Category Archives: Cooking Ideas from Around the Web

The Best of the Holidays

After an insane bender of cooking, shopping, wrapping, cooking, cleaning, loading the dishwasher/unloading the dishwasher, cooking, and more cooking, I hope you are sitting on the couch with absolutely nothing to do for the next few days. Here’s what I’ve been cooking — all are very good recipes.

Fritto Misto with Fennel and Lemons

I cooked this as part of my daughter’s 12th Birthday Italian Feast. We also had antipasto, meatballs and angel hair, tomato basil ravioli, and a big salad. She has a Christmas Birthday, so the dinner is her choice and it rarely includes a turkey — a tradition I’ve come to love. We fried calamari and shrimp and this batter is super light and crispy. I think we are going to do it again over the holiday break for a family dinner at the bar — which is much easier than frying for a sit down dinner.

Salsa di Parmigiano

This was an appetizer for the same Italian feast. What could be better than chopped parmigiano and asiago, olive oil, scallions, and spices served on grilled bread? Delicious and simple appetizer.

Momufuku Chocolate Chip Layer Cake

This was the girl’s choice for her birthday cake. We did a standard yellow cake (box mix even — judge me all you want, I had a few other things to get done on Christmas) and stirred in mini chocolate chips and substituted raspberry jam for the passion fruit puree (her choice). I also did three layers (cut in half) from two 8 inch cake pans because I didn’t have smaller ones. I also doubled the frosting, but I could have even tripled it — especially if I used all four layers of cake. You will need baker’s acetate which I found on Amazon. And because I had to buy a 500 foot roll, I will be making cakes in this style for the rest of my life. But this cake is really good — and I’m not even a cake person.

Lobster Stuffed Beef Tenderloin

We hosted Christmas for my side of the family last weekend — for all 21 of us. Beef tenderloin is usually the menu item of choice for this crowd, because everyone likes it. This year I wanted to do something a little special with it and this lobster stuffed version with Bernaise certainly was that. I doubled the recipe and stuffed two whole tenderloins (did a third plain for the kids). I also used four standard lobster tails and added them to the stuffing chopped, rather than using whole tails. If this doesn’t say special dinner, I don’t know what does. I served it with scallion mashed potatoes and sautéed asparagus.

Oyster Pan Roast with Tarragon Toasts

Now that we live on Long Island, whenever we have company I love to showcase our amazing seafood. My family is full of oyster lovers, so I did this simple appetizer before our Christmas dinner. I reduced the cream sauce a bit more so it wasn’t too liquidy and with perfectly sweet local oysters, this is a hit.

*Photo Credit to the Birthday Girl

Cooking Ideas from Around the Web: Spring (?) Edition

We humans are incredibly fickle about the weather, aren’t we? I include myself in this category (as a human) and will admit I am the first to complain about it being too cold, too hot, too cloudy, too humid, or too rainy. Basically, if I could have 70 degrees and brilliant sunshine every day, I would be good. Maybe.

Last winter, we basically had a fall that turned into spring. We had only one snowfall that was in big shoveling territory and the daffodils were coming up in January. But we still complained. “It’s weird. It’s not natural. I can’t believe the kids haven’t had one snow day.” And they didn’t all winter.

I have no formal meteorological training, but because we got off light last year, I knew this winter was going to be a pain in the ass (I’m amazing with easy predictions, BTW). And it has been. On April 3, it’s still freezing out there. The weather people say that is going to change and our spring is going to start soon, but I think they lie to us just so we won’t go postal with 10 day forecasts full of clouds and cold.

So, I’ve been trying to cook with springtime in mind, even if I’m still waiting for spring to actually show up. Easter is a good excuse to pretend we’ve made it through the winter, even if my asparagus were bought from our local Giant, rather than our local farmer. But I’m sorry if I’m not going to make an Easter side dish with shriveled, stored turnips. I’ve had it.

Here are some links to good dishes I’ve made recently or plan to make soon.

Sauce Gribiche

This sauce is an amazing homemade herbed and caper mayonnaise. I like the first version better and served it with roasted asparagus, carrots, and snap peas as a side for Easter dinner. I also had the leftover sauce mixed with hard boiled, leftover Easter eggs for a fantastic egg salad. It’s a winner with veggies, grilled meat/seafood, potatoes — you name it. (BTW, if you have never roasted carrots, do it. Whole carrots tossed in olive oil, salt, and pepper, cooked at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for about 25 minutes or until tender and caramelized. Turn a few times to encourage that. Delicious and like candy.)

Tangerine Semifreddo with Salted Almond Brittle

This was Easter dinner dessert and it is a wonderful frozen mousse with crunchy bits of brittle layered inside. Of course with our nut allergies, we used pumpkin seeds in the brittle, but it was still wonderful. Very light, fluffy, and refreshing after a big meal — and I think I might start doing semifreddos instead of much of my homemade ice cream. So easy, no ice cream freezer required, and I love the texture.

Sautéed Bacon and Blue Brussel Sprouts with Pomegranate

This was my second choice for an Easter side dish, but I decided to go the first route. I still think it sounds great and plan to try it very soon.

Grilled Lobster Caesar Salads

This is dinner tonight, except I plan to use frozen lobster tails (on major sale at Giant one day, so I stocked up) and grill them before putting on top of salad. Caesar salad is one of the kids’ favorites, so it should be a hit for everyone.

Island Pork Tenderloin Salad

This is one of our favorite warmer weather salads. My friend, Beth, introduced me to it and I think I’ve made it every year (multiple times a year) since she did. Delicious flavor combinations, great for entertaining, and kid friendly if you make a separate pork tenderloin without the spice rub.

Goat Cheese with Chile Morita and Piloncillo Sauce (AKA Double Dip)

This one was introduced to me by my friend, Jenn. It is another one that I always come back to for entertaining (any time of the year). It is basically a garlicky, chipotley cheese mixture (dip one) with a chipotley caramel (dip two). It is a show stopper and everyone will beg you for the recipe. I generally use regular sugar and serve with tortilla chips.

Napa Valley Cabernet Burgers

This is one of my favorite burger recipes. I often make homemade garlic/rosemary focaccia if I have time and it is another fantastic warm weather entertaining dish for meat lovers.

Garlic Shrimp

This is a classic, Tapas-style garlic shrimp dish. It is best served in a big bowl with good, crusty bread. I think I’ll skip the grill and make this for dinner on Friday night since it might snow. Argh.



“Chopped” Dinner Party and Recipe Ideas

One of the most entertaining things we have done recently is to host a couples dinner party with a “Chopped” theme. It is something I’ve always wanted to do and it inserts a lot of fun and good food into otherwise boring, winter weekends. We have just finished round number two, and I think it is worth sharing how we’ve set it up. In the future, we are thinking of integrating more couples or turning it into a round robin tournament, but for now it’s just enough to figure out the teams and food.

First, teams: With two couples, we just trade spouses to make the teams (insert funny joke here). We didn’t think it would be fair to have married couples working together because they would be shopping for ingredients together and have a lot more time to plan/are more familiar with each other’s recipes and strengths. We also didn’t think girls against boys would be fair, because in our case, the women were the stronger cooks and the men (while very good cooks in their own right) might be at a disadvantage.

Second, courses: We decided to go with each team making a small plate, rather than different courses. It seemed like it would be more fair when judging occurred to have the same basic course rather than one dessert and one appetizer.

Third, ingredients: Each team is tasked with providing one meat or protein (we usually tell one team to select a meat protein and one team a seafood/vegetarian protein so it’s balanced). Each team also brings a starch or vegetable and two wild card ingredients. The wild cards can be anything and have ranged from ladyfingers to cornichons to ginger to canned corn. So while the ingredients are purchased by the couples, they still have no idea which 4 of the 8 total ingredients they will be cooking (a good incentive to not buy anything too crazy, because you might have to cook with it).

Fourth, assigning foods: When the couple arrives, we each write our four ingredients on slips of paper and track whether they are protein, starch/veg, or wild card ingredients. The protein slips go in one bowl, the starch/veg slips go in another, and mystery ingredients in a third and fourth. Each team picks their ingredients, so the luck of the draw tells you what you will be cooking with.

Fifth, structure: We give each team a few minutes to come up with their basic plan. Technology is allowed after you get your basic plan. Then each team has an hour to cook and plate their dish. We don’t cook simultaneously because that would be too hard in a normal kitchen. We flip a coin to see which team goes first, they cook, and then we do a quick clean up before the next team cooks. There is no real advantage either way because while the second team to cook has more time to plan, they also have more time to drink wine, which can negatively impact cooking skills.

Sixth, judging: We haven’t quite figured this one out in a systematic way and have just let my 11 year old daughter pick the winner. We generally aren’t too concerned with who wins as the point is to just eat great food and have fun. There is, however, always some good taunting going on.

Seventh, pantry: We try to make sure the pantry is well stocked with peppers, onions, garlic, salad greens, cheeses, cream, chicken broth, spices, etc. to make cooking easier. If you cook a lot normally, this isn’t very difficult to accomplish.

The first two dishes listed below were cooked (in some variation) by our teams the last time we competed. We generally plan the dishes and get an idea of what to cook and then search online for some basic recipes to guide us or help with proportions. And even though we use recipe aids, the dish still needs to be conceptualized, which is the fun part. Often times, cocktails are paired with the course. The lamb chops were served with a delicious asian slaw and the lobster/potato cakes were served over a coconut milk/edamame puree with lemon beurre blanc.

I’ve also been cooking a lot of great recipes from around the web lately. Here are some things that I have enjoyed or have on tap for the weekend.

Lobster Potato Cakes

Combo of gently cooked lobster and smashed fingerling potatoes is wonderful.

Rosemary Scallion Crusted Rack of Lamb

Delicious lamb dish that we have cooked for years. Can do ahead and great for entertaining.

Gnocchi with Brown Butter

Delicious and light. Not too fussy and used toasted pumpkin seeds instead.

Chilaquiles with Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

Plan to make this this weekend and serve with sunny side up eggs. Kids probably won’t eat it, but I don’t care.

Creamy North Fork Clam Chowder

The kids love clam chowder. Also on tap for the weekend.

Miso-Maple Sweet Potato Tacos with Coconut-Cilantro Sauce

Ingredients speak for themselves. Delicious.

Beer Braised Brisket

Cooked this without the veggies until it fell apart and made cheesesteaks with it. Yum.

Downtown Bakery and Creamery’s Cinnamon Sugar Donut Muffins

Delicious muffins that would be perfect for a brunch or shower.

Cookie Dough Frozen Yogurt

Not at all healthy (even using fat free greek yogurt), but a great use of Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter.