Linner with friends

Quiche_SodaBread_IMG_0411I’ve told you that Shane has issues with the word brunch, right? When friends from Ohio and California told us they’d be visiting on the same day, we promptly decided to have a get together with food at our place. Rose suggested we call it Dlunch, but we thought Linner had a nicer ring.

Our goal was to have something meaty, something vegetarian, something non-dairy, and everything without nuts. (Why the dietary restrictions? Click here.) We got 3 out of 4 of those right, but somehow dairy managed to work it’s way into everything but the salad.

On the menu was Soda Bread and Shepherd’s pie from the Avoca Cafe Cookbook. The Gourmet Cookbook’s Ultimate Quiche which is made with a creme fraiche and gruyere (and without bacon, in our case) and a baby lettuce, fennel and yellow beet salad with Meyer lemon zest in the dressing. For dessert, we had Anna’s Brownies (not pictured – sorry!)

I can’t tell you how great it was to see everyone. Rose put it best when she said it was “A long and fun day, such a long and fun day.


Not quite Jerry’s peppers

Jerry's_Peppers_IMG_0409Back when he was still on this astral plane, my uncle Jerry used to make amazing stuffed peppers. I know this about them: They are stuffed with bread crumbs, anchovies, garlic, parmesan cheese, and a LOT of olive oil. They are baked in pretty hot oven until really soft and silky smooth.

I messaged Jerry’s son Josh this afternoon with a hankering for stuffed peppers. He didn’t really give me much more information than I already had on how to make them. But he did promise to make them for Easter, if he could make it for Easter.

So I winged it. I had 4 medium red peppers and made enough stuffing for about 6. In the stuffing I used 1 cup of olive oil, 1 jar of anchovies, 2 cloves of garlic, 3 cups of plain bread crumbs and 3/4 cup of grated pecorino cheese.

Back to that first ingredient. 1 cup, yes one cup, of olive oil. Guess what? That’s not enough. My peppers tasted okay but they were not juicy enough, not silky smooth, believe it or not, they needed more olive oil.

So there you have it. I’ll try them again and if I ever get it right, you’ll be the first to know.

Also there was steak.


Penne with anchovies, garlic and grape tomatoes

Penne_Tomato_Anchovy_Garlic_IMG_0401Shane was in charge of dinner last night, since my presence was requested by a certain little person for the three-hour duration of evening gymnastics practice. I brought the baby to the gym. As Shane says “He wants what I a’int got.”

Shane led me to believe that we’d come home to a table-full of plastic takeout containers. I sure was delighted to find Penne with Anchovies, Garlic and Grape Tomatoes instead. Not only that but a nice endive and yellow pepper salad.

Go Daddy.


Salmon baked in parchment

SalmonBakedinParchment_IMG_0389I was placing my Fresh Direct order when Rose sauntered over and asked me to order salmon. It was kind of a funny request coming from her, so I assumed she was feeling fatty-acid depleted and ordered some up.

This salmon baked in parchment recipe is a favorite. I happened to have some leeks and white wine in the fridge so it was the perfect choice. When I don’t have leeks and wine, but I have lemons and basil, this other salmon baked in parchment recipe is the one I make. They’re both good, quick and easy.


One for the underdogs

CreamySpaghettiWithLeeks_IMG_0381For those of you who have not forsaken gluten and dairy, man-oh-man do I have a recipe for you. Creamy One-Pot Spaghetti with Leeks is a creamy, delicious treat. One pot, 30 minutes, wonderful.

It’s another one of those pasta cooked like risotto dishes. Meaning, you add the dry pasta to the sauce so it absorbs all the creamy goodness and flavor while it cooks, making the pasta extra wonderful in taste and texture.

Fans of, wheat pasta, dairy and fat, try this recipe asap. With a simple green salad. Perfect!

• Creamy One-Pot Spaghetti with Leeks •
from Food & Wine

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
5 garlic cloves, minced
3 scallions, thinly sliced
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 medium shallot, chopped
1 anchovy fillet, drained
Pinch of crushed red pepper
1 pound spaghetti, noodles broken in half
3 3/4 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving

In a pot, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic, scallions, leeks and shallot and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are softened, 6 minutes. Add the anchovy, crushed red pepper, spaghetti, stock, cream and the 1/2 teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring, until the pasta is tender and a sauce forms, 11 minutes. Stir in the chives and 1/4 cup of cheese; season with salt. Serve the pasta with extra cheese on the side.

Moon pies, babies, and other birthday treats

Shane_48_IMG_0365It’s Shane’s birthday today. If you ask him, he’s 47 years and 365 days old.

Shane was very specific with his birthday dinner request. Steak, sautéed mushrooms, oven fries and iceberg lettuce wedges with blue cheese dressing. For dessert he wanted moon pies, which are actually whoopie pies that we misnamed a long time ago.

Shane loves babies and I think it made his birthday extra special this year to have one around again. He’s pictured below on his birthday, with Sid (left), and 6 years ago with Rose (right). The moon/whoopie pie recipe follows.

• Whoopie (or Moon) Pies with Cream Cheese Filling •
from Martha Stewart (with a different filling)
makes about 12

For the pies:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup vegetable shortening (yup, Crisco)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1 large egg
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the filling:
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 block cream cheese (8oz)
3/4 lb confectioner’s sugar, sifted (you can eyeball this if you don’t have a scale – buy a 1lb box)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. Sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt into a small bowl; set aside. If you’re lazy about sifting, you can just mix it pretty well with a whisk, if your cocoa isn’t clumpy, it will be fine.

Add butter, shortening, and sugars to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; cream on high speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add egg; beat until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add half the flour mixture, then the milk and vanilla; beat until combined. Add the remaining flour mixture. Beat together, scraping down sides of bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.

Drop 12 slightly rounded tablespoons of batter 2 inches apart on each baking sheet. Bake the cookies in the upper and lower thirds of oven for 10 minutes; switch the positions of the baking sheets, and rotate each one. Continue baking until the cookies spring back to the touch, 2 to 4 minutes more. Do not over-bake, these will get dry very quickly.

Remove from oven; let cookies cool on baking sheets, 10 minutes. Transfer with a metal spatula to a wire rack; let cool completely. Meanwhile, line a cooled baking sheet with a new piece of parchment; repeat process with remaining batter.

To make the filling, in the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and cream cheese with the paddle attachment. Add the sifted confectioners sugar in two batches, mix until smooth. Add the vanilla and mix to combine.

Spread 1 heaping tablespoon of filling on flat sides of half the cookies.Top each with one of the remaining cookies, flat side down, and gently press together. Enjoy! These are best eaten they day they are made.

Curry revelation

ThaiRedCurry_IMG_0362How is it possible that I’ve been alive for 42 years and never learned that Thai curry is a cinch to make? This evening, I happened to glance at the back of a can of Thai coconut milk, the recipe I found there was my inspiration. On the back of the can!

Rose whined “Awww, this is restaurant food.” Because at the moment she finds takeout food to be utterly abhorrent. I took the restaurant comment as a compliment. Shane’s rave review was “really good.”

• Thai Red Curry with Chicken and Vegetables •
adapted from the back of a can of Thai Kitchen Coconut Milk
serves 3-4
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into bite size pieces
1 tablespoon vegetable or other neutral flavored oil
1 can Thai coconut milk (I use Thai Kitchen, don’t use Goya, it’s too watery)
2 tablespoons red curry paste
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 big handfuls of snow peas
1 carrot peeled and cut into thin slices
1 red, orange or yellow bell pepper sliced
a big handful (or two) of basil leaves
1-2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
3/4 cups jasmine rice
1/2 cup coconut milk (optional)
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup water (or 1 1/2 cups if not using coconut milk)
Combine rice, butter, water and coconut milk (if using) in a small saucepan. Cover and bring to a simmer. Simmer until done, and remove from heat, leaving covered until ready to serve.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a skillet. Season the chicken pieces with a little salt and cook until golden. Remove chicken from pan, it doesn’t have to be totally cooked through.
Add coconut milk to skillet and bring to a boil. Add curry paste and brown sugar and stir to combine. Add and simmer until cooked through (cut a piece open to check). Add peas, carrots and bell pepper and cook for about 3-5 minutes, until peas are tender but still bright green. Add basil and fish sauce and stir to combine. Serve over rice.

Another food weekend in the country

Remember last year’s weekend with our friends the “Drews”? This years was equally fun. See photo captions for more on dinner, friends, and making maple syrup!

Polenta lasagna and other revelations

PolentaLasagna_IMG_0218Our friend Gail brought us some spinach, sausage and polenta lasagna that her husband had made a little too much of. It’s one of the wonderful things about living in our neighborhood, you always bump into someone you know on the street. Sometimes you have a spontaneous play date, or you’ll remember you have some outgrown kid clothes for them or they for you, and sometimes they offer to bring you dinner!

Polenta lasagna, what a clever idea. Gail is gluten-free, so the polenta takes the place of pasta in the dish. It was a revelation to me that corn is not a gluten food.

I found the lasagna utterly delicious (even though I only ate the non-sausage parts) but Rose was not a fan. We made sure she tried each part of it twice. “Come on, you love sausage!” “Okay, then try the polenta part.” “The cheese?”

Eventually we had to accept that this delicious dish was just not for her, and sent her off to the kitchen to find something to eat.

“Is Pirate Booty a good dinner?” “How about bread and butter? Is bread and butter a good dinner?” 

She finally settled on peanut butter and jelly. We told her she had to make her own sandwich, which she’s never done before. I know she’s probably the only non-allergic 6 year old in the world who’s never made her own pb&j. There are certain things that fall through the cracks when you have an only child, and don’t really need them to be all that independent.

Watching her make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich was one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen. Dutifully and on tip-toes, she cut the crusts off the bread in little half-inch increments. She “washed” the knife between the peanut butter and the jelly. She tried her very best to make the sandwich symmetrical. She left the loaf of bread on the floor when she was done.

Here comes independence.