Mother’s Day dinner

Our family tradition has been for us to host Mother’s Day dinner for my family – my mother, my brother and my sister and her family.  Due to social distancing, this wasn’t possible this year.  We missed being with everyone but still enjoyed a good dinner.  We were going to have grilled lamb chops with asparagus and polenta.  I normally do a loin and a rib chop per person but they didn’t have any rib chops so I got some shrimp and did a grilled lamb and shrimp surf and turf.

Grilled lamb chops

  • lamb chops
  • Worcestershire sauce

Season lam chops with salt and pepper.  Marinate with Worcestershire sauce.  Grill for 4 minutes a side for medium rare.

Grilled shrimp

Toss shrimp with olive oil, salt, pepper and minced garlic.  Skewer.  Grill for about 6 minutes until shrimp are opaque.

Grilled asparagus

Toss asparagus with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Grill about 8 minutes.

Rosemary polenta

  • 2 TB butter
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp minced rosemary
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 4 TB grated Parmesan cheese

Melt butter and olive oil.  Add garlic, red pepper flakes and rosemary and saute for 1 minute.  Add milk and chicken stock and boil.  Add cornmeal and whisk, stirring over low heat.  Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan cheese.

Delicious!

surf and turf

 

Cooking half a dinner

Many people are struggling with fixing meals during this challenging time.  With restaurants closed, people who relied on eating out are forced to cook.  Many grocery stores are struggling to keep staples on hand.  A friend recently remarked “I wish I enjoyed cooking like you do.”

One solution is to cook half a dinner.  Notice, I didn’t say eat half a dinner.  🙂  Tonight I made polenta and served it with meatballs that I had made and frozen a few weeks ago.  That meant I really only had to cook half a dinner.  Staying at home creates a great opportunity to fill your freezer.  Alternatively, you could make the meatballs and you use store bought polenta (or pasta) or make the polenta and buy meatballs.

Rosemary polenta

  • 2 TB butter
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp minced rosemary
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 4 TB grated Parmesan cheese

Melt butter and olive oil.  Add garlic, red pepper flakes and rosemary and saute for 1 minute.  Add milk and chicken stock and boil.  Add cornmeal and whisk, stirring over low heat.  Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan cheese.

Meatballs

  • 2 lbs meatloaf mix (a combination of ground beef, pork and veal
  • 1 3/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 TB chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup red wine
  • olive oil
  • Jarred marinara sauce

Preheat the oven to 400 and line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper.  (This will make cleanup much easier!)

Put the meatloaf mix in a large bowl and toss with your fingers.  Combine breadcrumbs, cheese and seasonings in a separate bowl and add to meat mixture.  Add the eggs, wine and 3/4 cup water.  Mix with your hands until well combined.

Roll into balls about 2 oz each and place on parchment.  (Samantha said mine weren’t evenly shaped and were more like meat blobs but they still tasted good.)   Brush with olive oil and bake for 30 minutes.  Let cool and then refrigerate if making ahead.  They can also be frozen.

Heat marinara sauce and add meatballs to heat through.  Serve on top of polenta.  meatballs and polenta

Lamb chops and sides

We had my mom over for dinner last night.  She loves grilled lamb chops so I got a loin and a rib chop for each of us.  We marinated them in a little Worcestershire sauce and Keith grilled them.  I thought polenta would be a good side and I was right.  I also cooked some baby spinach with a little butter and garlic.  Easy and delicious.  Here is a picture and the recipe for the polenta:

Rosemary polenta

  • 2 TB butter
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp minced rosemary
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 4 TB grated Parmesan cheese

Melt butter and olive oil.  Add garlic, red pepper flakes and rosemary and saute for 1 minute.  Add milk and chicken stock and boil.  Add cornmeal and whisk, stirring over low heat.  Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan cheese.

Lamb chops and sides

Lamb chops and sides

New Year’s Eve

For me New Year’s Eve is about staying in, being with great friends and enjoying a really good meal.  I don’t want to get dressed up and go out to a crowded restaurant.  The last two years, Christie and I have cooked tapas feasts.  While they have been fun, they have also involved a lot of work as we prepared many different dishes.  This year I went a different route and turned to my collection of restaurant cookbooks for inspiration.  My first thought was to cook an entire meal from one restaurant cookbook but then I decided it would be more fun to mix and match and draw from a variety of sources.  Here is the menu:

– Bar nuts (inspired by the Union Square Cafe)

– Celery and Celery Root Bisque (inspired by the Inn at Little Washington)

– Tuna Tartare and Herb salad with Ginger vinaigrette (inspired by the Gotham Grill)

– Grilled lamb chops with tapenade and rosemary polenta (inspired by Mustards Grill with an assist from the Barefoot Contessa)

– Warm chocolate tarragon cakes (inspired by Charles Palmer in Julia Child’s Cooking with Master Chefs)

All quantities below served 5 with the opportunity for interested pre-teens to try what they wanted (which was lamb and dessert!)

Bar nuts

I had these nuts recently as a before dinner snack .  The hostess told me that she keeps a batch on hand – sounds like a good idea except for the fact that they are so delicious, I think they are going to be hard to keep on hand.  I reduced the amount of rosemary from the original recipe (I’ve made rosemary walnuts many times and my husband likes them better with less rosemary than the recipe calls for.

  • 2 lbs assorted nuts (I used walnuts, pecans and almonds but hazelnuts or cashews would be delicious) – you want nuts that have not been roasted or salted
  • 2 TB fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 4 tsp light brown sugar
  • 3 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 TB butter

Preheat oven to 350.  Roast nuts on a baking sheet for 10 minutes, tossing halfway through.  While nuts are cooking, melt butter and other ingredients together.  Toss nuts with melted butter mixture in a large bowl and serve.

Celery and celery root bisque

Two years ago when we went on our skiing trip to Snowshoe, there was an amazing restaurant on the mountain called Embers.  They served a celery root soup that we have been talking about since.  I saw a recipe and decided to make some changes to it to increase the celery flavor.  Christie gets the big assist for finding the celery root at Fresh Market.  I had never cooked with it before but I was very pleased with how the soup turned out and will definitely use it again.  (I should have taken a picture of it but here is a link to some info on celery root/celeriac.)

  • 6 oz butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 leeks, white parts only, cleaned and chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 potato, peeled and chopped
  • 1 celery root, peeled and chopped
  • 1 qt chicken stock
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • salt, pepper and freshly ground nutmeg

Melt butter in a heavy saucepan and saute onion, leek and celery for about 10 minutes until tender.  Add bay leaf, potato and celery root and cook an additional 5 minutes.  Add stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, add cinnamon stick and simmer until celery root is soft – about 30 minutes.  Remove cinnamon stick and bay leaf and puree in batches in a food processor (or blender).

Strain mixture through a strainer, pressing hard to get as much liquid as possible.  (I fixed the soup to this point the day before and refrigerated until ready to serve.)  In a clean pan, heat liquid with 2/3 cup cream.  Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and serve.  Here is a picture:

Celery and celery root bisque

Celery and celery root bisque

I was supposed to garnish it with celery leaves but I forgot.  My friends at Graul’s Wine and Spirit Shop chose an excellent Vouvray to go with the soup.

Tuna Tartare and herb salad

Tuna tartare is one of my favorite things and I often order it in restaurants.  I often serve it as a first course – it’s not too heavy and most people like it.  I usually make the recipe found in Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Family Style and I love it.  I decided to try something a little different and found it in the Gotham Grill cookbook.  This is a great cookbook and was really the first restaurant cookbook that I used for dinner party recipes.  At The Gotham Grill they are known for their presentation which often involves stacking the ingredients but the cookbook also offers at home variations.  Interestingly, for the tuna tartare, they felt that you should mimic theirs which involves creating a ring of thinly sliced cucumbers on the plate and topping it with a circle of tuna formed in a ring mold with the “salad” sticking out of the top of it.  I decided to take a different approach and serve it in martini glasses.  I made the vinaigrette ahead and combined everything at the last minute.

  • 1 1/4 pounds sushi grade tuna, finely chopped
  • 1 small head of frisee, rinsed and dried
  • 1/4 cup chervil leaves
  • 1/4 cup parsley leaves
  • 2 TB cilantro leaves
  • 1 sliced cucumber

Ginger vinaigrette

  • 1/3 cup lime juice 
  • 3 TB ginger juice (shred the fresh ginger and squeeze through cheesecloth to get the juice)
  • 4 drops Tabasco
  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

Whisk together lime juice and ginger juice with Tabasco.  Gradually add canola oil while whisking and then stir in shallots and garlic.

When ready to serve, mix 1/2 the vinaigrette with the tuna and half with the mixed frisee, chervil, parsley and cilantro.  I then put a few slices of cucumber in each martini glass, topped with the salad and then with the tuna and topped with one slice of cucumber.  Here is a picture:

Tuna tartare with herb salad in a ginger vinaigrette served in a martini glass

Tuna tartare with herb salad in a ginger vinaigrette served in a martini glass

Everyone loved it and the Pinot Noir that my consultants from the liquor store picked out.  Christie and I really love Ina’s tuna which recommends that you combine the ingredients ahead of time and includes avocado.  This one (which says to combine the vinaigrette and tuna at the last minute) was definitely different.  Kevin thought the tuna taste came through better and really liked the ginger.  Our next mission is to try to combine the best of both.  I accept this challenge in 2013!

Grilled lamb with olive tapenade and rosemary polenta

  • 2 racks of lamb
  • 2 TB chopped thyme
  • 2 cloves garlic, mashed
  • 1/2 cup chopped mint
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil

Mash thyme, garlic and mint to a paste in a mortar and pestle and spread on lamb.  Marinate overnight in refrigerator.  Remove lamb and brush with olive oil (my husband got a new basting brush for Christmas and used that).  Grill about 7-8 minutes and then cut into chops.  Serve with

Olive tapenade

  • 1 10 oz jar pitted Kalamata olives, drained and chopped
  • zest from 1 orange
  • 3 TB chopped parsley
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 3 Tb olive oil
  • pepper

Combine all ingredients and pass in a bowl.  Mixed results from the jury – I thought it was great on a bite with lamb, others liked it separately, Keith is not a big fan of tapenade.

Rosemary polenta

The recipe called for Mustards polenta but we had to go back to our girlfriend Ina and her rosemary polenta.  I make a variation where I serve it from the pan rather than chilling it, flouring it and sauteing it but it was New Year’s Eve so I went whole hog.   (This also offered the advantage that I made the polenta on Sunday and just had to cut and saute when we were ready for dinner and there is more in the fridge!)

Polenta

  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • additional olive oil and butter (for sauteing)

Melt butter with olive oil over medium heat and add garlic and spices.  Pour in stock, milk and half and half and cook over high heat until boiling.  Remove from heat and gradually stir in cornmeal.  Cook for a few more minutes, stirring until thick.  Add parmesan cheese and pour mixture into a 9 x 13 pan.  Refrigerate.

When ready to serve, cut polenta into squares and then in half diagonally to make triangles.  (Or cut into circles with a biscuit cutter).  Dip in flour.  Melt 1 TB olive oil and 1 tsp butter and cook over medium heat until edges are crispy and polenta is hot.  Serve.

By this point in the evening, I was getting a bit sloppy with my photography duties so here is a picture of my plate after I started eating!  Perhaps the Zinfandel that we served with the lamb contributed to my forgetfulness!

Lamb chops and polenta

Lamb chops and polenta

Chocolate Tarragon warm cakes

Other than dessert, my dinner was mostly done ahead of time.  Since dessert required last minute attention, everyone brought their drinks and kept me company in the kitchen.  This dessert had intrigued me for years but I had never made it before.  I simplified the presentation and used a blend of semisweet and bittersweet chocolate instead of the semisweet that the recipe calls for.  Although the last minute preparation was kind of a pain, the flavor was excellent and I would make it again.  I should have cooked it for a few more minutes.

  • 2 oz semisweet chocolate
  • 2 oz bittersweet chocolate
  • 7 TB unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup suagr
  • 1 TB fresh tarragon, chopped
  • whipped cream

Melt chocolate over a double boiler.  Remove from heat and stir in butter.

Combine egg yolks with 1/2 cup of sugar and stir over simmering water until just warm.  Beat with an electric mixer for 5 minutes.  Add in tarragon and scrape down sides of bowl.  Pour in melted chocolate and mix until combined.

Whip egg whites to soft beaks then add sugar and whip until stiff.

Stir 1/3 of egg whites into chocolate mixture.  Fold in remainder.

Butter 6 ramekins and distribute batter between ramekins.  Bake at 375 for 10 – 15 minutes.  (I baked for 10 and they were quite runny – delicious but runny.  I would bake 15 next time.)

We debated about unmolding them and decided it was easier to put the ramekins on the dessert plates and top each cake with some whipped cream.  Sadly, I did not take a picture.  I guess that means I have to make them again!

Expect to see healthier and lower calorie recipes in the next few weeks!  Happy New Year!

After dinner

Toasting the New Year!

 

Saving energy for baking

I need to be baking cookies so I’m trying to keep the dinners simple to give myself time for cookies.  Last night was homemade ravioli from the freezer and tonight is grilled chicken with polenta.  I had some chipotle marinade in the fridge:

Chipotle marinade 

  • 2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 TB tomato juice
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 TB sherry vinegar
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in a blender.  NOTE: Marinade keeps well in refrigerator.

I marinated the chicken this morning before I left for work and whipped up some polenta to serve with it:

Rosemary polenta

  • 2 TB butter
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp minced rosemary
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 4 TB grated Parmesan cheese

Melt butter and olive oil.  Add garlic, red pepper flakes and rosemary and saute for 1 minute.  Add milk and chicken stock and boil.  Add cornmeal and whisk, stirring over low heat.  Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan cheese.

Chicken and polenta

Sunday night dinner

Our experimental dinner with all new recipes tonight was a success.  My only regret was that I didn’t get a picture!  The fish worked out very well and the celery salad was excellent – a definite do-over.  The polenta was good but not as good as the other polenta (with the rosemary and red pepper flakes).  Here are the recipes:

Celery Salad

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • zest and juice of 2 lemons and juice of 1/2 lemon kept separate
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 tsp celery seed
  • 1/2 tsp celery salt
  • 3/4 tsp anchovy paste
  • 8 – 10 stalks of celery, sliced thinly on the diagonal
  • 1 oz Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup toasted walnuts

Combine olive oil, lemon zest, juice from 2 lemons, shallots, celery seed, celery salt and anchovy paste and whisk together.  Toss celery with reserved lemon juice and 1/2 tsp salt.  Pour dressing over celery and refrigerate until ready to serve.  When ready to serve, top with shaved Parmesan cheese and walnuts.

Polenta

  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 2 TB butter

Put chicken stock in a large saucepan and bring to a boil.  Add garlic and stir to combine.  Reduce heat and slowly whisk in cornmeal, stirring constantly.  Simmer stirring for 10 minutes until thick.  Remove from heat and stir in cheese, cream and butter.  Serve hot.

Fish wrapped in Prosciutto

  • 4 – 6 oz fish filets per person (I used flounder)
  • 2 TB fresh rosemary chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 oz thinly sliced Prosciutto

Rinse fish and pat dry.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper and rosemary.  Roll up and wrap in Prosciutto.  Refrigerate until ready to cook.  Place on a foil lined baking pan and bake at 400 about 12 – 15 minutes.  Serve.

A new favorite

I tried a new combination for dinner tonight and it was awesome.  It wasn’t hard and the combination of flavors was wonderful.  Good thing I made enough to freeze some leftovers.  We’re going away for a long ski weekend with our friends next month and I think this might be one of the things that I make there.  The flavor is hearty but there isn’t much fat.  I used chicken breasts but you could use a mix of breasts and thighs.  If you do, you’ll need to cook the thighs a little longer.

Braised chicken and polenta

  • 4 bone in chicken breasts, washed and patted dry and cut in half
  • 3 TB olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 oz pancetta, chopped
  • 2 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp fresh sage, finely chopped
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 1 1/2 TB tomato paste
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 cups chicken stock

Season chicken with salt and pepper.  Heat 2 TB olive oil in a heavy saucepan and cook chicken until browned on both sides.  Remove from pan and place on a plate.  Pour off the fat from the pan.  Add remaining 1 TB olive oil and add onion, pancetta, rosemary, sage, bay leaves and cloves.  Saute 5- 10 minutes or until onions are browned.  Add wine and scrape pan brownings.  Add tomato paste and stir in.  Return chicken to pan and add chicken stock.  Bring to a boil and then simmer 20 – 30 minutes or until chicken is done.  Serve over:

Rosemary polenta

  • 2 TB butter
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp minced rosemary
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 4 TB grated Parmesan cheese

Melt butter and olive oil.  Add garlic, red pepper flakes and rosemary and saute for 1 minute.  Add milk and chicken stock and boil.  Add cornmeal and whisk, stirring over low heat.  Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan cheese.

 

Roast chicken and polenta

We’re staying in tonight and unfortunately, after an initial taste of spring, the weather has turned cold again.  The forecast was saying there is a possibility of snow.  A perfect night for a comfort dinner of roast chicken and polenta.  (I also get the bonus of being able to make chicken stock tomorrow.)  Both the Barefoot Contessa and the Mustards Grill cookbooks have wonderful recipes for polenta where you cook the polenta and then let is set in a pan, cut it and either cook in a saute pan (Barefoot Contessa) or grill (Mustards Grill).  I’ll go with the pan version tonight.

Roast Chicken

  • 1 Roasting chicken
  • 2 tsp poultry seasoning
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 4 TB butter

Remove giblets from chicken and reserve for stock.  Wash chicken thoroughly inside and out and dry.  Rub poultry seasoning, salt and pepper into cavity.  Dot with butter.  Preheat oven to 375.  Cook f0r 30 minutes.  Baste chicken and reduce heat to 350.  Continue cooking until chicken is done (I have to confess that I usually just wait until the little plastic thermometer pops out) about 20 minutes per pound.

Polenta

  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • additional olive oil and butter (for sauteing)

Melt butter with olive oil over medium heat and add garlic and spices.  Pour in stock, milk and half and half and cook over high heat until boiling.  Remove from heat and gradually stir in cornmeal.  Cook for a few more minutes, stirring until thick.  Add parmesan cheese and pour mixture into a 9 x 13 pan.  Refrigerate.

When ready to serve, cut polenta into squares and then in half diagonally to make triangles.  (Or cut into circles with a biscuit cutter).  Dip in flour.  Melt 1 TB olive oil and 1 tsp butter and cook over medium heat until edges are crispy and polenta is hot.  Serve.

Warning – this is addictive!  It keeps well in the refrigerator and then makes an easy side dish to quickly saute.  (I actually took a pan of it when we went on our ski trip a year ago and just needed to saute – it’s very good with the pesto, sundried tomato chicken breasts.)

I also made sauerkraut this afternoon.  It’s a nice thing to cook on top of the stove when there is chicken in the oven.  (I put a little bit of chicken juice in with the sauerkraut when I baste.)  With leftover chicken, sauerkraut and polenta, the menu plan for the week is already shaping up and it’s going to be an easy one.

Sauerkraut

  • 2 country spare ribs
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1 lb sauerkraut in a bag
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • pepper
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup white wine

In a saucepan heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Cook spare ribs until browned on all sides.  Add onion and saute stirring.  Drain sauerkraut and add to onion, stirring.  Add garlic and pepper.  Add chicken stock, white wine and enough water to cover.  Simmer over low heat for 2 – 3 hours.  Add more liquid if it starts to get dry.