Archive for May, 2009

Ramen Noodle Salad

ramen-saladLeftovers Week continues… After my fancy doctored-up ramen dinner for one, I had a half-package of ramen noodles with the seasoning pack, half a head of napa cabbage, and plenty of scallions, all of which had to go before The Big Move. Fate itself can be credited with my discovery of this recipe, for in the midst of packing I happened upon a small recipe binder.

This binder was a gift from my wedding shower which was cooking-themed (go figure!). Each guest brought a dish with them to the party, along with the recipe for the dish and a gift that related to the recipe. For example, one guest made sangria and my gift was the beautiful glass pitcher she served it in. Another friend made blueberry crumb cake and gave me a beautiful pottery berry bowl.

The shower hostess (my lovely cousin Audrey who herself is now engaged and deserving of reciprocity) collected everyone’s recipe cards and put them into a binder for me to have. While I have turned to the binder several times (whenever a strong food craving reminds me of something delicious I ate at the shower), I must somehow have missed the recipe for Chinese Salad sent in from my aunt who was unable to come last June. If she had attended, I am sure I would not have been able to forget this fun and flavorful dish!

As I flipped through the binder before putting it into a cardboard moving box with the other cookbooks, I happened to fall upon Aunt Robbie’s recipe card — serendipity. Three more items saved from the rubbish bin, and in such a delicious way. I must admit I balked at the quantities on the card, but I wasn’t serving a crowd (as the card promises), so I cannot say that the amounts listed below are incorrect. All I can say is that in addition to quartering the recipe I also probably reduced the proportion of butter and sugar listed here. Nevertheless, I will report the recipe as it was given to me – to do otherwise would be to reject the wisdom passed to the new bride and I don’t need any of that bad juju.

Chinese Salad
1 stick butter
2 packages chicken-flavored Ramen noodles, broken into tiny pieces (with 1 package of the enclosed seasoning)
1 cup slivered almonds
2 Tbs. sesame seeds
1 bunch bok choy
1 bunch scallions
1 head Napa Cabbage

 Dressing
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbs. soy sauce
3/4 cup olive oil

Melt the butter in a large saute pan over medium-high heat.  Add the noodle pieces, the 1 package of ramen seasoning, the almonds and the sesame seeds – saute until almonds and/or noodles just begin to brown.

ramen-saute

Slice the vegetables into thin slices or julienned strips and toss in a salad bowl with the noodle saute.

Whisk together the cider vinegar, sugar, and soy sauce, then mix in the olive oil slowly while whisking. Toss the salad with the dressing.

In the manner of all lovely handed-down recipes on index cards, there is a note: “Serves a crowd and is always a hit!”

May 31, 2009 at 11:01 am 5 comments

Ways to Use Up Buttermilk

panna cotta final

This week is, by necessity, leftovers week.  RJ and I are moving (!) and are packing up house, home, and pantry.  Even if you aren’t moving, it isn’t a bad idea to do a similar fridge-clearing exercise every once and a while.  The first step in the process is to take stock (as in inventory, not soup base) of what you need to use up.  Our list contained a random assortment of freezer-bound meats (2 sausages, 5 skinless chicken breast halves, a balsamic-marinated flank steak, 1 duck breast, etc. etc.), the standard hodgepodge of hopeful fruits and vegetables (some fennel, a bunch of rhubarb, a pint of strawberries, half a red onion, a cut-into lime, 1 head of romaine, a bag of green beans), various condiments, and buttermilk.  I groaned at that one.

Leftover from my Tiramisu Cake, the buttermilk sat untouched with the little toddler mascot staring at me everytime I opened the refrigerator door.  I never know what to do with buttermilk, and every recipe I’ve made thus far that has required me to purchase it uses a 1/2 cup or so, leaving the better part of a quart behind to waste away (and rancid buttermilk is not a pleasant smell, trust me).

That leads me to my second step in the cleaning-out process — evaluate the inventory’s perishability and strategize approach accordingly.  Obviously the two frozen sausages and the variable shapes of dried pasta you have on hand can wait a bit, whereas the strawberries, romaine, and buttermilk will need to be used immediately.  If you can think of recipes that use more than one of your on-hand ingredients at the same time, all the better!  I grabbed the rhubarb, the strawberries, and the buttermilk and set to work.

To really make a dent in the buttermilk container, I had to truly feature it in whatever I made.  So I chose Buttermilk Panna Cotta.  A quintessential summer dessert, panna cotta is cool and creamy with a consistency that falls somewhere between custard and jello.  You can top it with fresh berries, mango puree, wine syrup, chocolate, or even bacon!  Though out of season, pomegranate seeds might be nice too… kind of like my cheesecake topping from this past winter.  Endlessly modifiable, panna cotta is a delicious and versatile way of using up buttermilk!

buttermilkButtermilk Panna Cotta, adapted slightly from MarthaStewart.com
(Serves 6)
2 cups nonfat buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons powdered unflavored gelatin
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar

3 stalks rhubarb
1/4 cup sugar
1 pint strawberries, hulled and quartered
1 Tbs. lemon juice

In the top of a double boiler (not over heat), sprinkle gelatin over 1 cup buttermilk; let stand to soften, about 5 minutes.

panna cotta in ramekinMeanwhile, bring cream and scant 1/2 cup sugar to a boil. Add to gelatin mixture. Place over simmering water; whisk until gelatin dissolves, 5 minutes. Stir in remaining cup buttermilk. Pass mixture through a cheesecloth-lined strainer. Divide among 6 four-ounce ramekins or small bowls on a baking sheet. Cover; refrigerate until set, 4 hours.

Meanwhile, place rhubarb in a small to medium sized saucepan with 2 tablespoons of water and 1/4 cup of sugar.  Stir to combine and place over medium heat.  When the mixture begins to boil, cover the pot and cook over low heat until the rhubarb is soft and begins to dissolve slightly, approximately 15 minutes.  Stir in strawberries and lemon juice, then taste to see if you need more sugar.

panna-cottaUnmold by dipping ramekins briefly into hot water and running tip of a knife around edges; invert onto plates, and serve with strawberries and their juice.

That definitely used up a bunch, but I still had over a cup of buttermilk sitting in the fridge.  I decided, then, on Sunday morning to finish up the strawberry-rhubarb topping and the buttermilk in one fell swoop.  I made waffles!  Good belgian waffles are such a treat on a lazy morning – especially with fresh fruit and whipped cream.

Buttermilk Waffles, from Cook’s Illustrated The New Best Recipe

(Makes 3-4 waffles, depending on size of waffle maker)

1 cup (5 oz.) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tbs. cornmeal (optional – lends a nice crunch to the waffles)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 large egg, separated
7/8 c. buttermilk
2 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Heat a waffle iron. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. Whisk the egg yolk with the buttermilk and melted butter.

Beat the egg white until it just holds a 2-inch peak.

Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients in a thin, steady stream while mixing gently with a rubber spatula. (Do not add liquid faster than you can incorporate it into the batter). Toward the end of mixing, use a folding motion to incorporate the ingredients. Gently fold the egg white into the batter.

Spread an appropriate amount of batter onto the waffle iron. Following the manufacturer’s instructions, cook the waffle until golden brown, 2 to 5 minutes. Serve immediately. (In a pinch, you can keep waffles warm on a wire rack in a 200-degree oven for up to 5 minutes).

Make toaster waffles out of leftover batter – undercook the waffles a bit, cool them on a wire rack, wrap them in plastic wrap, and freeze.

Buttermilk Waffle
Here are some other recipes using buttermilk – I wish you the best of luck getting rid of it in the most delicious of ways!

May 27, 2009 at 6:59 am 8 comments

Simple Roast Salmon

Unfortunately I had little success with my third recipe from Nina Simonds’ cookbook Spices of Life.  I wanted all three recipes to showcase the strengths of the cookbook – Kung Pao Chicken gives an easy method for making a favorite Chinese takeout dish at home and Doctored-up Ramen demonstrates a healthy, inexpensive and fun version of a nostalgic noodle – but I also intend for my Cookbook Challenge to be representative.  In the week I dedicated to the cookbook, I had two great successes (already mentioned) and a bunch of not-so-good results.  First, the cardamom asparagus which were not spectacular:

Cardamom AsparagusThen a strawberry-rhubarb crumble that had the weakest, least flavorful topping I’ve ever tasted (what a waste!):

rhubarb-crumble

and finally, a Pad Thai that truly disappointed.  Though I really LOVE pad thai, this make-at-home version was horrific.  I would ascribe the off flavor to the ketchup (!) in the recipe — no amount of fresh lime juice or peanuts could save it.  But the pictures came out well:

pad-thai-3

The above recipes really aren’t worth repeating here, so I won’t!  The below recipe is pretty simple, and while I wasn’t totally blown away by it, I think part of the problem might have been human error.  I overcooked the salmon slightly (by following the times in the directions, I might add) and I am unsure how (given the balsamic and soy sauce in the marinade) anyone could achieve the light pink result pictured in the book:

Simonds Salmon

As for the snap peas, I thought they tasted very light and refreshing — perfect for a hot summer lunch, picnic or potluck.  I am not convinced that the cold minty snap peas are a good pairing with the salty warm salmon.  In fact, I really didn’t like the two of them together.  I feel like I gave the cookbook ample opportunity to give me a winner third recipe, but instead I give you two recipes that were decent on their own, and very simple to make, but which do not have my wholehearted endorsement.

Pan-Roasted Salmon Served with Minty Snap Peas, from Nina Simonds’ Spices of Life

(Serves 6)

“The ginger–soy–balsamic marinade gives the seared salmon a lovely flavor and color and the simple mint dressing is a light and refreshing complement to snap peas. Nina likes to serve this dish hot, or at room temperature with rice pilaf for a festive buffet.” [she says to serve this dish hot, meaning (I suppose) the salmon, since the snap peas are ‘refreshed in cold water’ before being added to the mint dressing]

salmon-marinade6 pieces salmon fillets with skin on, each weighing about 6 ounces

For salmon marinade
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1½ pounds snap peas

For mint dressing
3 tablespoons fruity extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice, or to taste
4 to 5 tablespoons chopped mint
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons virgin olive oil

Make the marinade: Mix the ginger, soy sauce, and balsamic vinegar in a small bowl. Put the salmon in a deep dish. Pour in the marinade and toss lightly to coat. Let the salmon sit at room temperature while cooking the snap peas.

Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a saucepan and add the snap peas. Cook for 2 minutes, or until they are crisp tender. Drain in a colander and refresh in cold water. Drain again and blot dry on paper towels.

Whisk the mint dressing ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Add the snap peas and toss lightly to coat. Taste for seasoning, adjusting if necessary.

Heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan over high heat until very hot. Place the salmon steaks with their coating, skin side down, in the pan, partially cover, and fry about 5 to 6 minutes covered over high heat (depending on the thickness) until the skin is crisp and the salmon meat has started becoming opaque. Carefully flip over with a spatula and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes, or until just cooked.

Arrange the salmon fillets on a serving platter and spoon the snap peas around and on top. Serve with steamed brown rice.

Calories: 370 ⁄ Protein: 34 g ⁄ Carbohydrate: 11 g ⁄ Fiber: 3 g⁄ Sodium: 570 mg
Saturated fat: 3 g ⁄ Polyunsaturated fat: 5 g ⁄ Monounsaturated fat: 11 g
Trans fat: 0 g ⁄ Cholesterol: 85 mg

salmon-final

May 24, 2009 at 11:25 am Leave a comment

Doctored-up Ramen

Ramen Noodles

A cookbook author and an editor/correspondent for Gourmet, Nina Simonds has shared her philosophy about Asian cooking and ingredients widely.  One of her methods for spreading the word is through her “Dinner Doctor” character, who goes around solving common challenges to making delicious, healthy dinners.  She can be seen on Oprah and her own website breaking down people’s extensive excuses – I am too tired at the end of the day, I don’t know how, it’s too expensive to buy groceries, I have to eat takeout to get to my fortune cookie, etc…

My second foray into Nina’s book, Spices of Life, is a healthful twist on doctored-up ramen.  Ramen noodles, the staple of college dorm rooms everywhere, answer almost all of the above excuses (you’ll still have to get your own fortune cookie – sorry – but Confucious says necessity is the mother of invention).  Ramen are super easy and low effort (add water and stir) and cost about 20 cents a package.  Granted, this dinner-doctored version is a bit more high maintenance, but it is also far FAR better tasting.  Toss out your “flavor pak” and check this recipe out:

Stir-Fried Ramen Noodles with Vegetables, from Nina Simonds’ Spices of Life

(serves 6)

ramen-mise3/4 lb. fine dried Japanese ramen, Chinese egg noodles or angel hair pasta
1/2 small head Chinese (Napa) cabbage (about 3/4 pound)
2 Tbs. virgin olive oil
2 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
1 tsp. dried chile flakes, or to taste
2 medium red onions, peeled and cut into thin slices (about 2 1/2 cups)
2 carrots, peeled, ends trimmed and grated
2 Tbs. rice wine or sake

Noodle Sauce (mixed together):
5 Tbs. soy sauce
2 Tbs. mirin (or 2 Tbs. rice wine or sake plus 1 1/2 Tbs. sugar)
1 1/2 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
3 Tbs. soy sauce

2 Tbs. toasted sesame seeds

Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Drop the noodles into the water and stir to prevent them from sticking together. Bring the water again to a boil and cook 4 1/2 to 5 minutes, or until the noodles are just cooked. (Since the cooking time varies with the type of noodles, refer to the package for the recommended time.) Drain the noodles in a colander and rinse under warm running water. Drain again and set aside.

ramen-onions

Cut the cabbage leaves from the stem. Trim the leafy tip ends and discard. Rinse the leaves thoroughly and drain. Cut them into julienne strips about 1/4 inch wide, separating the stem sections from the leafy sections.

ramen-cabbage

Heat a wok or a heavy skillet, pour in the oil, and heat over medium-high heat until hot. Add the ginger, garlic, chile flakes, and onions, and stir-fry for about a minute. Cover and cook for several minutes, until the onions are soft. Add the cabbage stem shreds, carrots, and rice wine. Stir-fry lightly, cover, and cook for about 1 1/2 minutes, until almost tender. Add the leafy cabbage shreds, toss, cover, and cook for a minute or two. Pour in the Noodle Sauce, bring to a boil, and add the noodles and the sesame seeds. Toss lightly to coat the noodles and vegetables and spoon onto a serving platter. Serve immediately.

Fancy Ramen Noodles

(As you can see from the pictures, I sauteed some shrimp to mix in, but as-is it is a vegetarian main course.)

May 20, 2009 at 8:06 pm 2 comments

Kung Pow! Chicken

Kung-Pao-FinalAs they say, “when the cat’s away, the mice will play.”  Though I’m not sure it’s the perfect analogy, I must say I did feel a rush of culinary freedom when I found out I was going to have a weekend in the kitchen without my husband around.  Of course, of course, I miss him terribly.  However, the thought of being able to cook any combination of fish, vegetables, or ethnic food I can dream up is nearly intoxicating.

I took RJ’s absence as an opportunity to tackle a second book in my cookbook challenge, and I picked one I knew he wouldn’t enjoy – Spices of Life: Simple and Delicious Recipes for Great Health by Nina Simonds.  While many of the books in my cookbook collection were gifts, and even more were bookstore (or Costco) purchases, this one has more of a story.  I currently work at an art museum and design programming to attract new members and donors.  Last spring, I invited Nina Simonds to speak at the museum for a lecture and luncheon event.  I used her appearance as an excuse to purchase her most recent cookbook, Spices of Life — for research of course!

She brought with her baskets and baskets of spices — assorted seed pods, gigantic rolled cinnamon sticks, peppercorns of all colors.  The guests at the museum loved being able to handle each of these, and breathe in the varied aromas, both familiar and exotic.  While some of us are more adventurous than others when it comes to spices and strange flavors, few of us can describe the plant that produces sesame seeds, or have handled all of the different components of a garam masala.  It was a true treat to have Nina, such a well-traveled food writer and cook, share these things with us.

Nina’s approach to cooking emphasizes the use of healthful ingredients and she describes throughout the book the restorative powers of specific herbs, vegetables and spices.  The concept is a great one — incorporate these health-giving (not to mention delicious!) ingredients into your cooking on a regular basis, and improve your body’s form and function.  Nina’s other website actually supplies a great list of spices and produce items along with their nutrients and perceived healthful properties, though the book is far more comprehensive.

I quickly realized that working with this book was going to take a bit of pantry makeover.  Ingredients such as rice wine vinegar, mirin, and oyster sauce are not part of my everyday mise en place, but I am always happy to expand!  The first recipe I tried was Kung Pao Chicken, served alongside her Asparagus with Cardamom Butter.  The prep work for the chicken was pretty intensive, but I attribute that primarily to my unfamiliarity with the ingredients.  When I get to the point of ‘a splash here’, ‘a handful of that’, ‘a dash of this’, I think that I can minimize my time spent and the amount of measuring cups and tablespoons I dirty up!  I also think there’s a more efficient method for making the marinade and sauce mixtures, since they are quite similar at the base.

I really liked the comforting Asian flavors of the chicken dish – the salty soy sauce, spicy ginger, and nutty sesame oil mingled together nicely – but the texture was the most fun.  Between the tender bites of chicken, the light snap of the water chestnuts, and the firm crunch of the peanuts, this recipe provided really exciting variety and no two bites were the same.  I also thought it was great that the whole scallion was used (I hate ditching the green tops), especially since the onion provided a nice contrast, both visually and flavor-wise, to the rich brown sauce.  This recipe is definitely worth a try!

As for the asparagus…  I am glad to know that by including the cardamom my digestive system is better off and my ‘spasms’ may now be under control, but the flavor just wasn’t for me.  Give me lemon juice, parmesan cheese, or balsamic vinegar any day — the cardamom was just too out there.  I am sure I could get used to it, of course, but I think that unless I need to quell a bout of belching, I will stick to what I love.

Kung Pao Chicken, slightly adapted from Nina Simonds’ Spices of Life

(Serves 6)

12 ounces skinless chicken breast

Marinade:kung-pao-mise
2 Tbs. light soy sauce
2 Tbs. Shaoxing rice wine
1 tsp. roasted sesame oil
2 tsp. cornstarch

3/4 cup peeled water chestnuts
2 Tbs. oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3/4 c. unsalted peanuts, dry roasted
1 spring onion (scallion), finely chopped white parts, green parts chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger
1/4 to 1 teaspoon red chili flakes (to taste)

Sauce (mixed together):
1 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. rice wine
1 tsp. roasted sesame oil
1 tsp. cornstarch
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup chicken stock

kung-pao-sauteDirections:

Cut the chicken into 1 inch cubes. Mix together the marinade ingredients, and place the cubes in a bowl; toss lightly. Marinate in the fridge for at least 20 minutes. Blanch the water chestnuts in a pan of boiling water, then refresh in cold water. Drain, pat dry, and cut into thick slices.

Heat a wok over high heat, add 1 tablespoon of the oil, and heat until very hot. Stir-fry half the chicken pieces, turning constantly, until the meat is cooked. Remove with a wire sieve or slotted spoon and drain in a colander. Repeat with 1 tablespoon of oil and the remaining chicken. Wipe out the pan.

Reheat the wok over high heat, add the remaining oil, and heat until very hot. Stir-fry the spring onion white parts, ginger, garlic, and the chili flakes for 10 seconds, or until fragrant. Add the sliced water chestnuts and stir-fry for 15 seconds, or until heated through. Pour in the mixed-together sauce ingredients and scallion greens and simmer until thickened. Add the cooked chicken and the peanuts. Toss lightly to coat with the sauce and serve over rice.

kung-pao-mixed-good

May 17, 2009 at 12:43 pm 1 comment

Evening with Le Cordon Bleu

Rabbit Stew

After my quasi-review of Kathleen Flinn’s The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry, I thought that I would be remiss if I didn’t at least try one of the recipes included at the end of every chapter in the book.  What review could be complete without an attempt to walk in Kathleen’s footsteps and master a dish from her famed alma mater?

I decided to try the most Cordon Bleu-y dish in the book — Lapin a la Moutard, a.k.a. Rabbit in Mustard Sauce.  Not something found in the average home cook’s repertoire, rabbit is nevertheless quite easy to work with.  It has been compared in flavor to dark-meat chicken, but I find that it is far less greasy than a drumstick or thigh tends to be.  The rabbit I purchased at my local grocery store (I know – can you believe it?) was skinned, gutted and beheaded, but otherwise whole.

rabbit-carcass

I invited my two most adventurous fellow chefs/dining companions — my mother and grandmother — to help me prepare and eat the little beast.  We began with butchering, which wasn’t really so hard — again, much like chicken — except for the fact that I didn’t really know what to do after I had separated off the legs.  Was the breast/torso supposed to be left whole?  The meat there was pretty thin, so I didn’t want to take it off the bone…  I could have used one of my reference manuals — The Joy of Cooking, The Way to Cook, Jacques Pepin’s Techniques — which may or may not have given me a diagram to follow, but I ended up winging it.  The result looked a lot like what Elise came up with here, so I feel pretty good about it!

rabbit-butchered

After all was said and done, the rabbit was served and deemed…DELICIOUS.  The dominant flavor of the mustard was mellowed perfectly by the addition of a splash of cream.  I neglected to strain the solids out of the sauce, as directed, but the minced shallots and garlic added to the texture of the dish.  If you are going for a more refined-looking plate, though, just follow the recipe.  Though only a 1/4 cup of sauce was left over after we’d eaten our fill, the family matriarchs forced me to save it in a plastic container since it was so good and “could be used to enhance another sauce.”

After eating this dish, my estimation of Flinn’s book has certainly risen.  I’m glad to have a good go-to rabbit recipe for the evenings when my husband’s away and the girls are in town!

Lapin (ou Poulet – chicken may be substituted for the faint of heart) a la Moutarde, from The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry
Serves 6

2 1/2 lbs. rabbit pieces or chicken thighs
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 Tbs. dried thyme
All-purpose flour
3 Tbs. olive oil
4 Tbs. + 2 Tbs. Dijon mustard, separated
1 Tbs. butter
3 shallots, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
1 large onion, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/3 cup brandy (we substituted sherry)
2/3 cup chicken stock
Bouquet garni (parsley, bay leaf tied with twine)
4-5 sprigs fresh rosemary or 1 tsp. dried
2/3 cup heavy cream (optional – I used about 1/3 cup)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Sprinkle the meat with salt, pepper, and dried thyme. Dredge lightly in flour, shaking off excess. In a Dutch oven large enough to hold all the ingredients comfortably, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Brown pieces on all sides, in batches if necessary. Remove meat from the pan and drain the oil. Using a pastry brush or the back of a spoon, apply a generous coat of mustard to each piece; set aside.

rabbit-mustard

Over medium heat in the same pan, melt the butter. Add the shallots and onions and cook until translucent. Stir in garlic. Add the brandy and chicken stock, and simmer until slightly reduced. Add the bouquet garni and rosemary. Return the chicken or rabbit pieces to the pan. Cover and cook in the oven for about forty-five minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer reads 160 degrees F. Remove the meat and cover loosely with foil to keep warm.

rabbit-stew

Put the pan on medium heat and bring the pan juices to a simmer for about five minutes, until slightly reduced, skimming off any fat from the surface. (Rabbit is oilier than chicken and will require significant skimming.) Add the remaining two tablespoons of mustard and the cream (if using) and let simmer for seven to ten minutes, until the sauce thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Once it has thickened, pour sauce through a fine-meshed sieve, pressing it through with a spatula. Check seasonings and adjust, adding salt and pepper to taste. Spoon the sauce over the chicken or rabbit pieces.

rabbit-final

May 14, 2009 at 9:48 pm Leave a comment

Happy Mother’s Day

brunch-buffetIn my experience, Mother’s Day has always included some sort of breakfast celebration – a fancy brunch in the city, a decadent spread at home, and usually a mimosa or two.  I don’t know why we associate Mother’s Day with breakfasts — perhaps because it falls always on a Sunday, or because we want to celebrate our mother first thing in the morning.  Maybe it is because on regular mornings she is usually the first one awake, making everyone’s coffee and eggs, and on this special day we want to beat her to the punch and treat her for a change.

Whatever the reason, we continued the tradition this past Mother’s Day with a multi-course buffet of savory and sweet breakfast treats.  My brother Alex, his girlfriend Claire, and I went all out, riffing on some recipes and meticulously following some others.  The menu, which was fabulous from start to finish, included: 

Strawberry and blackberry salad which I coated with a minted simple syrup (mix 1 part water to 1 part sugar in a small saucepan.  Stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved.  Add mint leaves to taste and puree in a blender until smooth) and garnished with a mint chiffonade;

minted berry salad

These savory scones, which I split and filled with chive creme fraiche and smoked salmon;

salmon

These sweet scones, made with orange zest and dried cranberries;

scone-basketProsciutto-wrapped and parmesan-coated roasted asparagus spears;

prosciutto

and Mini Leek, Mushroom and Bacon Quiches, a slight variation on this Smitten Kitchen recipe, made in muffin tins.  I would recommend any and all of the above dishes — they were all fabulous!

I thought the spread looked excessive for only 5 people, but all we had left were 2 asparagus spears, 3 mini quiches and a couple of cranberry scones.  I think I left my mom sated until next year…

May 12, 2009 at 7:20 am 2 comments

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