Sunday, April 28, 2013

Blueberry Dream Squares


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
Pan 9x13"

1 pkg Pillsbury Plus White Cake (Duncan Hines white cake will do too)
1 1/4 c rolled oats, uncooked
1/2 c butter
1 egg
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.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Play Reading - Gypsy



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
Ingredients
Ramen noodles
A cube of chicken bouillon, dissolved in water
Smashed garlic cloves, to taste
Some soy sauce
Sesame oil
Suitable seasonings, as you like
A spoon of sweet chili sauce, oyster sauce, or red pepper for spice
Peanut butter
Bangkok Padang sauce
Sesame seeds, for garnish
Chopped scallions, for garnish

Method
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.

Chicken Wings in Lime, Apricot and Soy Sauce
Ingredients
8 lb chicken wings (halved at joint, tips cut off)
1/2 cup fresh lime juice (from 4 to 5 limes)
1 cup apricot preserves
1 cup soy sauce
2/3 cup sugar
4 large garlic cloves

Method
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.

And so, we take our bows; the final rose. Read more about roses that play an important part in my harrowing novel, the pale of memory available on amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com. Go to thepaleofmemory.com for more info. 


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Weenie Roast


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.

Next Magazine - L'Amant Review


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.
 
First published in part in Next magazine.  
Photo credit: Gustavo Monroy

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Blue Cheese Martini


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
Dry vermouth
Vodka
Olive brine
Fresh cucumber (in thinly sliced rounds)
Queen pitted olives
Maytag blue cheese 
Wooden skewers

Directions
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.

First published in part in Next magazine

Friday, April 5, 2013

A Plucky Pot Pie


This isn't your typical chicken pot pie. As scribed by Melissa Clark with In Praise of Pale Food, this White Chicken Pot Pie diversion is just great and had my guests swooning. The recipe may be found here and below, with my comments in italics. I made a few adjustments over and about, adding in canned potatoes, an assortment of wild mushrooms and substituting canned green beans for suggested frozen peas. Just add these before the dish goes into the oven to bake so nothing is overly mushy.

As any adventure begins when trying out an unfamiliar recipe or creating something new, I was simultaneously unsure and curious how this biscuit topping would turn out as we left the traditional pastry crust behind. In a word: MARVELOUSLY! Added in dollops, the biscuits cooked perfectly in the oven while the filling underneath bubbled merrily.

I was only serving three of us, so this potpie with a simple salad was dinner, lunch the next day and also leftovers. Do enjoy!



White Chicken Potpie
TOTAL TIME
1 hour 45 minutes
Ingredients
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1 1/2 pounds) Nope, an already cooked rotisserie chicken
Kosher salt
Black pepper
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup white wine
2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1 bay leaf
1 thyme sprig
1 rosemary sprig
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (18 tablespoons), chilled, additional for greasing pan
2 leeks, thinly sliced, white and light green parts
1 shallot, thinly sliced
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup heavy cream, more as needed
1 small celery root or 2 small carrots, peeled and diced (1 1/4 cups) I included 1 1/4 cups mirepoix, the celery, carrot and onion mixture, already chopped
Package of sliced wild mushrooms
1 medium potato, peeled and diced (1 1/4 cups) Sliced up peeled potatoes from a can
1 cup frozen peas, optional Indeed! I used a can of Del Monte French cut green beans that we had instead
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (from 1 1/2 lemons)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3 tablespoons sliced blanched almonds I didn't use almonds, I didn't think the recipe warranted any

Preparation
I skipped this step entirely by using the rotisserie chicken that I later hacked apart and shredded before adding it into the mix.
1. Season chicken lightly with salt and pepper. Let rest 15 minutes. In a medium pot over medium heat, combine chicken, stock, wine, garlic, bay leaf, thyme and rosemary. Bring to a simmer and cook chicken gently until no longer pink, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer meat to a plate to cool completely. Strain and reserve cooking liquid (you should have about 2 3/4 cups). Once chicken is cool, shred into bite-size pieces.

2. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with butter.

The beautiful pale leeks!

 

3. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add leeks and shallot and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. 

Add in mushrooms and cook for a little longer until they release their juices. 

 
  
Melt in 4 more tablespoons butter. Stir in 1/2 cup flour and cook, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the strained stock (I used vegetable stock but chicken stock of course would work) and the cream. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Bring mixture to a simmer. Slice your can of potatoes during the simmer. Stir in celery root or carrot, and potato; simmer over low heat, stirring frequently, 10 minutes (This is where the mirepoix comes into play). Stir in chicken, peas if using and lemon zest. Scrape mixture into prepared pan.

4. In a large bowl, whisk together 3 cups flour, the baking powder and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Cut the remaining 10 tablespoons butter into cubes; using a pastry cutter or two forks, mix into flour until mixture forms coarse crumbs. Stir in buttermilk. Dollop mixture on top of potpie filling (it’s O.K. if there are spaces between biscuits). Brush tops with cream and sprinkle with almonds.

5. Transfer casserole to oven; bake until top is golden brown and filling is bubbling, 35 to 45 minutes. Somewhere around 15 minutes into it, I thought to pour in a little dry-ish white wine.

Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

YIELD
8 to 10 servings