July 14, 2013

February 24, 2013

  • Collecting Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Gift Boxes

    A call to action!

    OK, maybe not THAT serious

    I am currently working on collecting Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Gift Boxes for a Winter Holiday 2013 project. Well, if I am able to amass the number of boxes I need it will be a Winter Holiday 2013 project. If not, it may end up being a Winter Holiday 2014 … or 2015 project

    I’ve been able to find a few. I even posted a local ad on craigslist begging people to save them for me rather than recycling them. Two friends have also contributed. Another friend had the idea to call the Beverage Managers at city hotels. Not a bad idea, but I was quick to learn that hotels do not receive their Veuve in gift boxes. I also called a couple of liquor stores to ask if they ever removed bottles from the gift boxes, but they do not. It looks like I need to leave it up to me and my friends to collect them

    The current box is a two-part box with a decorative cut-out on one side with the word PUSH above it. When you push, you are pushing the interior box out to reveal the bottle

    Here is a picture of the primary side of the current Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Gift Box

    If you can help in anyway, please let me know. And thank you!



December 21, 2012

  • Happy Winter Solstice

    I am hosting my annual Solstice Fete tonight and came up with menu, by design, where I am barely preparing anything … I can’t even claim anything is Semi-homemade

    Here is the buffet for your viewing pleasure


    Punch – Blueberry Pomegranate with seltzer and vodka. I am preparing the punch this time because the usual bartender uses a heavy hand on the booze. I freeze the same juice in silicone bundt pans. When they are frozen, I pop them out and keep them in freezer bags. If I freeze one in the morning it is usually frozen by the end of the day and I can continue making them up to the day before any party where I am serving punch


    Centerpiece – Berkshire Ham, spiral-sliced heritage pork, the king of little piggies. I am giving people the option of making sandwiches by offering cream cheese biscuits (that I am letting a friend make since she really wanted to help), Dijon, sweet & spicy bread & butter pickles, and Swiss cheese


    Smoked salmon – The only thing I did was take it out of its original packaging and arrange it on a plate


    Spinach-artichoke dip – Last time I didn’t serve this there was a revolt. 1 cup packed grated Gruyere cheese, 1 cup Hellmann’s mayonnaise, 1 10 ounce package frozen spinach, microwaved for 5 minutes, cooled to room temperature and squeezed dry, 1 can artichoke hearts (the quarter-cut variety cost less), drained and roughly chopped, 1 tablespoon Dell A’llpe Italian seasoning. Mix everything together in a large bowl and fwap into a deep dish pie plate in a relatively even layer. Bake at 375 degrees until hot and bubbly, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve with corn tortilla chips, tomatillio salsa and sour cream on the side


    Cabot “Seriously sharp” Cheddar cheese – Like the spinach artichoke dip, the last time I didn’t serve cheese was the last time I didn’t serve cheese. Served with a variety of crackers including wheat, rice, and sesame


    Shrimp cocktail – Extra large shrimp served with homemade cocktail sauce. I found a new freshly grated horseradish at the grocery store and made my usual seafood cocktail sauce and it almost blew my head off. I had to start over and pull way back on the horseradish. 1 cup Simply Heinz ketchup, 1 cup Heinz cocktail sauce, 1/4 cup grated horseradish, 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, Favorite hot sauce, to taste


    Roasted potatoes – This was a revelation the first time I served them and are, aside from the spinach artichoke dip, the only vegetable I bother to serve anymore. So easy and who doesn’t love roasted potatoes? I am offering a leek dip with them if people wish to indulge, but they are so good just by themselves


    Mixed nuts – I found a drugstore brand I think is better quality than any of the big name brands. 2 large cans, open and dump into a big glass bowl. Voila!


    Brach’s Peppermint nougat and Dove Dark Promises – I think if you have peppermint, you should have chocolate and even though most people don’t touch the candy platter, I like to have it for the sparkle and the joy


    Happy Winter Solstice! Raise a glass, burn some sage, and light a candle to celebrate the return of the light!


February 25, 2012

  • Hot and Bitter Guacamole

    Admittedly this guacamole is not for everyone. It was created, in part, as a counter to all those TV chefs and cooks who routinely discount and turn their wrinkled noses up at bitter, one of the legitimate flavors. Hey, without bitter there would be no Guinness Stout, 60% cacao chocolate or mustard greens; so for those of you who like bitter, this could be the ‘guac’ for you

    2 whole limes
    2 serrano chilies
    2 teaspoons house salt*
    2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
    1 medium bunch cilantro, leaves and stems shaved and minced
    4 scallions, green tops only, thinly sliced on the bias
    4 Hass avocados

    Quarter 1 lime and cut each quarter in half. Drop the lime pieces in the bowl of a food processor. Cut the stems off the chilies, sliced in half the long way and cut into thirds. Add them to the food processor with the limes. Add the salt and prepped garlic. Pulse the ingredients 6 times and then let the machine run for 30 seconds. Let the resulting sofrito sit in the food processor while you prep the avocados. If you don’t have a food processor, grind the sofrito together in a mortar with a pestle

    Cut each avocado in half, remove the pit and scoop the flesh into a non-reactive bowl. Mash the flesh of the avocados with a potato masher, two forks, or a pastry blender until smooth with some chunks. Stir in the minced cilantro and sliced scallions. Scrape the sofrito from the food processor into the avocado mixture and fold it in. Taste for salt and lime and, if desired, add more salt and more lime juice from the 2nd lime

    Scrape and mound the guacamole into a serving dish or place plastic wrap directly on the surface and around the bowl and refrigerate up to 2 days. Before service, remove the guacamole from the refrigerator for 30 minutes before uncovering and serving with blue corn chips and your favorite salsa

    House salt
    This is my updated fool-proof and totally delicious version of my house salt that you can use wherever you would use salt when you are cooking. It truly is the ‘secret ingredient’ to my rice, my chicken, my eggs, and my … well, everything. You’ll be amazed by how it transforms every day dishes

    1 3 ounce tub Dell Alpe Italian Seasoning for Spaghetti Sauce
    1 16 ounce box Morton Kosher or Diamond Crystal Salt

    Pour the contents of the Dell Alpe Italian Seasoning tub into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 4 times then let the machine run for 15 seconds.

    Pour the salt into a one gallon zip-top baggie and add the pulverized seasoning. Seal the bag and shake until the salt and the seasonings are fully incorporated. Pour into a salt pig or box or large jar with a tight-fitting lid and use in place of salt in cooking

January 28, 2012

  • Kitchen ritual: Tomato paste

    You can usually find me in the kitchen on Saturday morning participating in at least one of my kitchen rituals, this week it is freezing tomato paste. How many times have you bought a can of tomato paste for the 1 tablespoon your recipe calls for, only to have the rest of the can leftover and sitting, poorly covered, in the refrigerator? And how many times have you lamented buying a small tube of the stuff that broke the bank? There is a solution and it is as close as your freezer.

    Buy an 18 ounce (or similarly sized) can of your favorite tomato paste

    Use a tablespoon measure to portion out the contents of the can

    Drop the measured tomato paste onto a wax paper-lined plate

    When you’ve portioned out the tomato paste, pop the plate in the freezer

    When the orbs have frozen solid, move them to a zip top freezer bag

    Fold the bag over to remove all of the air and seal the bag

    Pop the bagged tablespoon measures of tomato paste in the freezer

    The frozen orbs of tomato paste will last indefinitely in a zero degrees Fahrenheit freezer and up to a year in a frost-free freezer. The next time you need a tablespoon or two of tomato paste, remove from the bag and drop directly into your recipe. No need to thaw them first

    By spending a little bit of time freezing tomato paste in a convenient measured size you’ll be sure to always have it on hand and didn’t break the bank

January 16, 2012

  • Meatless Monday: Vegetarian French onion soup

    The key to developing the deep flavors of traditional French onion soup while making it vegetarian is to cook the onions almost past amber, even allowing them to char a bit around the edges. The other key flavor-booster is to use porcini mushroom stock, something I tend to have on hand after the winter holidays. You can use any mushroom stock, but the porcini will bring the most flavor. If you only have vegetable stock, put 6 ounces of sliced or quartered mushrooms in a 4 inch square of cheesecloth, bundle and tie off with kitchen string. Add the mushroom bundle in with the onions after you add the stock


    For the soup:
    2 tablespoons canola oil
    1 tablespoon butter
    1 pound Vidalia onions, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
    4 sprigs of fresh thyme, tied together with kitchen string
    1 bay leaf
    2 teaspoons house salt
    Black peppercorns in a pepper mill
    2 teaspoons flour
    1/2 cup white wine (Sauvignon or Chenin blanc)
    2 cups mushroom
    1 cup water

    For the cheese toast:
    2 1 ½ inch thick slices favorite artisan bread
    2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
    1 teaspoon salt, divided
    1 1/2 cups grated Gruyère cheese, sharp as you like, divided

    Set oven rack to center position. Heat oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.

    Heat a 3-quart Dutch oven over medium high heat for 3 minutes. Add the oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the butter and cook until the foam from the butter has subsided. Add the onions and stir to coat with the oil and butter. Sprinkle in the salt and cook, stirring frequently until the onions begin to soften. Add the thyme bundle, bay leaf and several grinds of freshly cracked black pepper. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally until the onions are sticky and deep amber in color, 30 to 35 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the water, loosening the sticky onions and scraping up the fond in the bottom of the pan. Stir in the stock, lower the heat to medium and cover the Dutch oven. Let the soup simmer for 20 minutes.

    Meanwhile place the bread on the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle each with 1 teaspoon oil and season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Bake the bread until it is evenly toasted, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.

    Heat the broiler.

    For final preparation remove the mushrooms (if using), thyme bundle, and bay leaf and discard. Ladle the soup into 2 ovenproof crocks. Top each with a slice of toast and top each toast with an even layer of cheese

    Place the crocks on the same baking sheet used to toast the bread and place on middle rack. Broil until the cheese is completely melted and light golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes

    Let the French onion soup rest for 5 minutes before serving


December 25, 2011

  • Crab cakes eggs Benedict

    Crab cakes take the place of Canadian bacon in this version of the popular brunch dish

    The formed crab cakes need to chill 1 hour before frying.

    The poached eggs can be made in advance (see Method)

    Quantities are easily doubled or tripled

    For the crab cakes
    1 lb Maryland lump crabmeat
    1 eggs
    1 generous tablespoon mayonnaise
    1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
    1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
    1⁄4 cup fresh parsley, minced
    1/4 cup crushed saltines
    Vegetable oil

    For the hollandaise
    4 egg yolks
    2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
    1/4 teaspoon house salt
    Pinch of freshly ground white pepper
    1/2 cup hot melted butter

    For the poached eggs
    4 large eggs
    1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
    Pinch of house salt

    For the muffins and final assembly
    2 English muffins, split
    4 tablespoons butter
    Fresh parsley or celery leaves

    For the crab cakes

    Discard any cartilage or shell from crabmeat. Mix together eggs, mayonnaise, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and parsley in a mixing bowl.

    Add crab, taking care not to break up crabmeat. Add cracker meal, and then shape mixture into 4 cakes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour.

    Pour vegetable oil into a large skillet to a depth of 1⁄4″ and heat over medium-high heat. Fry the cakes until golden brown, turning once, about 5 minutes per side. Remove to a paper-towel lined plate and set aside.

    For the hollandaise sauce
    Add the yolks, lemon juice, salt and pepper to a food processor fitted with the metal chopping blade and blitz together 10 to 15 seconds. Keep the motor running and add the hot melted butter drop by drop. As the mixture thickens add butter in a slow steady stream. When about half the butter is in you can pour a little faster. Continue blending until thick and satiny. Pour the hollandaise into a small serving container.

    For the poached eggs
    Fill a large skillet with 3 inches of water and bring to the boil over high heat. Add the vinegar and the salt and stir to combine. Break the eggs onto 4 small plates and move them to near the skillet of simmering water. Lower the lip of each plate half an inch BELOW the surface of the water and let the eggs flow out. Cover the pan with a lid and turn off the heat and set a timer for 3 minutes. Remove the poached eggs from the water with a slotted spoon and let them drain a bit before moving to a plate lined with paper towels. Poached eggs can be made in advance: poach the eggs as directed. When they are finished, remove them to a large bowl of cold water. Refrigerate, uncovered, until you need them (up to 3 days). Simmer the eggs in boiling water for 30 seconds to warm them through

    For the muffins and final assembly
    Toast the split English muffins until lightly golden brown. Butter each half with 1 tablespoon butter. Arrange two buttered English muffins on two plates

    Top each English muffin half with a crab cake and each crab cake with a poached egg. Pour hollandaise sauce over each egg. Sprinkle the hollandaise with paprika and garnish the plate with fresh parsley.

    Makes 2 servings

November 26, 2011

  • Thanksgiving dinner 2011 – The results

    Table for 4

    Individual place setting

    The menu

    Stilton-stuffed dates

    Amuse bouche: Pomegranate with clove

    Smoked tomato bisque simmering on the stove

    Smoked tomato bisque platted shown with accompanying 
    Vidalia onion & Gruyere monkey bread 

    The first of 4 wines

    Diner’s plate, from upper left: roasted maple-mustard green
    beans, scalloped potatoes Florentine, Jay’s roasted turkey,
    Country bread pudding with fennel and pear

    Cranberry-apple relish

    The cheese course: Fontina fondue with brown bread and
    Ambrosia apple

    Melodie’s raisin pie

    Thank you to my beautiful and gracious guests for their
    contributions and a special shout-out to Melodie for playing
    photographer this year

    In deep appreciation 

November 18, 2011

  • Thanksgiving dinner menu

    I thought, while the tea towels are drying, that I might change things up a bit this year; afterall, I wasn’t nicknamed ‘Mr Thanksgiving’ for nothing. Instead of showing you the after-math in photos, I thought I would start a bit early with the menu first and, perhaps, photos later. Do you need a recipe or reassurance? Maybe you need some initiation or inspiration. I’m more than happy to help in any way that I can, either through encouragement or recipe. Here then is the final (finally) Thanksgiving dinner 2011. Yes, you’ll notice a more traditional bend on it, but as much as I love being nontraditional, I do love a good turkey thigh from time to time. 

    hors d’oeuvres
    stilton-stuffed dates

    amuse bouche
    pomegranate juice with clove

    smoked tomato bisque
    gruyère & onion monkey bread
    chenin blanc

    pumpkin-cinnamon sorbet
    sparkling water

    jay’s roast turkey
    escalloped potatoes florentine
    roasted maple-mustard green beans
    country bread pudding with fennel & pear
    cranberry relish
    sauvignon blanc

    fontina fondue with brown bread and apple
    pinot gris

    melodie’s raisin pie with maple crème fraîche
    intelligentsia coffee


    I do hope pictures, and the full menu, complete with wines, will make its way to this blog shortly after the holiday. In the mean time, I want to encourage you to ask questions or make requests as they come to you. I am more than happy to assist in any way that I can.