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
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
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
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
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
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
Earlier 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
Although food, like fashion, has trends that change with recurring frequency, some styles seem to be timeless. Take the little black dress–it has been and will continue to be a mainstay in most women’s closets. On the culinary front I think it’s safe to say that guacamole or some interpretation of it will never lose its popularity.
For instance, for years when entertaining I’ve returned again and again to a recipe for an avocado pâté. This appetizer has all the components of traditional guacamole (plus a few extras). However, in this variation avocados are whizzed with cream cheese along with shallots, garlic, spices, and lime juice in a food processor until the ingredients combine in a Continue reading
“Cucumber Slices with Hearts of Palm, Feta, and Fresh Herbs”—those are the extra easy, extra quick appetizers I’ve served twice in the last two weeks when entertaining. In Paris I included them in a spread of starters to begin a summer supper. Back home this week, when we invited friends to stop by for wine, I offered them again along with a platter of cheeses.
On both occasions, a plate of cucumber slices mounded with a mixture of pureed hearts of palm, feta, and fresh herbs, disappeared within minutes and had to be refurbished. I watched as guests helped themselves to not one or two, but several servings. These little bites offered a cooling respite to the heat of summer both in Paris and in New England.
I can’t take credit for inventing this recipe. That honor goes to my book club friend and talented cook, Beth Souza, who served them to rave reviews at one of our meetings. She shared the recipe with me, explaining that she used a food processor to blend hearts of palm with feta (preferably purchased in brine), along with herbs including mint, cilantro, and chives. A touch of olive oil and water smooth out the mixture. Your gluten free guests as well as your vegetarian pals will love these, she added!
I’m already planning to serve these appetizers again when more out-of-town company arrive this weekend!
A couple of summers ago during a visit to the Basque country in the southwest of France, I tasted a rich, double-crusted butter tart that encased a delicious cherry filling. One bite of this confection and I was in heaven. Although I have thought about that tart every time cherries have come into season, only recently did I try to reproduce it. After several attempts I arrived at a close facsimile, and think it would make a glorious finale to a July 4th celebration!
Although I sampled an individual tart, the following recipe is prepared in a 9-inch tart pan so that it easily serves eight. The secret to its success lies in preparing an extra short, extra buttery crust (like a shortbread one). I even replaced some of the flour in the dough with ground almonds for added flavor. The bottom crust is broken into pieces and simply patted into the pan. Then a filling of fresh cherries and cherry preserves accented with Amaretto, is added. The top crust is rolled out between sheets of parchment and patted atop the filling. Continue reading