In the file cabinet wedged into the closet of my study, I keep folders filled with recipes clipped from magazines and papers or printed from the internet. These recipes are not categorized by type of food (which would be the most practical organization), but rather haphazardly by season with headings like: “fall/winter” or “spring/summer.” There are hundreds in countless folders. Recently, I spotted a recipe from the late 90s for roasted grapes and olives. It called for wine grapes and Picholine olives to be cooked in a skillet in a wood-fired oven. Because I didn’t have access to either wine grapes or a wood-fired oven then, I left the instructions filed away as a memory. But fast-forward almost 20 years, and I saw the recipe in a new light!

Red and green seedless grapes plus pitted Kalamatas stand in beautifully for the original ingredients. Walnut halves add crunchy texture, and herbes de Provence and bay leaves an herbal accent. Nothing could be simpler to prepare. I tossed everything with olive oil Continue reading

What to Do With All That Late Season Zucchini

Zucchini with sauteed onion and tomato topping ready to go in the oven.

√ Make them into soups (corn and zucchini chowder; zucchini Vichyssoise)
√ Use them in vegetable gratins (ratatouille; corn and zucchini pudding)
√ Use them in salad (tomato, chickpea and zucchini)
√ Add them to pasta (linguine, zucchini, garlic, capers, pine nuts)
√ Turn them into a savory tart (zucchini, bacon, goat cheese tart)
√ Turn them into a relish (zucchini and sweet red pepper relish)

Those are just a few ways I use zucchini, that ubiquitous late summer crop that arrives in farmers’ markets and groceries this time of year. For the past few weeks, though, I’ve prepared this versatile vegetable in a new mode inspired by my June stay in Paris. In France’s capital I noticed that chefs were preparing the squash by halving the zucchini lengthwise, then adding imaginative toppings and roasting them. At one Left Bank restaurant (Racines des Prés in the 7th), zucchini halves were mounded with black olives, crumbled feta, and chopped hardboiled eggs and then offered as a first course.

Inspired by these Parisian samplings, I created the following recipe. For my version the Continue reading

Porchetta-Style Pork Tenderloins for Labor Day Weekend

Many years ago during a trip to Italy, I remember stopping at a roadside stand somewhere near Florence to buy “porchetta.” From my first bite of this intensely flavored grilled pork, I was smitten. The porchetta (pronounced por-ket-ah) was prepared with a whole boned pig that was stuffed with garlic and herbs, then rolled, and cooked slowly on a spit. Vendors served the fork-tender pork as an exquisite sandwich layered between bread slices.

Over time, I discovered many recipes for porchetta, but all required long, slow grilling, and I never seemed to have enough free time to try them. Then, this summer I had a eureka moment! Why not use the traditional seasonings of fennel seeds, rosemary, sage, and garlic as a rub for pork tenderloins. For my adaptation I slathered the tenderloins with an herb and garlic olive oil mixture, before marinating them for several hours. Then I browned Continue reading

Salad for Supper from Cape Cod

Grilled Peach and Fig Salad with Arugula, Burrat, and ProsciuttoEarlier this month, I posted a photo on Facebook of a striking grilled peach and fig salad that I had sampled during a visit to Cape Cod. The dish, which was served as an opener at Del Mar, a restaurant in Chatham known for its creative cooking, attracted more comments than usual from my friends. Many asked for the recipe, so over the past few days I’ve spent time trying to reproduce the fresh and subtle flavors of the original. After several attempts, I think the following version is close to the original.

At the restaurant, sliced peaches and figs, as well as slim honeydew melon wedges were seared over a wood fire, but at home I used a stovetop grill pan. (A good, heavy skillet would also work.) I combined these colorful fruits with arugula and pieces of cream filled burrata, all dressed in a balsamic honey vinaigrette. Thin prosciutto slices shaped into rolls, and toasted pecans made fine finishing touches. Continue reading