Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Mac Daddy

Just make this scrumpdilly Macaroni and Cheese and bring to your next summer barbeque. A few months ago, I posted a leaner version that incorporates cauliflower, but this is the whole cheesy deal, soaked with cream and topped with bread crumbs sauteed in butter, courtesy of Saveur magazine. Diet tip for an afternoon barbeque: eat two portions of this and a few less hot dogs.

Macaroni and Cheese

SERVES 6
This grown-up version of a childhood favorite is a great way to satisfy that deep-seated yearning for melted cheese.
8 tbsp. butter 6 tbsp. flour 1⁄2 tsp. cayenne pepper Salt and freshly ground white pepper 3 3⁄4 cups hot milk 4 cups grated cheddar 1 lb. short macaroni, cooked 1⁄2 cup heavy cream 1⁄2 cup fresh bread crumbs
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Melt 6 tbsp. butter in a medium stainless-steel saucepan over low heat. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, for about 4 minutes (flour mixture must foam as it cooks, or sauce will taste of raw flour). Stir in cayenne and season to taste with salt and pepper. Whisk in hot milk, 1/2 cup at a time, and cook, stirring, until sauce thickens. Reduce heat to low and stir in 2 cups of cheese. Cook, stirring, until cheese melts, about 2 minutes.
2. Combine pasta and sauce in a large bowl, and season with salt. Sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese over the bottom of a buttered 8" × 11" baking dish. Place one-third of the pasta in the baking dish, top with 1/2 cup of cheese, then repeat, layering pasta and cheese, ending with cheese, making three layers in all.
3. Pour cream over assembled macaroni and cheese. Melt remaining butter in a skillet. Add bread crumbs, coat with melted butter, and sprinkle over macaroni and cheese. Bake until crust is golden, about 30 minutes. Allow to rest for 15 minutes before serving.

This recipe was first published in Saveur in Issue #18

Friday, June 25, 2010

Leave It To Beets

Freshly plucked from her garden, a friend gave Baby some gorgeous beets, which always remind me of the rich, red earth that Steinbeck wrote about. Baby was about to throw out the momentous leafy fronds when I suggested we prepare them on their own. Beet 'tails' are really composed of two different parts and the leaves should be separated from the stems by cutting a 'v' into them and then setting them aside while preparing the stems. Chop the stems into roughly half inch pieces and boil them in salted water with a few bay leaves until tender, about 10 minutes.

We experimented with the leaves by rolling them up and cutting along the bias to make a chiffonade. With a little toasted sesame oil and minced garlic, we simmered them down until wilted, added the softened, drained stems, tossed with a tablespoon or two of shoyu (naturally brewed soy sauce), a squirt of sriracha hot chili sauce and Sauce Istanbul, a wonderful dressing made simply with tahini, shoyu and water, found here.

What a treat--and what a shame if the leaves had been merely relegated to the garbage!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Vegetarian Picnic

I fell in love with my friend Sharyn the day I met her, more than a few years ago. We discovered we had a multitude of things in common and I immediately felt as if I had always known her and her kindnesses, warmth, and direct humor. Since then she got married and gave birth to a beautiful boy. Given our respective schedules, we don't get to see each other that much but I do think that great, lasting friendships don't rely on time or place to exist as we grow older; we all have our lives and it's just enough to know that with good friends we're happy to know that they are in the world, that we're always thinking of each other and when we are able to finally convene, it's a lucky thing. Recently, we committed to a plan to get together for a picnic on our sundeck with her family and me and Baby.

It's not often that I make a meal that's strictly vegetarian but as that's what our guests required, I pulled out several of my favorite recipes from The Book of Whole Meals by Annemarie Colbin. I love this book and its menus to create balanced breakfasts, lunches and dinners--it even lists the order of steps to throw all the dishes together to bring to the table.

Here's an abbreviated version of what Baby and I did and brought up to the sundeck on a platter, stacked in Chinese take out containers with lacquered chopsticks and sriracha hot chile sauce! Rich, sumptuous vegetables, tahini-coated noodles, naturally brewed shoyu soy sauce, and toasted sesame oil all came together for a fun and most delicious dinner.

MENU--All recipes adapted from The Book of Whole Meals below serve 4 people.

Sauce Istanbul
This sauce is so good!
Ingredients
1/2 cup sesame tahini
2 tb shoyu natural soy sauce
1/2 cup water

Method
Place tahini in a bowl and slowly stir in shoyu until mixture stiffens. Slowly add 3 tablespoons of water and continue adding water, one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture has reached a light, creamy consistency. Adjust ingredients to taste and serve cold over soba noodles.

Steamed Garlic Kale
This recipe uses broccoli but we decided to use kale!
Ingredients
1 bunch kale, 2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup water
Salt to taste

Method
Chop kale. Place in large saucepan with water and garlic; cover and steam until wilted. Uncover, give a stir, add some salt and steam until cooked through. Set aside.

Soba (Buckwheat Noodles)
Ingredients
1 lb buckwheat noodles
1 tsp sea salt

Method
In a large pot, bring water to a rolling boil; add salt if noodles are unsalted.
Add pasta, stirring, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes, or until thoroughly cooked.

Hiziki with Mushrooms and Tofu
We found wakame seaweed instead of hiziki; it worked wonderfully!
Ingredients
4 washed, chopped Shiitake mushroom caps
2 cups water
1/2 cup hiziki seaweed
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Method
Soak mushrooms in 1/2 cup water; retain soaking water. Heat oil in saucepan; add hiziki and saute briefly. Add mushrooms. Pour mushroom soaking water into hiziki, careful not to add the gritty residue. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes longer. Add tofu, shoyu and simmer for 15 minutes longer.

Arrange in your Chinese take out boxes with the soba noodles and dress with Sauce Istanbul. Cover with the hiziki, mushroom and tofu mixture and top with your steamed vegetables, perhaps as we did, with kale and a little more of the Sauce Istanbul.

Enjoy your picnic with some white wine, homemade sangria or beer!

Songs for Sharyn: Seals and Croft, Greatest Hits; Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, So Far; Neil Young, After The Gold Rush; Joseph Arthur, Redemption's Son


Monday, June 21, 2010

A Marvelous Party!

Garden Party 27 officially kicked off Pride Week on June 21 with more than 50 restaurants, caterers and food trucks participating. The tasting event at the Hudson River Park Trust’s Pier 54 featuring these fine foodies brought everyone together to raise money for the LGBT Center, so they may keep their doors open year round and continue their commendable efforts to support the LGBT community.

An estimated 2,000 guests flooded the Pier to celebrate the gayest time of the year, chowing down while the sun set over the elegantly tented proceedings. We started at the free-flowing Ketel One vodka bar made entirely of ice and checked out the bidding booths offering dining packages at the ‘Foodies’ Silent Auction, which this year included gourmet food baskets, wine classes and tastings, and tickets to Broadway shows. Chad Carns, previously featured in Next, was on hand to sign his book The Gourmet Bachelor along with a chance to win a private cooking lesson with the chef and author. The auction’s premier package included Lunch for Four at Food Network and a taping of Iron Chef America.

Although we couldn’t hit all of the stands, we certainly did try. North Square offered little cups of Tomatillo Gaspacho with poached shrimp, which was almost as good as the Chilled Watermelon Gaspacho with chipotles from Boqueria; we loved the Mini Kobe Beef Brats from Klee where Chef Daniel Angerer himself doled out the little sausages on a brioche roll with cranberry mustard; Grass-Fed Meatballs from Colors were served with a piquant chimichurri sauce; we continued drinking with tasty Rum Punch from the South African restaurant Braai; the Grilled Asian Chicken Salad tossed with lemon ginger vinaigrette was refreshing and a favorite; Green Chile Mac & Cheese from Good topped with tortilla crumbs was actually really good; we had more cheese courtesy of La Bottega Trattoria with their sumptuous Robiola Pizza and we drank more too, imbibing their fabulous White Sangria; On The Plate, an underground supper club, presented wonderful Low Country style Butterbean Paté with pickled onion.

For dessert, we descended upon Peanut Butter & Co. for a fantastic PB&J. The Rice Crispy Treats from the Treats Truck (treatstruck.com) were delightful and the Red Velvet Whoopie Pies from This Chick Bakes were utterly beyond.

What a great way to start our Pride Week! Congratulations to the LGBT Center for throwing the marvelous Garden Party—such an important, delicious evening!

More information is available at gaycenter.org, gaycenter.org/gardenparty27

First published for Next magazine.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Rabbit Is Rich (or not)

Despite my initial misgivings--I had wanted to use chicken--I forged ahead and cooked rabbit for the first time, procured from the nearby butcher. I felt guilty tossing the whole little body around in the roasting pan; it still resembled a rabbit frankly more than I would have wished, its hind quarters stretched out as if in mid-jump hopping through a field of clover. Usually I don't have much of a meat conscience but I admit I felt somewhat like the hunter returned home fresh from the kill, as it were.

Baby and I made a lighter version of the recipe from the cookbook that I had purchased at one of my most beloved, favorite places, Harvey Nichols in London--I've had this gorgeous tome for years and never have dallied with a single dish! It was time to dust it off! We didn't use whipping cream, only reduced-fat sour cream, soaked our own chickpeas over night instead of canned and then boiled them, swapped out spinach for the kale that we had on hand, substituted leaner Canadian bacon for the fattier pancetta it called for and used non-alcoholic beer instead of wine to save on more calories. We had a great dinner but we'd like to make it again and forego the meat altogether and just lightly toss the steamed greens and chickpeas in the luscious mustard sauce!

Comments on the recipe in italics--and I've taken care of the the conversions.

Rabbit, Spinach, Chickpea and Paprika-Cured Bacon with Mustard Sauce
Adapted from Harvey Nichols: The Fifth Floor Cookbook by Henry Harris with Hugo Arnold
Serves 4
Ingredients
big knob of butter (or a more reasonable knob)
2 saddles of rabbit, halved (or two whole chicken breasts or not)
4 rabbit legs (or not)
1/2 glass white wine (or fat-free chicken or vegetable broth, or non-alcoholic beer)
8 paprika-cured slices of bacon (or Canadian bacon)*
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 16 oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
A big bunch of spinach or other greens, about 1 lb
1 garlic clove, finely chopped (we used a generous 1/2 teaspoon crushed garlic)

Mustard sauce:
knob of butter
2 shallots, finely chopped
About another 1/2 glass white wine, to taste
1/2 cup whipping cream (or not! Reduced fat sour cream is fine!)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

For the mustard sauce, gently saute the shallots in a small saucepan in the butter until translucent. Add the white wine and reduce by half. Add the whipping cream, bring to the boil, season and simmer gently for 1 minute. Whisk in the mustard.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter in a large roasting pan stovetop over medium heat. Season the rabbit pieces with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and gently saute for 10 minutes, turning frequently until nicely browned. Add the white wine and transfer to the oven. Roast for at least 20 minutes until the pink bits have gone away, basting halfway through. Remove from the oven, transfer the rabbit to a plate and keep warm.
Place the roasting pan back on a medium heat and fry the bacon, Yorkshire-style (cooked but not crispy). Keep warm with the rabbit.
Add the olive oil to the pan and when hot, add the chickpeas and coat well in the oil. When they are sizzling, add the spinach and turn so it starts to wilt. Add salt and pepper to taste and the garlic and continue cooking for 2 minutes, turning frequently. Drain.
Meanwhile, quickly reheat the mustard sauce and whisk in the Dijon mustard.
Divide the spinach and chickpea mixture between 4 plates, arrange a rabbit leg and half a saddle on top of each pile, garnish with the bacon and spoon some mustard sauce around the edge of each plate.

*Paprika-Cured Bacon
Take 8 pancetta rashers and brush with olive oil that has been mixed with a generous pinch of paprika. This is best done a few hours before cooking.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Mo's Bacon Bar

Hold on to your hats ladies and gents--this ain't no Snickers. No, we're talking about Mo's Bacon Bar from Vosges chocolatiers. You can order it from the link I've attached or find it at Whole Foods--either way it will set you back about $8, but this is applewood smoked bacon, alderwood smoked salt and deep milk chocolate we're dealing with.

Just accept it before it destroys you.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

In a city where one rarely gets to know their neighbors, we actually met two of ours recently, a delightful couple who live down the hall from Baby and me--we happened to strike up a conversation in the elevator and as we rode up, discovered we lived on the same floor!

Stephen is British and Gisela is from Mexico. Over drinks one night, we learned she makes a mean enchilada, served with her own homemade green sauce. I told her about my chicken mole and plans were soon made to arrange a dinner together. The day before our meal, Baby and I hit the farmer's market where we found incredible red spring onions that became a new addition to the regular yellow onions in my mole, which I let sit overnight in the refrigerator after cooling so the flavors could truly develop. Instead of buying a rotisserie chicken as is my wont, I roasted a hacked apart chicken with some poultry seasoning, fresh ground black pepper and sea salt. I also added in about a cup of Corona beer this time to simmer in with the mix of onions and garlic. If I must say, the results were pretty extraordinary.

Over Gisela's great guacamole, we sipped Sangrita and shots of tequila and also had agua fresca (in this instance, watermelon puree with sugar). I poured some Corona and lime juice in mine. Dessert was fresh cut mango with a little salt. Fantastico!

But this was the whole show, Gisela's recipe which covered the enchiladas:

Famous Tomatillo Green Sauce
Ingredients
Green tomatillos (for a salsa for two people, use 10 tomatillos) without the skin and cleaned - they can be quite dirty!
1 sliced white onion
2 cloves garlic
2-3 jalapenos (depending on how spicy they are)
1 cup or so chicken broth
Quarter bunch cilantro

Method
On a pan, roast the tomatillos, garlic and jalapenos turning them on all sides, around 5 minutes. This will cook them a bit and tomatillos might turn a different green. Put roasted tomatillos, garlic, jalapenos (only one), cilantro, onion (a slice), salt, chicken broth in blender and liquefy. Add more jalapenos and salt to taste--remember that they will be served on top of enchiladas with cream (queso fresco) and cheese (queso blanco) so it does not matter if it is a little spicy as this will diminish when served so its needs to be very tasty. Transfer sauce to pan and warm it (it will turn from bright green - raw- into a dull green -cooked). Serve with warm tortillas, cooked, shredded chicken, cream and cheese.

Gisela's Guacamole
Ingredients
4 mashed avocados
1 slice onion, chopped
2 finely chopped ripe tomatoes

Method
Mash avocados, and mix with cilantro, onion, and tomatoes. Add a bit of the green sauce (half a cup). Decorate with the colors of the Mexican flag: green, white, red on top if you want. You can add chopped jalapenos too for more kick.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Watermelon Basil Margaritas

It's watermelon time! These gorgeous beauties are everywhere but when Baby and I purchased one the other day I didn't at first think to make margaritas with them. We also had some basil in the fridge et voila!

The image featured here is a painting by artist Paul Keysar.

Watermelon Basil Margarita
Makes 1 cocktail

Ingredients
2 oz 901 Silver Tequila
1/2 oz Cointreau
2 Tb simple syrup
1 Tb fresh lemon juice
1 cup chopped seedless watermelon
6 basil sprigs

Method
Muddle the watermelon and basil sprigs with the Cointreau, simple syrup and lemon juice. Fill a shaker with ice and start shakin' until chilled. Either strain into a coupette or serve on the rocks in a double highball glass. Cheers!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Baby's Spanakugela

What to do when Jews and Greeks break bread? Why, make Baby's Spanakugela of course! Part Spanakopita, part Lukshoen Kugel, this sumptuous savory pulls both cultures together for a dish that will delight anybody.

Baby's Spanakugela
Serves 10-12

Ingredients
2 bags frozen chopped spinach, thawed and excess water squeezed out
1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1 lb broad egg noodles
1 lb feta cheese
1 lb farmer cheese
3 cups full fat Greek yogurt or sour cream
6 eggs
1 tsp grated fresh nutmeg
1/4 tsp grated fresh cinnamon
1 tsp oregano
2 Tb olive oil
A generous amount of salt and pepper to taste

Method
Preheat oven to 350 degrees with 9 x 12 casserole dish inside.
Boil egg noodles only about 8 minutes so they are very al dente as later they still cook in the oven for an hour. Drain when done.
While noodles are cooking, saute onion in the olive oil until translucent and tender. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
In large bowl, combine cheeses and use sturdy wire wisk to mash up. Add yogurt or sour cream, eggs, spices and whisk together.
Stir in spinach and onions and blend thoroughly. Add noodles and fold together until evenly mixed.
Carefully remove baking dish from oven and pour in mixture.
Return to oven and bake for 1 hour.
Let set for 20 minutes before serving.

Then gird your loins and above all else, enjoy!

Friday, June 4, 2010

What the Woot!?

It's very simple: go to woot.com for one sweet deal every day, and add five bucks on top of that for shipping, wherever you may live. We've snagged a Kalorik toaster, a Presorvac marinater, and a digital Kodak camera with which I've taken many pictures that I post on Evenings With Peter. Love all of it. Woot woot!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Hot Dog Octopus for Lunch

As the little ones around us grow up so fast, I think it's fair to say we all try to create memories as much for them as ourselves in an attempt to hold on to them as long as we can. For me, short of singing a torch song at karaoke or planning a Luau- or Western-themed surprise party, I try to inspire the children in my life with food. My niece still raves about my omelets with chives plucked from the garden. But one summer I made a special Hot Dog Octopus Lunch for my wee cousins who were only about 5 or 6 at the time. I don't remember where this recipe came from but it was hysterical and the kids loved it.

First get a bunch of hot dogs, some Ramen noodles, a squeeze-bottle of mustard and green or blue (or both) food coloring. Thinly slice the hot dogs from the mid-section down at least twice so when you boil them the ends will splay out like tentacles. Meanwhile, cook the noodles. After they're done, strain them, toss in a bowl with a few drops of the food coloring and then drop them on several plates to begin the creation of a wavy ocean scene for the youngins. Carefully place the cooked hot dogs on top, with their sea legs out and paint a smiley face on them with the squeeze-bottle of mustard.

Serve to what is hoped will be delighted yet calm little bodies.

P.S. Spaghettios heated up out of the can can also take the place of the Ramen and relish may act as a perhaps more theatrical green seaweed plot for a garnish in either case.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Sweet Ginger

It appears to have been quite a boozy few weeks, what with my toasts to Noel Coward and Sex and the City 2 in my recent drinkily delicious posts all in a month. And here's another--but this one is for any tee-totaler, to be made without the faintest suggestion of incorporating any alcohol: homemade ginger ale!

Appellation is one of my favorite spots in town, a definitive wine boutique, if I may call it that, which also offers an extraordinarily well-curated batch of liquors. The gentlemen behind the counters are incredibly knowledgeable, helpful and kind--and so patient as well for those of us with many questions.

During a recent tasting of a few wines, an event that occurs as far as I know only over the weekends, I was slipped a recipe for homemade ginger ale. I would really like to try to make it, and thought I should pass it along here at Evenings With Peter. I think you should slip it into one of my favorites, a Shirley Temple, the sweetly fizzy concoction with grenadine (skip the Sprite) that you probably haven't sampled since you were a wee ain--at least when I finally prepare this cask of sweet ginger, the curly-haired non-alcoholic mixy is first on my list.

Homemade Ginger Ale
Adapted from Appellation
Ingredients
Ginger Water:
1 cup finely chopped peeled ginger
2 cups water
1/3 cup simple syrup
Club soda
Lime juice
Lime wedges

Preparation
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan. Add ginger. Reduce heat to medium low and let ginger sit in the simmering water for 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and let sit for 20 minutes. Strain liquid through a fine mesh strainer. Discard ginger pieces.
Make individual (tall) glasses of ginger ale by mixing 1/2 cup of ginger water with 1/3 cup of simple syrup and 1/2 cup of club soda. Add a few drops of fresh lime juice and a lime wedge to each glass.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Blithe Spirit

One dreary Sunday afternoon in the Pines on Fire Island quite a few years ago, a friend and I wandered into The Blue Whale to seek respite from the rain and quite frankly, a little hair of the dog. We longed for something tropical, so I suggested the bartender pour us some coconut rum with a restorative dose of OJ and further thought to add a little Rose's lime juice for good measure.

Et voila, in the spirit of Noel Coward's wondrous work, and his Jamaica, as much as our own hangovers, the Blithe Spirit came into being with delicious magic. Now whenever I serve the drink to my guests, I add a maraschino cherry for color and a fragrant mint sprig, rife with summer. Also, try drizzling some of the cherry juice into the cocktail--it sinks to the bottom of the glass like a gorgeous summer sunset.

So cheers then to The Master himself, that indomitable, incredibly blithe spirit.

Blithe Spirit
3 oz. Malibu coconut rum
2 oz. orange juice
A splash or two of Rose's lime juice to taste

Stir all the ingredients in a shaker with ice
Strain the mixture into a highball glass filled with crushed ice
Garnish with mint or some tropical fruit, or both!


First published in part in Next magazine.