Posted by: Catherine | February 21, 2010

Time Off

I have to admit to myself that I must take a little break—Bruce is sick, and as my photographer (believe me, you don’t want to see any of my food photos!) he is unable to take any pictures for a while. Plus, I’m not doing too much cooking. So I’ll be back soon, hopefully early March—and I hope you will, too.

In the meantime, just a quick mention of a memorable meal—this is a must if you want to blow your budget in Los Angeles.  A friend took me to Wolfgang Puck’s Cut for my birthday. Now, I am not a steak eater, but this was not just any steak–it was aged and cooked to perfection. We made up our own sampler of 21-day and 35-day aged New York  sirloin and filet mignon plus some American Wagyu/Angus Kobe-style rib-eye. To say they was delicious beyond belief doesn’t do them justice….And so were the breads (amazing onion focaccia and pretzel rolls), first courses (a tuna tartare and a scallop-cum-truffle concoction) and dessert (chocolate souffle with gianduja ice cream, hot fudge and creme fraiche). The wine: a 2006 Frank Family Cabernet Sauvignon. I’ll be talking about this one forever!

Posted by: Catherine | February 8, 2010

Chick Dinners

It’s just been Emma and me–Bruce has been sick–and have our dinners ever changed! There are no slabs of meat or roasted birds paired with a vegetable, our standard fare for the three of us with the occasional side of potato/rice/bread  and/or salad. We’re having Chick Dinners, and we just love them! One night we had The Best Guacamole with some chips and a chile-cheese tamale. We have eggs a lot–scrambled with smoked salmon, Smoked Salmon Hash, omelets…and a variety of fritattas, including Spinach-Tomato-Feta Fritatta. We’ve had Buratta Sundaes and, more than once,  “cheese board”–we get different kinds of cheese (one of which is always Brie, Emma’s fave), a good salami and a baguette, along with hummus and olives (and, if I’m afraid of the Mommy Police I do make a small green salad). Not surprisingly, we often have pasta–just tossed with olive oil, Parmesan, garlic and a raw egg or one of Emma’s favorites, Spaghetti and (Turkey) Meatballs. Sometimes we have dessert for dinner (we both love that, but I do have to be the grownup at least some of the time and suggest we start with real food)–I make Strawberry and Nutella Toastites or we bake together on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, do lots of taste tests and are satisfied with a piece of whatever we’ve made for our nighttime meal. And sometimes we just end up in bed with big bowls of oatmeal as we partake of our neverending Chick Flick Film Festival. (I was amused no end during Love Story when she asked if Ali McGraw was Tim MacGraw’s mother! Oy!)

Here are some of our favorites:

Buratta Sundae

The Best Guacamole

Spinach-Tomato-Feta Fritatta

Smoked Salmon Hash

Spaghetti and (Turkey) Meatballs

Strawberry and Nutella Toastite

Posted by: Catherine | February 1, 2010

Lemons Galore

Two weeks ago our neighbor popped over with another shopping bag full of the best meyer lemons on the planet, and we’ve been busy making our favorite lemony recipes. We’ve re-made all the ones I’ve shared with you, tried a few new ones, but nothing holds up in the savory category like Parmesan Chicken “Salad”, and in the dessert category the hands-down best, most unusual, fantastic concoction is the Frozen Lemon Meringue Bombe.

So, in case you missed either one of our favorite lemony recipes I’m reposting. The chicken is a perfect one-dish dinner, guest-worthy to be sure and very easy to make (I swear it takes me 15 minutes start to finish now that I can do it in my sleep). Plus, I think it’s better than most fried chicken–so crispy outside with  a great crunchy crust, and yet it’s totally healthy! The Bombe is without question the best non-chocolate dessert I’ve ever had anywhere, and in fact I would put it up against many of my chocolate faves, too. Please do try, and let me know what you think.

Posted by: Catherine | January 25, 2010

Roasted Radishes

Why steam when you can roast? It’s no wonder  Bruce and Emma wouldn’t let a single  vegetable pass their lips when I was steaming everything. Whatever it was–broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, carrots, Brussels sprouts–it was bland, relatively tasteless and, as Emma said, “gross.” Butter helped, but I figured that defeated the purpose and left off the pat. Then I made Ina’s Roasted Winter Root Vegetable Soup, and when I took the mix of carrots, butternut squash, parsnips and sweet potatoes out of the oven before pureeing I couldn’t believe their deliciousness. I may have been late to the game, but I started with broccoli–drizzled the florettes with a bit of olive oil, sprinkled with kosher salt, put in a 425 convection oven for about 15 minutes…and watched them disappear before my very eyes. Yes, Bruce and Emma ate them all. Now I roast everything, even peas. Check out Roasted Brussels sprouts (and broccoli and asparagus).

I’d never thought of roasting radishes, but when I saw bunches of tri-colored beauties at the farmer’s market I  couldn’t resist. They were so good that even Bruce, who professes to hate radishes, ate his share. Just clean, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle liberally with kosher salt and pepper and roast on high heat (425) until crispy on the outside, soft (almost like a mashed potato) inside.

Posted by: Catherine | January 17, 2010

Mini Turkey Meatloafs

It’s raining here in Los Angeles, which is such a welcome anomaly–here, you wake up every morning to clear blue skies and feel you have to live up the the day. It gets tiring quickly, and it’s a lot of pressure! So, I love it when it rains, and when it does it’s usually December or January so it’s cold, relatively speaking of course. One of the casualties of living in LA is that you are destined to become a weather wimp; no matter how hard you fight it, 50 seems cold and the cashmere comes out. That means fires in the fireplaces, and winter-weather food. I was in the mood for meatloaf but Emma won’t eat The Best Meatloaf (don’t ask…). However, she absolutely loves the turkey meatballs I make for Spaghetti and (Turkey) Meatballs, so I decided to do a riff on them and turn them into mini meatloafs. I served them with Oven-Roasted Crispy Potatoes, and everyone was happy.

serves 4

1 1/4 lb. ground turkey

1 medium onion, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup mayonaisse (I use light; hate the regular now)

3 T ketchup

1/3 cup grated Parmesan

1/3 cup plain breadcrumbs

1 T Dijon mustard

1 t salt

1/2 t pepper

1 t herbs de provence

1/2 t ancho chili pepper

Preheat oven to 375. Dump the turkey meat into a big bowl. Saute the onion with the garlic until soft. Meanwhile, add the remaining ingredients to the turkey meat. When the onions and garlic are done, and slightly cool, dump that in, too. Paw at the mixture with two forks, or your hands, until just combined (don’t overdo) and form into mini meatloafs. Put into a roasting pan and cook until done, about one hour.

Sometimes I feel like I’m in the business of thinking up alternative ways to serve chicken–and am I sick of it! Both the thinking and the eating. It’s not as if we don’t eat fish (once a week, from Santa Monica Seafood, which is The Best!) or pork (at least once a week) or lamb/beef (occasionally, since Emma won’t eat either). Somehow, though, poultry keeps popping up on the menu. We have turkey 4,000 ways, chicken 4,000 ways…and Rock Cornish hens 2,000 ways. One of our favorites is grilled with wedges of grilled Romaine topped off with Caesar dressing. Truth be told, those little suckers are more or less flavorless (hence, the recipe for the roasted ones given life by the  “pate” stuffing)–in this dish, the Caesar dressing as well as the charred lettuce do their jobs to add tons of taste.

Today, btw, is my one-year anniversary with this blog. I started it right after I learned I’d lost two big clients to the recession, and thought I’d better do something semi-constructive before I just got into bed and stayed there until the economy recovered. For keeping me going when the going got tough, I’m forever indebted to my little blog. In addition, it’s brought me a lot of unplanned-for  pleasure–all my food friends (you!), the Unconfidential Cooks’ Dinners with so many great women and their incredible offerings;  many fun projects with Emma; and some good meals I may never have made. Thank you!

Posted by: Catherine | January 11, 2010

Pasta Tossed with Brie, Tomatoes and Basil

I love this pasta from The Silver Palate Cookbook, rarely make it (a pound of brie!) and therefore look forward to every morsel when I do…about once a year, which occurred this past New Year’s Eve. Imagine how good this is with a bottle of champagne!   Even though the SP duo has this down as an entree, I actually  think it makes a better first course because it’s so rich. It couldn’t be easier and couldn’t be tastier.

serves 4-6 as an entree, 6-8 as a first course

4 ripe tomatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 pound Brie cheese, rind removed, torn into irregular pieces
1 cup cleaned fresh basil leaves, cut into strips
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
1 cup best quality olive oil
salt to taste
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 pounds linguine (sometimes I use angel hair, because it’s Emma’s fave)
freshly grated imported Parmesan cheese (optional)

1. Combine tomatoes, brie, basil, garlic, 1 cup olive oil, salt and pepper in a large serving bowl. Prepare at least 2 hours before serving and set aside, covered, at room temperature
2. Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add the linguine and boil until al dente, about 10 minutes.
3. Drain pasta and immediately toss with the tomato sauce. Serve immediately.

Posted by: Catherine | January 7, 2010

Lemon Pudding Cake with Raspberry Sauce

Every year one of our neighbors gives us a shopping bag full of the best Meyer lemons I’ve ever tasted–sweet and sour at the same time, loaded with juice, so good! That means lots of Parmesan Chicken “Salad”, Frozen Lemon Meringue Bombe and Meyer Lemon Bars to be sure. The day they arrived over the holidays Emma decided we should try something new. She searched for a recipe and settled on Tyler Florence’s Lemon Pudding Cakes–I think the pudding part was enticing as well as the idea of  individual cake-ettes. We’d just had the Triple Chocolate Trifle, and because the raspberry layers in that dessert were such a great accent she thought it was a great idea to make a raspberry sauce to go along with the cakes. (Tyler just tosses the top with fresh berries.)

Emma loved this dessert and so did our neighbors. As for me, it’s rare I like anything that’s not chocolate and this was no exception. I didn’t eat my cake (Emma did), thinking it best to wait until my next chocolate fix.

Having said that, I’d love to hear your thoughts if you try it (I am a very bad judge of non-chocolate desserts, and I have to assume that like most of Tyler’s recipes this probably stands up, too).

Here’s the recipe–and for the sauce all we did was puree a pint of  berries and add a bit of superfine sugar. Oh, and Emma sprinkled the nicely browned tops with some Confectioners’ sugar “to make them look pretty”–but I think it was to insure they were as sweet as could be.

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2/3 cup superfine sugar

2 eggs, separated

2/3 cup reduced fat buttermilk

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Butter and lightly sugar 4 ramekins (about 1-cup size).

In a mixer, add egg yolks, buttermilk, lemon juice and lemon zest and beat until well combined. Reduce the speed to low and sift in flour, sugar and salt. Continue to mix until combined. Beat egg whites until you get stiff peaks then combine the 2 mixtures by gently folding them together, a little at a time. Divide evenly amongst ramekins then bake in a water bath – set ramekins in a roasting tray and fill with water halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

Bake for 60 minutes until the top springs back when gently pressed and the cakes have a nice golden brown color. Allow to cool slightly, then carefully invert onto a plate. Serve with fresh berries and dust with powdered sugar.

Posted by: Catherine | January 4, 2010

Mini Meatball, Mini Tortellini and Spinach Soup

As soon as I saw this recipe from Reeni on I knew I had to give it a try, and it was as good as it looked and sounded. I substituted mini cheese tortellini (available at TJs)for the ravioli she used, and in the meatball recipe I used half ground pork/half  ground beef  instead of all beef. One spoonful and Bruce immediately dubbed the dish guest-worthy, which loosely translated means…yum.

Posted by: Catherine | December 28, 2009

The Holidays and a Favorite Chocolate Dessert

I use any excuse to make a chocolate dessert, and Christmas is one of them even though I’m Jewish and now celebrate Hanukkah (yet another excuse for something gooey and chocolatey).  This year I made one of my faves, Triple Chocolate Trifle, which I’m reposting since it initially went up when I first started my blog and my traffic was hovering around zero. It’s layer after layer (actually four, not three) of different textures of chocolate–chewy fudgey brownies; a decadent pudding; chopped bittersweet chocolate; and chocolate whipped cream. Interspersed throughout  for yet another texture/taste change are  fresh raspberries. So rich! So good! So worth a try! In fact, this might be edging out Our #1 Favorite Chocolate Cake for the premier position–Bruce is equivocating (though he had heaping helpings and seemed to be smiling his way through each and every one), but Emma and I are pretty sure. Here’s what she had to say:  “Mmmm. Mmmm. Mmmm.” She did not look up or speak while eating.

When I was single it took me years to figure out how to enjoy the holidays. The end of the story is that I eventually determined that the buildup was actually more depressing that the actual celebration days. So, finally I decided that I needed to go away before the holidays to avoid feeling like the only person in the universe who wasn’t busybusybusy with one fabulous party after another–I always felt I was on my own just looking at a giant Norman Rockwell universe with couples making love in front of the fireplace 24/7 and families happily roasting chestnuts together for two straight weeks.

I started going skiing the week before Christmas with a friend who had a place in Vail, then she came back to New York with me–every year we got tickets to Alvin Ailey at City Center on Christmas Eve and the next day we joined a gang of friends on Catherine Street in Chinatown for the best dim sum this side of Shanghai. It was actually a lot of fun, and then it was over for another year…which I looked forward to.

When Bruce and I got together, and Emma came along I had  answers to all my questions. No, no and no. All couples were not making love in front of the fire 24/7;  all families were not happily roasting chestnuts together; there were not fabulous parties every night for two straight weeks. But I could see the busy part: I would spend days making teacher gifts with Emma, wrapping presents for all sorts of people I had never had in my life before, sending out cards for all three of us, and on and on and on. I just made sure I never said how busybusybusy I was in front of anyone who was single and/or alone.

For the first time in my life I started celebrating Hanukkah with a big dinner the first night; there were also the lighting of the candles every night after sundown and eight (!!!) presents for Emma, which takes A LOT of shopping beforehand. We always have friends over, which is an undertaking especially on the heels of Thanksgiving after which I need a week to recuperate. Christmas? When I was growing up, we opened gifts then, not on Hanukkah, and we had a turkey dinner after a day of skiing. It wasn’t a religious issue. Rather, I think it was a practical one since my sister and I were out of school and we were all on vacation in Connecticut. It was just the four of us (all our family were in Chicago), and more than anything it was a day to be together, do what we loved and make/eat a favorite meal.

Well, no skiing in LA and we don’t go away because my Dad always comes to stay with us that week–not because of Christmas per se but because Emma is out of school and we can all hang out. On Christmas Eve we go ice skating after dark–well, Emma and I do; Bruce, my Dad and Guthrie watch–then we come home and have Toasted Bagels, Cream Cheese and Smoked Salmon with a bottle of bubbly. On Christmas Day, we get up early and run out to the first show of a movie we’ve all been awaiting. Bruce and Emma saw Sherlock Holmes and my Dad and I saw It’s Complicated–the timing at the mall worked perfectly and everyone was totally happy! Then we came home, put a turkey in the oven and had a Thanksgiving-Day repeat with some friends. The party was still going at midnight….

I can’t wait until next year!

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