It was a busy weekend, what with our Derby party Saturday and Cinco de Mayo/Greek Easter on Sunday! David and I had tried Mrs. K's spanakopita a few months ago and we absolutely had to have the recipe. She did send it to us and we made it to celebrate Greek Easter. This huge platter was absolutely delicious even though we did not have parsley, as we had used it for our Derby party and didn't want the bother of going out for more. It was of little matter; we grabbed a bunch of ramp leaves that we had on hand instead. We also misjudged the amount of melted butter and didn't want to take the time to melt more but Pam cooking spray actually worked just fine. Nothing was a terribly difficult effort, it just took a long time to strip the spinach of its stems. Although it might sound unforgivable to some, when we make spanakopita again we might use frozen spinach instead for ease.
So take it away, Mrs. K!
Serves 10 to 15
3 pounds fresh spinach
2 bunches green scallions, finely chopped
1/2 cup minced parsley
1/2 teaspoon dill
1 pound crumbled feta cheese
8 eggs, beaten
1/2 pound filo pastry leaves
1 cup melted butter
spinach and cut off stems, dry completely with towels, then chop. Brown scallions in 1/2 cup olive oil until tender. Combine spinach,
parsley, dill, beaten eggs and cheese; add cooked scallions, season with
salt lightly and mix well. Grease a 9 x 13 baking pan and line with 5
sheets of filo, brushing each sheet with melted butter combined with 1/2
cup olive oil. Spread the spinach mixture over the filo evenly and
cover entire top. Top with remaining filo, brushing each sheet with
butter and oil, including top sheet. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes to 1
hour. Cool and cut into squares. Note:
For best results, cut through the top layer of filo with a razor blade
or a very sharp knife BEFORE baking, this will ensure that the squares
will not be crumbly and then you can finish cutting them when the pie is
May be served hot or cold in small squares or large squares. I usually cut them into 2" x 2" squares.
Derby may have left the gates and galloped past this year, but I do believe the memories will linger, at least for me. We had a real humdinger of a party--and behold the beautiful lilacs in the waning afternoon light!
And no, my horses didn't win. Orb ran fleetingly by Falling Sky and Slim Shady.
Of course, there were mint juleps! We actually froze them this year and served them right out of the blender and they were marvelous. Equal parts bourbon and simple syrup (2:1 water and sugar boiled with lemon wedges and cooled). A fistful of mint went into the blender filled with ice and we topped each individual icy pour with dark rum. Biscuits and tomatoes along with Benedictine cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches were sampled shortly thereafter, once our guests were duly situated. I took advantage of seasonal ramps and shallots this year, substituting both for yellow onions, to quite good effect. The more traditional recipe is here and the picture is below, our Pepperidge Farm thin white bread having been shorn of its crust, stuffed, sliced and stacked on a vintage cake stand.
The annual shrimp and peppers served over grits made their annual appearance, courtesy of Martha Stewart's Menus for Entertaining.
Grasshopper Mousse for dessert, laden with creme de menthe, was right out of a 70's dinner party. I wrested the recipe from the Leah Tinari, the owner of Fatta Cuckoo in Manhattan. Her mother was kind enough to pass on her secret. Our friend was kind enough to make it and bring it over. She said it's so easy and everybody loved it--and the recipe makes a ton! She also made Crack Pie, that is similar to Chess Pie, and served at Momofuku Milk Bar in our fair city. It was beyond. But that's a different post entirely.
2 large boxes of vanilla pudding mix
6 cups heavy cream
3/4 cups creme de menthe
1/2 cup creme de cacao
Package of Oreo cookies
Whip pudding and heavy cream together and gradually add both liqueurs. Whip until mousse-like and desired consistency is reached. Give it a taste and add a tblsp or two more of liquor for a stronger flavor. Place in a container and chill. Crush Oreo cookies in food processor.
Place some cookies crumbs in bottom of martini glass. Add grasshopper mousse, top with whipped cream and sprinkle on more cookie crumbs.
Our rosy centerpiece for the table!
Soundtrack: XTC, Skylarking; Sippie Wallace, Sippie; Atlantic Blues: Piano; Antonio Carlos Jobim, Sun Sea and Sand Favourites
This recipe from my beloved Nana actually involves cherry pie filling, but Baby and I had blueberry pie filling in the cupboard that we had wrested from Maine a few months ago so made the substitution. Looking to do something with the jar of filling, I thought to bring this particular mix to a dinner party Baby and I were invited to for a great dessert--but loaded with hearty oats, these dreamy squares could serve as breakfast too, for your hosts to enjoy the morning after. Unless the whole thing gets consumed the night before. They are so buttery delicious!
From Nana's recipe box:
My suggestions in italics.
Temp 350 degrees
1 pkg Pillsbury Plus White Cake (Duncan Hines white cake will do too)
1 1/4 c rolled oats, uncooked
1/2 c butter
21 oz cherry pie filling (or blueberry)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts)
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar (I used dark brown sugar that we already had)
Preheat oven, grease pan (I used butter instead of Crisco or otherwise).
In a large bowl, combine cake mix, 6 T butter and I cup of oats. Mix until crumbly; save some for the top (approximately 1 cup).
Take rest of crumbs, add 1 egg and blend well. Press into pan. Spread cherry filling over crust. Take the cup reserved and add 1/4 c oats, 2 T butter, nuts and brown sugar, mix well and spread over cherries. May add whipped cream topping for extra fun.
This month our merry band of players took on the mother of all musicals, Gypsy. Based around a ferocious stage mother named Rose, the show gloriously depicts the old vaudeville circuit and Rose's neglected daughter's later rise to epic fame in burlesque--none other than the legendary stripper Miss Gypsy Rose Lee. As that grand old show tune "Everything's Coming Up Roses" closes Act One, we had to have red roses on the table for a centerpiece and our friend was kind enough to bring such beautiful long-stemmed roses--bunches of them. Aren't they just gorgeous?
I lined up battery-powered candles to make footlights for our "stage" and lit a free-standing antique mirror to create a spotlight on the ceiling. Red paper dinner napkins made a great runway strip, er, runner.
Since Chinese food is all they can afford through most of the show, we made what else? A Chinese buffet!
We ordered a few things for delivery too from our favorite local restaurant. In tribute to a song in the show that extolls the virtues of Chinese food as much as the booking agent who agrees to hire the girls for an act, we greeted our guests with eggrolls, still warm from out of the bag, and extra duck sauce and hot mustard. We also ordered sesame noodles, but I have a great homemade recipe too made with ramped up college-days-Ramen that serves two. The amount of ingredients are entirely suited to taste.
Peanut Butter Sesame Noodles
A cube of chicken bouillon, dissolved in water
Smashed garlic cloves, to taste
Some soy sauce
Suitable seasonings, as you like
A spoon of sweet chili sauce, oyster sauce, or red pepper
Bangkok Padang sauce
Sesame seeds, for garnish
Chopped scallions, for garnish
Boil the noodles. In another pot add about one-third to one-half cup bouillon,
garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil and the seasonings of choice,
to taste. Mix in the peanut butter and add more water or soy as it thickens. Coat the noodles with Padangsauce and adjust seasonings. Garnish with sesame seeds or scallions, or both.
Inhabitants of our pu-pu platter included skewers of ginger teriyaki marinated beef skirt steak from Fresh Direct--all we had to do was run the sliced meat through with bamboo skewers (that had been soaked for a while in water so they won't burn) and cook the meat for a short time in the oven. An old friend sent me a wonderful recipe for chicken wings came from an issue of Gourmet magazine from December of 1999.
Wings in Lime, Apricot and Soy Sauce
chicken wings (halved at joint, tips cut off)
cup fresh lime juice (from 4 to 5 limes)
large garlic cloves
Preheat oven to 375°F. Divide wings between 2
large disposable foil roasting pans, arranging in single layers. Purée
remaining ingredients in a blender and pour mixture over wings, dividing evenly
between pans. Bake wings in upper and lower thirds of oven 60
minutes. Turn wings over and switch position of pans in oven, then bake
20 minutes more, or until liquid is thick and sticky.
Serve wings warm or at room temperature.
Roast Pork enlivened with red food coloring may be found here. From a Polynesian cocktail party we threw years ago!
In a snap we had fantastic ginger cookies to follow the curtain, aptly named Ginger Grants from Stud Muffin Desserts that everybody just loved. Flavors of orange and lemon with a ginger kick had a soft center and a sugary exterior.
Tim Burton's wondrous film Frankenweenie arrived in the mail from Netflix so I had a movie night in mind. Our friend had given us ceramic t.v. dinner trays and naturally it occurred to me, "What else to do but make our own t.v. dinners--with weenies!"
I set out ketchup, relish, Dijon mustard and A. Bauer's Mustard with horseradish, an old brand that was somehow unfamiliar to me but turned out to be really great. Mustard with horseradish! As Baby is dutifully reducing, I grilled 98% fat free Hebrew National beef franks in vegetable oil and then grilled Arnold's whole wheat sandwich thins (only 100 calories!) for the buns. Bird's Eye white and yellow corn was steamed in a microwaveable bag for five minutes while all this grilling was going on. Heinz no-fat vegetarian beans simmered in a small pot with a spoonful of the horseradish mustard and a dose of Stubb's hickory liquid smoke. The whole shebang took less than 10 minutes! We put Weight Watchers fat-free cheese on our buns before slathering them with our condiments and added forkfuls of fresh sauerkraut from a local butcher shop on our weenies. Chocolate covered animal crackers for dessert, in the center compartment, of course, was our one unbridled indulgence.
Et voila! Here was dinner before we sat in front of the t.v. and watched Frankenweenie! By the way, I just loved it.
L’Amant 235 W 12th St (btwn W Fourth St/Greenwich Ave), 646-476-8731, LAmantNYC.com
Should I one day create a list of my favorite things, pagodas from
the Far East and barrels of mischievous monkeys would surely be on it.
So imagine my delight when I found both on the pattern of the linen
wallpaper at L’Amant. The spot is a tiny wedge stuck into a corner just
off of Greenwich Avenue where we eased into our comfy club chairs like
we were in an illicit club car on the Orient Express. We enjoyed the
tinkling piano and enchanting vocalist from the jazzy trio as we relaxed
watching the curling flames from the faux fireplace underneath a
looming decorative crimson fan sprayed with cranes and apparent flora.
And in case you were wondering, L’Amant refers to French author
Marguerite Duras’ novel set in French colonial Indochina, The Lover.
We could hardly wait to dive into the cocktails of the house,
patiently crafted with a resurrected air from a glamorous era and exotic
locales. Truffled popcorn, perfectly popped, was a fun enticement as we
perused the list curated by a wonderfully obsessed mixologist. The
Black Snake would have made Hemingway proud, with Earl Grey-infused gin,
Pear William Purkhart and beguiling bergamot juice coiled around a
sturdy orb of ice. At least, it warranted another round. The Mekong
River, with apple-and-ginger-infused Wodka vodka, welcomed spring with
presiding flavors of mint and cucumber—and had stronger currents than we
first thought! (See recipe on p.44) The China Man, with Buffalo Trace
bourbon, sherry, bitters and lemon, felt imprudent, so we decided we’d
have to return another time for that.
It didn’t take much prodding for me to order a tray of fat Blue
Point oysters with good old New England cocktail sauce and a ginger and
scallion mignonette in delicious contrast. A bowl of mussels met our
mollusks at the table, too, perfumed with ginger and bathed in a rich
broth subtly enhanced by cream.
A gorgeous and judicious amount of mock Caesar dressing clung to
the stiff frills of kale in the Halong Bay salad—and we noted that these
greens provided a healthy dose of protein and vitamins, too.
Thin-skinned vegetable dumplings—served with a scallion-soy sauce and a
Heinz-worthy chili sauce—were delicious.
We slid past the beef sliders, which might have been a mistake,
opting instead for dry, flavorless duck in the steaming shepherd’s pie
that sounded so good on paper. While we appreciated the fact that it was
served in a cast-iron skillet, the dish was a disappointment and the
purported inclusion of foie gras was unnoticeable. However, the browned
mashed potatoes on top were divine and we readily forgave any
transgressions. We loved the sublime elbow macaroni and Parmesan cheese
with a hint of truffles and a crispy top; indeed, mixing our mac and
cheese with the mashed potatoes from the shepherd’s pie was a
tremendously inspired idea.
There were desserts— such as warm chocolate cake and a trio of
mochi confections (green tea, red bean and mango)—but we narrowly
escaped, preferring instead to linger over the flavor of the scrumptious
mac and cheese. Climb aboard L’Amant, drink wisely and enjoy the ride!
Short Order: Serious cocktails and simple fare makes for a great trip East.
Peter's Picks: The Black Snake cocktail; truffle mac and cheese; kale Caesar salad; the mashed potatoes on top of the shepherd’s pie
Peter's Pans: The bland duck on the bottom of the shepherd’s pie
Prices: Appetizers: $5-$15; Entrée: $14-$16; Alcohol: wine, beer, full bar, specialty cocktails.
Dive into this elegant martini served at elmo in Manhattan. It's fraught with
reserved blue cheese-stuffed olives. A few of these cocktails could
also serve as dinner. Now, this cocktail recipe is designed for your own personal taste, so assemble the ingredients as you will, and then—away we go!
Blue Cheese Martini Ingredients
Fresh cucumber (in thinly sliced rounds)
Queen pitted olives
Maytag blue cheese
Stuff two pitted olives with blue cheese by hand and set aside.
Pour a small amount of dry vermouth in a chilled martini glass, swirl to
coat glass and toss out excess. Break up a piece of cucumber and place
in a shaker full of ice. Add vodka and olive brine to taste (lightly
perhaps) and shake vigorously. Strain into chilled vermouth-coated
glass. Spike several blue cheese olives on a wooden skewer and lay
across the rim of the glass. Crown with a round of cucumber if you wish.
Note: The amount of vodka used will depend on the size of the martini
glass—but as we always say, the bigger the better!
elmo is located at 156 Seventh Ave (btwn 19th/20th Sts). Visit elmoRestaurant.com for more info.
After weathering a soul-shredding career as a theatrical agent that lasted entirely too long, Mr. Sherwood left his stable of actors from the stage and screen and went on to pursue his literary aspirations. He is currently the dining editor for Next magazine (nextmagazine.com) where he writes a weekly restaurant review column which also features Manhattan's best food and drink recipes from the finest chef's and bartenders on the island. In 2010 he was published in Foodista’s Best of Food Blogs Cookbook. He toiled as web editor for industry leader Interior Design magazine for several years and has also written for New York magazine, Travel & Leisure and Woman’s Day.
A proud graduate of the University of New Hampshire, one of the nation’s top drinking schools, Mr. Sherwood also studied voice and theater abroad at Regent’s College, in London’s historic Regent’s Park, and at the Royal Academy of Music. He spent a year at Hunter College in Manhattan.
Mr. Sherwood recently published his first novel, the pale of memory, available on Amazon.com, BarnesAndNoble.com, and iUniverse.com. He is in the midst of writing a second.
Twitter/tweet/twat him @kaleidabox