Category Archives: Tips

Tips: The Right Way to Prepare Lemon Wedges

Lemon wedges benefit from a little tailoring. Here’s how:

Begin with unblemished whole lemons.

Trim away a bit of the top and bottom of lemon.

With a sharp knife, cut in half from “north to south” and not across the “equator” or thick middle.

Cut into wedges. I prefer to cut six generous wedges per lemon rather than eight.

Trim away the white membrane at the top of the wedge.

Using the tip of your knife, pry and poke out as many seeds as you can without cutting the lemons into tatters.

Here are six nicely tailored lemon wedges.

For the At Home blog’s complete recipe index.

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Grilled Herb-Marinated Turkey “Flank Steak”

Grilled Herb-Marinated Turkey “Flank Steak”

Turkey is overlooked and under-appreciated most of the year. Grilled turkey breast is a simple and ideal addition to your backyard barbecue repertoire.  A boneless turkey breast is too thick to grill. The outside would become dry and charred before the interior cooked through. But by simply slicing a breast into “flank steaks” and giving it a good marinade, the turkey breast becomes both grill-worthy and grill-friendly.

There are several variables in grilling your turkey “flank steak.” These include how hot the grill – it should be medium-hot, and the variable thickness of the breast. It is very helpful to use an instant read thermometer. I live in a Center City Philadelphia apartment and do not have an outdoor grill. But I do have a grill pan and I am always prepared to grill — rain or shine. The photos in this recipe use my grill pan, but apply to your outdoor grill.

This recipes uses fresh tarragon. Tarragon has a particular affinity for turkey. But you could really use any fresh herb. You will need about the same amount of other fresh leafy herbs like basil or oregano, a bit less sage as sage is very strong and lots less fresh thyme. There are a dozen marinade recipes in At Home’s Chapter 9 — Easy Entrees: From the Grill and any of these will work. Take care when using a marinade with sugar as the long grilling time needed for the turkey could cause the marinade to burn. Try cooking over a more moderate heat or finish cooking turkey in a 350 degree oven once it is nicely charred on both sides on the grill. At Home also features a recipe for Grilled Turkey “Flank Steak” seasoned with mustard and soy — a Frog Commissary summertime staple — on Page 195.

Turkey also benefits from a condiment. See At Home’s Chapter 9: Cold Sauces & Condiments.

Do ahead You can marinate up to two days in advance. As with most things grilled, it best to eat shortly after removing from the grill and prior to refrigeration.

4 tablespoons chopped garlic
3/4 cup tarragon leaves chopped, about 3 tablespoons for marinade
plus 2 tablespoons to add after slicing
1 lemon plus 6-8 lemon wedges, trimmed
5 tablespoons olive oil
4 pounds boneless turkey breast
1 – 2 teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1.  With a sharp knife, cut turkey breast in half cutting parallel to cutting surface.  Rinse and pat dry.
2. In a dish large enough to hold breast, combine garlic, 3 tablespoons tarragon and olive oil. Add pieces of breast, one at a time and coat well with marinade. Cover and refrigerate at least two hours but ideally 6-8 hours.
3. Preheat grill of grill pan to medium high.
4.  Remove breasts from marinade, lightly scraping away some of the garlic and tarragon. The breast will take some time to cook and the chopped garlic will burn. Having a bit is fine, but you don’t want your breast covered with charred garlic.
5.  Place breast on grill or in grill pan and cook first side for about 8-10 minutes. Turn and cook until thermometer reads about 155 degrees in thickest part of breast, about another 8-10 minutes.
6. Allow to rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing. Cut into about 1/4-inch thick slices against the natural grain of breast.
7. Squeeze lemon over sliced turkey. Add salt and pepper. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons tarragon. Serve with lemon wedges.

Serves 6 -8

If your breast is skin-on, just peel away skin.

You will need a sharp knife. Place breast flat onto cutting surface.

Moving your knife parallel to cutting surface, cut breast in half.

You will have two thinner “steaks.”

One side may naturally break into two pieces. This is fine.

Rinse and pat dry.

Measure tarragon leaves into cup measure. A bit more or less really doesn’t matter much. Chop the tarragon.

Add garlic, chopped tarragon and olive oil to a dish large enough to hold breasts.

Mix well.

Add turkey “steaks” and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and ideally 6-8 hours. It is best not to cook from cold — especially when grilling something thick. By removing turkey from refrigerator and allowing it to reach room temperature, you are getting a head start on cooking by bringing the temperature from the 40 degrees of the refrigerator to the 70 degrees of a room. If you don’t do this, your turkey will require additional cooking time that could cause you to over-cook the outside while waiting for the inside to reach temperature. Ideally, remove from refrigerator three or four hours before grilling.

Pre-heat grill or grill pan over moderate-high heat. Add turkey. These are the two smaller “steaks.” Cook 6-8 minutes.

Turn and cook another 8-10 minutes — depending on level of heat and thickness of “steak.”

This is the larger “steak” cooking. Place thermometer in thickest part to check temperature as you go. The internal temperature of the turkey will continue to rise even after you take it off the heat. The recommended cooking temperature for turkey breast is 165-170 degrees. I find this takes the breast too far and dries it out. Your goal is no pink or just the barest amount of pink when you slice the breast. Removing turkey at about 150-155 degrees should accomplish this. Remember that your “steak” is probably not of equal thickness so it will not all be cooked exactly the same.

Here are the three pieces. Looks pretty good! Any grilled meat will benefit from resting at least 10 minutes before slicing. Slicing too soon causes the natural juices that need to settle in after cooking to drain away. Be patient.

Try to find the direction of the natural grain of the turkey and cut across it rather than parallel.

Here it is on the left, sliced and ready to go. Sprinkle with fresh tarragon, add salt and pepper — after slicing so the salt and pepper can get to the slices, squeeze lemon and serve with lemon wedges.

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On the Road: Farm Stands of Mercer County, NJ

Farm Stands of Mercer County, NJ

The Joy of GPS
Yes, I understand that most people use their GPS to get from A to B. Pity. The true joy of a GPS is its stubborn determination to get you to your destination — regardless of the deviations and detours from its directions. This is very liberating to the intentional meanderer. No longer do you have to worry if the lure of an un-programmed left turn will leave you hopelessly lost — and, God forbid, have to ask for directions. Your GPS cares not. It will simply re-group and provide you with a new path — and never pout or be resentful of your willful disregard of its instructions.

Mercer County, New Jersey
Into the hot soup that is our summer of 2010 we drove – across the Burlington Bristol Bridge and north up Rt. 206. Mercer County strides north and east of Philadelphia along the Delaware River in the crux of the elbow that is New Jersey. Compared to my prior destination of South Jersey’s Salem County with its population of about 65,000, Central Jersey’s Mercer County is home to 370,000 people. And with a population density of 1,552 per square mile, it is eight times more dense.

Mercer county has an entirely different feel from the more hard-scrapple South Jersey. Mercer County is home to elite private prep schools and Princeton University as well as numerous multi-national corporate headquarters. While there are pockets of farmland, Mercer County offers little in the way of Salem County’s long isolated country roads. And Mercer county’s roads provide small allowance to drivers going nowhere in particular — slowly. Here, riding lawn mowers that maintain manicured lawns surrounded by painted white fences far out-number farm tractors. Lush, clearly wealthier, and less tranquil, our trip included a mid-afternoon traffic jam through Princeton. No clothes drying on lines in the sun. Pools more likely to be in-ground than above. While there were occasional broad vistas across open fields, more likely those fields have given way to housing developments, garden apartments and country estates. It is of note that while Trenton is the state capital, the governor’s residence is in Princeton.

On the other hand, its farm stands are more fully stocked.

First, Hot Dogs!
A cardinal principle of intentional meandering is to not let your destination deter you from a detour — especially if a hot dog is involved. And so, as we drove north through Burlington County on Route 206, we passed an eye-catching sign on the opposite side of the road. A U-turn brought us to Russ Ayres Hot Dogs, 680, US Rt. 206, Bordentown.

This just goes to show the importance of a good sign. The pastel yellow shack and bold sign were eye-catching and said something good was going on inside.

Guests are greeted by this slightly scary character who is dispensing ketchup as well as mustard despite the store’s admonition that ketchup is just for hamburgers — a product unavailable from Russ Ayres. Russ sells just hot dogs – $2 with the works – onion, sauerkraut and mustard. Bigger appetite? Try the more elaborate chili dogs, cheese dogs and chili-cheese dogs. Get them to go or find a seat at the six person counter. The standard assortment of bottled beverages is available. We went for a pair of hot dogs with the works. After all, this was really a late morning breakfast with a full day ahead of us.

It was in Russ Ayres Hot Dog Stand where we learned that despite our apparent proximity to Philadelphia and the Phillies, the Go Yankees sign declared we had left home and our Phillies behind.

Nestled behind Russ Ayres was Gelato’s, a stand that offered the ideal follow-up to our hot dogs. Think of it as a mini-food court. Christina likened the scene to something you might find along the road in Italy — a notion I thought was quite a stretch. Still, the brace of conical evergreens, red umbrellas and wrought iron tables and chairs provided some distraction from the awning reminiscent of Rita’s Water Ice.

My preference to try their homemade ice cream yielded to Christina’s preference for a black cherry ice layered with soft vanilla ice cream — something that is available at your local Rita’s.

Our GPS setting to avoid highways took us through the streets of Trenton as we headed to our first stop, the Trenton Farmers Market. As we journeyed along we noted a Trenton pierogi shop that we would have visited, but for our recent hot dog detour.

Trenton Farmer’s Market
960 Spruce Street, Trenton
Seemingly out of an era that preceded glizt, the Trenton Farmer’s Market, open daily except Monday, is home to a combination of farmer’s and ethnic stalls with an occasional craft or thrift table – a sort of 1950’s Reading Terminal Market in miniature. As a farmers’ market is a collection of farm stands, it provided a preview of the produce we would find on the road.

A little more research or curiosity would have taken us to the Halo Farm Store — famous for ice cream and dairy products, located just across the parking lot from the Farmers Market.

It’s not the White House, but it does have an East and West wing. Actually, shaped like a cross, there is also an un-named north and south wing. Local farmers truck their produce to their stalls in the Farmers Market.

Jersey is famous for corn and tomatoes. Nearby fresh picked Jersey corn. Despite the searing heat, most Mercer county tomatoes were still a week or so away.

Our July 16th visit was Jersey corn give-away day.

You can buy by the piece, by the pound or by the bushel. Peaches, hot peppers — never sure what to do with an entire bushel of hot peppers — zucchini and cucumbers are in abundance.

And it’s berry season. Not strawberries — they are an earlier season fruit, but lots of blueberries and luscious blackberries — the best of the berries though often needing a touch of sugar to pick them up.

In addition to farm fresh produce, the Trenton Farmers Market is lined with ethnic stands including Pulaski Meats.

And an Italian bakery that reminded Christina of sweets her grandmother baked.

A cheese case worthy of sophisticated big cities.

It’s not showy, but it has a gritty authenticity.

A Pennsylvania-Dutch stand sells fried chicken, roast pork and spare ribs — eat in or take-out.

Included among the farm stands and prepared food stalls was a modest table sampling and selling wines from Unionville Vineyards. Unionville Vineyards is located in nearby Ringoes, in north neighboring Hunterdon county. Very drinkable and fairly priced, we bought three bottles: a 2006 Heritage White (mostly semillon grapes), a non-vintage Big Red Fox, mostly syrah grapes and a 2008 Fields of Fire, an attractive dry rose from Pinor Noir grapes.

Nestled in a separate building across from the Framers Market is a fresh fish store called The Crab Shack.

A Saturday’s trip to the Trenton Farmers Market will provide you with everything you need for a delicious low-stress Sunday dinner for friends and family — the freshest of produce, butcher-worthy meats and fresh fish to grill and just-picked fruit and fruit pies for dessert.

Terhune Orchards
330 Cold Soil Road, Princeton
Farm stands exist on many scales. Some are modest mom and pop operations. Mom and pop toil long hours doing the lion’s share of the work. They may get some help from sons and daughters and grandpa and grandma – but they are mostly family affairs. Marketing consists principally of a roadside sign and a kind of “build it and they will come” approach. Others, like Terhune Orchards, are larger in scale with more employed workers and differentiated tasks that include more aggressive marketing.

A pretty as a picture entrance welcomes you.

Terhune has an outpost in the Trenton Farmers Market, a large farm store at the farm — not simply a stand — a substantial website and even publishes a “newspaper” and regular recipes geared to its wide selection of seasonal produce.

There is an area of the store dedicated to organic produce. It lead me to wonder what the opposite of organic produce is…inorganic?

A sign shows the wide variety of fruit and produce that Terhune grows and when it’s available. The red bars indicate when you can pick-your-own at the farm. Pick-your-own was a feature of nearly every farm stand we visited.

Zinnia’s summer rainbow of colors are as much a part of summer’s harvest as peaches and tomatoes.

My goal in visiting farm stands is to find things that I cannot find at my local Whole Foods Market. At Terhune’s, these included fresh currants that I have combined with sugar to create a currant syrup to combine with seltzer for a fresh fruit spritzer.

Petral apples, small sour and green, are Terhune’s first apples of the season. Mine went into a rice salad with almonds and shiso leaves. More about shiso leaves later in the blog.

Since I’m not a baker, I love the sight of fresh-baked fruit pies — baked by someone else.

And it’s impossible to resist a cinnamon and sugar-coated cider doughnut. Well, apparently it is possible as Christina did resist. Maybe it’s just me?

A pair of yellow labs enjoyed their “apple-a-day.”

With the temperature in the mid-90’s, a frozen cider slush was an ideal summer cooler.

Kerr’s Kornstand
317 Pennington Rocky Hill Road, Pennington, NJ
Thanks to the generosity of a friend and former Mercer County denizen, I had already previewed Kerr’s sweet signature corn – dropped of at our apartment two weeks ago. It’s tiny first of the season kernels were now plump with sugar.

Kerr’s stand was modest enclosure supplemented by a farm table.

In addition to their own produce, Kerr’s offered Circle M Peaches from Salem County. Though Salem county is only about 75 miles south, Salem county’s peaches…and tomatoes arrive several weeks earlier than Mercer county’s.

There are scores of tomato varieties. Here are Kerr’s first of the season, called July 4th because they are ready by Independence Day. Kerr’s was also my source of bell zucchini — a fat, round variety. I stuffed these with grape tomatoes and roasted them. Stuffing over-sized zucchini — common as summer progresses — is an excellent way to use large zucchini that have an unappetizing pulpy interior that benefits from being scraped away. A recipe for this will be forthcoming.

Lee Turkey Farm
201 Hickory Corner Road, East Windsor

How did Lee”s Turkey Farm promise of the “sweetest” corn compare to Kerr’s? Despite buying a dozen ears from Kerr’s, I had to add four ears from Lee’s for an at-home “corn tasting.” Unlike Kerr’s white, Lee’s corn is yellow.

Though Lee’s farm goes back six generations, it holds the distinction of establishing New Jersey’s first “pick-your-own” option in 1964.

Ronnie Lee is the sixth generation Lee. He works with his fifth generation dad and seventh generation children. Different farms — especially those that endure for generations — employ different strategies to extend their business and season. For Lee’s. it’s 3000 turkeys! Lee’s sells 90% of its turkeys in November. I suggested to Ronnie that he promote his turkeys for summer grilling. When we provided the food services for Philadelphia’s Mann Center as we did for a decade of summers, turkey “flank steak” was a staple of our Bravo menu. With that, I found my farm stand recipe for this week.

Look for Grilled Marinated Turkey “Flank Steak” with tomorrow’s blog.

Stult’s Farm
62 John White Road, Cranberry

From the road, Stult’s Farm Stand looks as though a tornado had picked up a Lancaster county PA Dutch farm and plopped it down in Mercer county. This was primarily the result of the distinctive black carriages that marked the entrance to the stand.

Stult’s primary commitment was clearly to the Pick-Your-Own set. For those less intrepid, the pickings were slimmer and for us included just a few soil-covered onions that turned out to be a sweet addition to a weekend cucumber salad. (I’m still trying to use up Mr. Tkrach’s cucumbers. Thirty eight down, two — the one’s that got buried in my produce bin — to go.)

Many years ago, the great retailer and founder of Crate & Barrel, Gordon Segal taught me that the key to merchandising is massing and simplicity. (At Home book owners see page 363.) While the produce in the fields may have been outstanding, the produce displayed on the tables got the simplicity part but was missing the massing. Here’s Christina — not fully satisfied with Stult’s.

Z Food Farm
3501 Princeton Pike, Lawrence Township
Z Food Farms has a small stand at my neighborhood Rittenhouse Square Saturday Farmers’ Market. I like it because they have produce that I don’t see at other stands. A few weeks ago it was tiny yellow wax beans — similar to haricot vert, and kohlrabi — a crisp cabbage-tasting vegetable perfect for a simple summer’s crudite. This past weekend I bought shiso leaves. Shiso is a leaf typically used to garnish sushi — usually bright green, heart shaped, with lots of little spikes around the edges. (If you should be lucky to get a shiso leaf with your sushi, wrap it around some shredded daikon — another familiar garnish, and dip it into your soy-wasabi. Yum.) It is one of my favorite flavors and a leaf rarely seen in markets. My first encounter with shiso was many years ago at Omen — a Japanese restaurant in Soho — that’s still around and still wonderful. A meal at Omen would not be complete without a bowl of shiso rice, steamed white rice scented with the distinctive anise flavor of the leaf.

Over several weeks of visiting their stand on the Square, I learned from mom and dad “Z,” who manned the stand, that their son’s farm was in its first year. I decided that it should be included on my Mercer county tour. Though our GPS insisted that we had arrived at our entered address, Z Farm Foods was nowhere to be found. Undaunted, we circled back and forth until we discovered a sign-less location with nothing for sale. It was not until this past Saturday, when we reported our attempted visit to mom and dad, that we learned that for now, Z Farm Foods only operates it farm stand on Wednesday afternoons. But, a new walk-in refrigerator is due this week that will enable Z Farm Foods to expand its farm stand hours.

This past Saturday I did buy some of Z’s garlic that I used – thin slivered and not chopped — in my “What to do when you buy too many small tomatoes” Sauce. Z’s garlic is seen here curing at the farm. It’s a lot of garlic. But mom and dad say it will all be gone by fall.

Little Acres Farm
238 Federal City Road, Pennington, NJ

Little Acres was a modest and unassuming stand befitting it’s name.

Half a watermelon — from Salem county and a local cantaloupe were added to our produce haul. In years past I despaired of local cantaloupes — always finding them tasteless and mealy. But I have had repeated good luck this year including at Little Acres.

Along the road there were occasional no-name stands.

Here down a narrow road.

And the occasional unmanned stand operating on the honor system.

As our day stretched into early evening and our car packed with produce, we decided it was too late and we were too tired to head home for dinner. Instead, we headed for Lambertville, NJ — along the Delaware just north of Mercer county in Hunterdon county. There we met an old fellow restaurateur — Reed from Astral Plane, who was holding down the floor at the Hamilton Grill. Astral Plane, long a fixture on the 1700 block of Lombard Street and a veteran of the first Philadelphia restaurant renaissance, opened just a few months after Frog in 1973 and provided years of warm welcomes and fine dining — thanks to Reed.

The Hamilton Grill is a BYO so be sure to stop at the Unionville Vineyards table at the Trenton Farmers Market. We were very glad we did as dinner without wine after such a nice day would have been a disappointment.

Tip: Of course our white wine was not chilled — having been a passenger in our car for hours. The waiter stuck our wine in the freezer to get it chilled. FYI: The fastest was to chill a bottle of wine is to place it in an ice bath in an ice bucket — lots of ice plus enough water to surround the bottle fully, and then add lots of salt – regular table salt is fine — to create a brine — just like the old-fashioned way of making ice cream. The salt hastens the melting of the ice which has the effect of rapidly chilling the wine.

I’m like the kid in the candy store – except my candy is farm stand produce. Here is our day’s haul.

From left to right: Grape tomatoes, radishes, Lee’s yellow corn hidden under the radishes, currants, watermelon, nectarines, doughnut peaches, bell zucchini, Lee’s boneless turkey breast, cantaloupe, onions, more grape tomatoes, Petral apples, Kerr’s white corn, and just off camera, Kerr’s 4th of July tomatoes. In the background, partially consumed Unionville Vineyard wines. All Jersey Fresh!

They’re Back!
It’s Pimientos de Padron season. These amazing peppers, that I first discovered in Madrid a few years ago, are available in the United States for a short summer season.

I bought mine via the internet from La Tienda, the site that specializes in Spanish and Latin foods. Here’s the link to last summer’s blog about these little devils along with a recipe. I strongly suggest ordering a pound or two – a pound will easily serve four, buying some very good bread, lots of beer, some excellent cheese and watermelon and inviting friends and family over for an easy dinner they will not forget. An alternative to cold beer is iced sangria. See At Home page 51 for my Sangria recipe.

Pimientos de Padron were the centerpiece of a recent dinner at home with Christina and Noah — along with Turkey “Flank Steak” and Roasted Grape Tomato Stuffed Zucchini.

Upcoming recipes from this week’s harvest:
Grilled Turkey “Flank Steak” – tomorrow
Roasted Grape Tomato Stuffed Bell Zucchini – soon
“What to do with too many grape tomatoes” Quick Tomato Sauce – soon

Next weekOn the Road: Farm Stands of Chester County, PA
Next week I head south and west of Philadelphia. I hope sharing these experiences encourages you to take to the road to visit farm stands or, at least, to visit your local farmers market and enjoy this bountiful harvest with friends and family…At Home.

Reminder that all of At Home’s blog recipes are available on the blog site — accessed through the recipe index.

Please pass along to others who you think would enjoy going along On the Road.

Thank you for visiting.

Steve
Your Home Entertaining Coach

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Grilled Lemons and Happy July 4th…At Home

Here’s wishing you a Happy July 4th weekend and hoping you spend it in a backyard with friends and family.

Grilled Lemons
Grilling lemons is simple to do. Grilling provides the tart lemon with a sweet counterpoint — the result of caramelization from the grilling. They are the perfect compliment to grilled shrimp, salmon, chicken or lamb.

I did this in my kitchen for this post. It works just fine in a stovetop grill pan as well as on a backyard grill. You will need just lemons and olive oil. Start by trimming the ends from the whole lemon to create a small flat surface so the lemon will sit securely rater than rocking that would result from a rounded end. Next, cut the lemons in half across the “equator.” With the point of a knife, poke out any obvious seeds. Brush exposed surface of lemon lightly with olive oil. (You can use the tip of your finger to save washing a brush. It’s easier to wash a finger tip.) Place lemon on grill over moderate heat and cook for two to four minutes — depending on how hot your “moderate” grill is — and remove.

Here are the grilled lemons, good lookin’ and ready to squeeze.  At Home has a very strong grill chapter that provides easy alternatives to burgers and hot dogs. See Grilled Lemongrass Chicken with Caramelized Limes — an alternative to the lemons featured here — on Page 191 or the Charred Chicken Paillards with Citrus-Cilantro Salad on Page 192 — one of my favorite recipes.

Second Annual Chestnut Hill Book Festival

Another wonderful Pascal Lemaitre illustration from At Home. Pascal is visiting from Brussels and plans to join me on Saturday, July 10th at the Laurel Gardens as part of the Second Annual Book Festival.

An Invitation for one of my backyard burgers on the 4th
If you find yourself on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway on the 4th, for the afternoon festival or evening concert and fireworks, I’ll be at Frog Burger — our own backyard burger stand on the front lawn of The Franklin Institute.

By the way, At Home is for sale at Frog Burger. In addition to being available online, At Home is also is also available at Coopermarket in Merion where I am sure Beth is cooking up wonderful July 4th food for you to serve at home — as well as the Joseph Fox Bookstore on Sansom Street. At Home makes for the perfect gift for your host or hostess.

Next Week
As the second installment of my summer farm stand series, I will take you along on my drive through the back roads of Salem County, NJ. I look forward to introducing you to Mr. Tkach — pictured below — who began his work as a five-year-old at the family farm stand seventy-five years ago. The farm stand has been serving customers since 1928! Mr. Tkach shares his recollection of going with his father each day to retrieve the garbage to feed their pigs from the German prisoner of war camp across the road. At farm stands it’s often the farmer that leaves you with the lingering “taste.”

I couldn’t resist a giant $3 basket of kirby cukes and huge $1.50 bunch of dill seed from Tkach’s. Lots of pickles are in my future. But I’ve already did a cucumber recipe so, as of now, I plan to share a recipe using the ripe Jersey cling peaches I bought — a Peach Butter scented with Ginger and Lemongrass.

Thank you for visiting.

Steve
Your Home Entertaining Coach

Postcript: Mark Bitman’s 101 Reasons to Light the Grill
Wednesday’s New York Times Food Section featured Mark Bitman’s great list of 101 things to do on your grill. Here’s the link.

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Cold Cucumber-Yogurt Soup with Dill

Cold Cucumber-Yogurt Soup with Dill

Some crops are so prolific that their yield outstrips their uses. Late summer zucchini comes to mind. Cucumbers are another. Make sure to check out the end of this recipe for more things to do with cucumbers. (On the other hand, you can never have too many tomatoes.) This easy recipe uses the classic combination of cucumbers, yogurt and dill as a basis for a cold, chunky and refreshing warm weather soup. We made an even simpler version of this soup in the early days of Frog that used only cucumbers, yogurt, water, dill, salt and pepper. Here I have added an undercurrent of red wine vinegar and a little olive oil. For a small variation, don’t mix the olive oil into the soup — as the recipe instructs, but instead drizzle a very fine olive oil on top of each serving as a nice added garnishing touch.

Do ahead You can make soup two to three days in advance and store in refrigerator.

6 medium to large whole cucumbers, about 3 pounds
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
1/2 cup finely diced red onion
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh dill plus about 1/4 cup larger torn dill leaves for garnish
2 cups whole milk plain yogurt
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon quality red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
3-4 thinly sliced radishes, optional garnish
2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 to 3/4 cup water

1 . Slice cucumbers in half lengthwise. With a spoon, scape out seeds and discard. Cut half cucumbers into a few pieces each. Place in work bowl of food processor. Process until smooth puree.
2 . Cut balance of cucumbers into long, thin strips. Line into piles and cut across into cubes. Dice into small cubes — 1/4 to 1/8th inch.
3 . In a large bowl, combine yogurt, vinegar, olive oil and mix well. Add pureed cucumber, diced cucumber, garlic, red onion, 1/2 cup dill, salt and pepper.
4 . Adjusting consistency: Soup should have consistency of half and half. The chunks of cucumber should be prevalent, but this is a soup and not a salsa. Gradually add a little water until it reaches right consistency.  It will thicken as it chills and you can always add a touch more water if it seems too thick after it chills. But once you add the water, it’s impossible to go back and you will have to serve a thin soup.
5 . Chill until very cold, at least two hours. Check for salt and pepper. Serve in bowls with feathery sprigs of dill in spread on the top. For optional garnish, place 5-6 overlapping radish slices in center.

Yield 6-7 cups serving 6

Simple to make with relatively few ingredients. Use plain whole milk yogurt. I used Greek yogurt, but that is not necessary. In fact, the next time I make this I will not use Greek yogurt.

Regardless of how you use them, cucumbers are always better if you scrape out the seeds – — except for whole pickled cucumbers. Cut peeled cucumbers in half lengthwise and with a spoon and scrape out the seeds as seen on the “upper” cucumber.

To cut cucumbers or other vegetables into small cubes, start by cutting long, thin strips. Then cut across the strips to make cubes.

Here are cubes that I felt were a bit too large.

So I diced the cucumbers more until they were fairly uniform and the size I wanted.

I chopped all my cucumbers and then divided them into equal piles and pureed one pile. But then I decided it made more sense to take half the cucumbers before chopping and cut them into “food processor-friendly” chunks. Since I was going to puree half the cucumbers, there was no reason to dice this half — extra work. This re-think is reflected in the recipe above. Please note the dough scrapper that I consider an essential “prep tool.” For more on how to make your prep work easier, see At Home Page 21 –  Setting Up for Prep and Cooking.

A Note about the chopped garlic: Chop the garlic very fine. I love garlic. When I made this soup Christina expressed the concern that maybe it had too much garlic for a dinner party so I backed off the garlic a little in the recipe. Regardless of your garlic preferences, this is raw garlic and you don’t want your guest biting into a big piece. So don’t skimp on the garlic but especially don’t skimp on the chopping. See At Home Page 39 for tips on making chopping garlic  easy.

Here’s the finished soup. Make sure it spends at least two hours in the refrigerator before serving. It will thicken more as it chills so adjust with a touch of cold water if needed. Also, the colder something is, the more salt it needs so check for salt.

And here it is ready to be served. Note the over-lapping slices of radish and the feathery leaves of dill.

Some other things to do with cucumbers:
Cucumbers with Lime Salt  See At Home Page 67
Cucumber red onion salad  See At Home Page 255
Asian Cucumber Salsa  See At Home Page 210
Sauteed cucumbers with garlic and mint – peel and seed cucumbers and cut into “batons”
Vietnamese pickled cucumber slices  See At Home Page 219  Substite sliced cucumbers for dikon
Pickles with Kirby cucumbers  See At Home Note on Pickling on Page 220
Pimm’s #1 Cup Cocktail  – a wonderful summer cocktail that we are serving at a party on July 17th
Cucumber Vodka  — vodka infused with cucumber — and Cucumber Cooler  See At Home Page 52

Maple Acres Pickling Demonstration
Speaking of what to do with cucumbers, Maple Acres is holding a “Pickling Demonstration” on Saturday, July 3rd at 11:00 AM. I love pickling and think it is very underused by home entertainers. (I always keep a container of Vietnamese pickled carrots and daikon in my refrigerator.) So, this Saturday is a good day to visit Maple Acres.

New Blog Recipe Index
If you are not reading the blog on the blog site you are missing out on lots of features including a better looking blog. It’s easy to get to the blog site by just clicking on the blog title. We have recently added tags that enable you to search blogs that might interest you. And today we added a Recipe Index that provides an easy way to locate the nearly 80 recipes that have been featured in the blog since it started about a year ago. Use the Recipe Index to check-out the Cold Corn Soup and other recipes from last summer. This July 4th Weekend there should be lots of fresh local corn around.

Thank you for visiting.

Steve
Your Home Entertaining Coach

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Filed under Recipes, Tips

At Home…Again and Backyard Burgers at The Franklin Institute

It has been four weeks since I last posted. The reason is no lack of enthusiasm for encouraging you to entertain at home more. It is that I still have a day job. My day job involves assisting in the management of Frog Commissary — especially our efforts at The Franklin Institute. The past six weeks have been especially busy with the opening of the Cleopatra exhibit and two new seasonal restaurants that we are operating there. These restaurants are Frog Burger and Cleo’s Portico. Starting this week I will get back to more regular posts. See the end of this blog for exciting plans for summer blogging.

Frog Burger is a no-frills hamburger and shake stand open during the summer months into fall on the front lawn of The Franklin Institute. It is near the familiar stainless steel airplane, overlooking the Parkway and Logan Square. In addition to hamburgers and turkey burgers, our menu includes Chesapeake Crab Rolls, Grilled Hot Dogs, Fries — including Garlic Fries and Jalapeno Fires — Fried Green Tomatoes, Gazpacho, Corn & Sweet Pepper Salad, Cole Slaw, the original Commissary Carrot Cake and Killer Cake Bars, thick Bassett’s ice cream milkshakes including shakes that include blended in carrot cake or killer cake plus Fresh Lemonade, Iced Tea and Hibiscus Agua Fresca. (Not bad for a little tent.)

People who remember the logo of our Frog Restaurant may remember the two dots over the “O.” It was never clear to people that those two dots represented the frog’s eyes — a very zen-looking frog. Two dots are reprising with the Frog Burger logo though we have tried to make the “eye-ness” more obvious and playful.

Part of the process of planning Frog Burger was to select a burger blend. Over a period of three weeks, at four different blind tasting sessions, our panel tasted — and often re-tasted 18 burger blends. A blind tasting means that panelists were unaware of what they were tasting. Blends ranged from supermarket-sourced to blends from New York’s premium meat supplier for restaurants. From the outset I established that we wanted a “backyard” burger that balanced “bib-worthy” juiciness, texture and taste. We also wanted “back-yard” friendly pricing.

Fundamental to a great burger is adequate fat content. An 80-20 blend — 80 percent meat to 20 percent fat — is the essential component of juiciness. So, all of our blends shared that component. Other components that affect taste and texture include the cuts used to make the blend and the manner of grinding the meat. Our more “exotic” blends included various combinations of skirt steak, brisket and oxtail, and, of course, chuck. Chuck is the humble foundation of most “supermarket” blends.

The panel consisted of myself, James and Lydia, our Executive Chef and Sous Chef, Larry, our Director of Operations, and my son Noah, with whom I am working on Frog Burger and Cleo’s Portico. We had an occasional “guest panelist.”  Our panel’s tasting sheets included columns for our three criteria — juiciness, texture and taste — and panelists were asked to rank each component of each blend from 1 to 5. At the conclusion of each session, we discussed our reactions to each blend. It was often easy to agree on what to eliminate. The poor buger usually stood out.  Usually a session ended with agreement to include two or three blends in a second round. As the process continued I came to believe that the hype about special burger blends was a bit of the kings new clothes. Here was a group of pretty serious burger tasters and it was rare to find any enthusiasm for the more expensive blends. (At the end of each tasting the blends were revealed.) Occasionally a panelist would speak in behalf of some more exotic taste that we assumed to be from the more exotic side of the ledger, but it was rare to find many allies for that burger to make it into the next round. Only one of the “better blends” hunf around through the final tasting though was on no one’s top choice.

At the conclusion of the process, a simple “house blend” from Esposito’s — located in the Italian Market was the winner.  It was actually the second least expensive of the blends that we considered and only 60% of the cost of the fanciest blends.

In the end, a great backyard burger has most to do with the fat content — an 80-20 blend, how you make the patty — the less you handle the meat the better the texture — a very hot fire to create a nice char on the burger — and the care taken to cook your burger to the correct doneness. At Frog Burger we cook burgers to medium unless specified. With anything beyond medium you can say good-bye to juicy. With regard to the fat content, remember that a fair amount of that fat cooks away. It is also worth the effort to toast the roll — a step many a backyard cook skips. The roll does not need to be warm so just lightly pre-toast the rolls to form a crust. The crust keeps the roll from absorbing too much juice and getting soggy. We use Martin’s Potato Rolls  — often available at supermarkets. Our burgers are served with lettuce, tomato and red onion on the side.

Among the burger condiments available are flame grill jalapenos and pickled red onions. The recipe for pickled red onions are featured in At Home. The recipe is from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook and printed with permission of the publisher. The Zuni Cafe is Judy Rodgers great San Francisco restaurant. Her cookbook also has her quintessential burger recipe that involves pre-salting the burger meat. Rogers’ section on The Practice of Salting Early is among the most useful cookbook advice I have ever encountered.  Because I don’t have permission from the publisher beyond At Home, I can’t post the recipe here. I strongly recommend Zuni Cafe’s Pickled Red Onions from At Home for your next backyard barbecue…or visit Frog Burger the next time you are around 20th & The Parkway. Frog Burger is open daily from 11:30 AM to dusk.

One last note about Frog Burger.  Our “signature burger” is the LOVE Burger, a “don’t eat this too often” cholesterol-laden affair that includes a juicy burger nestled between two grilled-and-pressed cheese sandwiches — the bread and cheese fuses — and adorned with lettuce, tomato and our “special sauce” — a sort of Russian-dressing with chopped bacon — just in case you feel cholesterol deprived. Eating a Frog Burger is an amazing experience — even if you do it only once.

Here’s a favorable review from today’s  THE PHILADINING BLOG.

Look for news about Cleo’s Portico in my next blog.

Featured Chef on Cookstr.com this Saturday, June 26th
On Saturday, June 26th I will be Cookstr.com‘s featured Chef of the Day. Cookstr.com is a web-based recipe source — “home of the best recipes from great cookbooks by acclaimed chefs and authors.” This is an honor and an exciting step in my efforts to spread the word about At Home. A series of At Home recipes will be featured on Cookstr.com. Check me out on Saturday.

Manou At BAC
Christina and I are on our way to New York this afternoon to attend the NY Premiere of Emmanuele Phuon’s work, Khmeropedies I + II at the Baryshnikov Art Center. Emmanuele is Manou, dear friend and wife of At Home illustrator, Pascal Lemaitre. Read At Home’s Postscript on Page 498 to learn more about the origins of this remarkable dance performance and dance troupe. The performance will be repeated Friday and Saturday. For more information.

Here’s Manou’s recipe from At Home for her Boiled Chicken with Ginger Relish & Sticky Rice. It is surprisingly refreshing on a hot summer’s eve.

Manou’s Boiled Chicken with Ginger-Garlic Relish & Sticky Rice

This is about as far from your mother’s boiled chicken as Philadelphia is from Bangkok. Manou, a friend and also the wife of this book’s illustrator, Pascal, served this to us on a visit to Brussels. The chicken is removed from the bone and served with a potent swirl of chopped ginger and garlic. Simple, humble and delicious!

do ahead Chicken is best if made shortly before serving but it can be made up to two days ahead, refrigerated and refreshed in stock. Relish can be made up to four days in advance and stored in the refrigerator. Rice should be made just before serving.
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
1 cup small-cubed ginger
5 garlic cloves, crushed,
1 cup small-cubed garlic
1 cup fresh cilantro, rinsed and divided
2 bird’s-eye chiles or 1⁄2 jalapeño, thinly sliced
1⁄2 cup chopped scallion
4-5 pound chicken
1⁄4 cup plus 3 tablespoons fish sauce, divided
1 tablespoons vegetable oil
11⁄2 teaspoons salt, sea salt preferred
3 cups jasmine rice or other long-grain rice
1 To cook chicken: Rinse chicken, place in a large pot and cover with at least 2 quarts water. Add sliced ginger, crushed garlic, 1⁄2 cup cilantro, chiles and 1⁄4 cup fish sauce. Bring to a slow boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Add back water as needed. Cook until meat falls off the bone, about 90 minutes. Remove chicken from pot and allow it to rest until it’s cool enough to handle. Remove skin and pull meat from bones, discarding bones. Skim fat from stock and set aside. You will use stock to make the relish and rice and to refresh chicken, so save at least 7 cups.
2 To make relish: In a small sauté pan, heat oil over moderate heat. Add cubed ginger and garlic and gently sauté to soften without browning, about 3 minutes. Add 3 tablespoons fish sauce and 1⁄2 cup reserved stock. Cook over moderate heat until liquid is reduced to a glaze, about 5 minutes. Set relish aside to cool.
3 To make rice: Rinse rice well in strainer until water runs clear. In a pot, combine rice with 41⁄2 cups reserved stock. Bring to a slow boil, cover, and reduce heat to very low until all water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.
4 To serve: If chicken and stock are still warm, place chicken on platter and pour a little stock over it to moisten. If you cooked chicken well in advance and it is now cold, refresh chicken in a pot with stock over moderate heat until just warm. Add salt. Garnish with scallion and remaining cilantro leaves.
Serve with relish and rice on the side.
serves 6

Summer Blogging Plans
Many of this summer’s blogs will focus on weekly visits to area farm stands and farmer’s markets. Though not a locavore zealot, I am a strong believer in using locally grown produce. Summer though early fall is the time to incorporate trips to your local farm stand or farmer’s market into your At Home plans. So, each week — more or less — I’ll visit another place and create a new recipe for the At Home blog. My posting will begin next week at Maple Acres Farm located in Plymouth Meeting. Followers of At Home will be familiar with Maple Acres. I particularly love the variety of eggplant available at Maple Acres and will provide you with an easy recipe for grilled eggplant.

Please help me identify farmer’s markets and farm stands to visit. I am looking for suggestions with 50 miles of Center City Philadelphia. Post your suggestions in Leave a Comment at the end of this At Home blog.

Thank you for visiting.

Steve
Your Home Entertaining Coach

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Filed under At Home News, Entertaining at Home, Events, My Life, Recipes, Tips

A Mother’s Day Tribute

My  mother died on March 23, 2010.  She was a remarkable women. Here are three “notes” from At Home that that illustrate ways my mother influenced my understanding of home entertaining plus her recipe for Stuffed Cabbage.

‘Tis not the Food; ‘Tis the Appetite
In 1954 in our new home in the Crestwood section of Yonkers, my mother commissioned murals painted on her kitchen and pantry walls based upon illustrations in James Beard’s Fireside Cookbook. One of those illustrations is included in this book’s dedication. Another mural’s caption would daily remind me that “’Tis not the food but ’tis the appetite that makes eating a delight.”

My Bar Mitzvah
My two primary memories of my bar mitzvah are that my knees literally shook as I recited my havtorah and that the party afterward in my parents’ home was for family and friends of my parents. Setting a nice table and cooking well were always important to my mother. It was at her table that I first understood the nature of hospitality. But it was on my first day of Jewish adulthood that I learned that parties—even your own—are for other people.

Henny’s Girls
In 1979 my father died of a stroke on The Fountain’s golf course in Lake Worth, Florida; his ashes are scattered there. My mother, 10 years his junior, had years ahead of her and a new life to build. Her first summer as a widow, she journeyed to Williamstown, Massachusetts, with friends Nora and Beatie for a month in the Berkshires. Just before they left, my mother wondered if they were going to return next year to Williamstown, and if so, if she should buy a home rather than rent. By the next day, she owned a small Victorian fixer-upper next door to the Williams Inn. Every spring through fall for the next decade, she operated A House on Main Street, a small bed and breakfast. Later, tired of making bran muffins and ready for a change, she sold the inn. The following spring, she set up her warm-weather residence in Philadelphia, where other than me and my small family, she knew no one. Ever resourceful, my mother joined a group planning a Paris trip. (My mother is probably one of the few people who’s gone to Paris to meet Philadelphians.) It was at the trip’s reunion that she scanned the group, made up primarily of younger-than-her single women, and announced that every Sunday evening—a time she perceived as most lonely for singles—her table would be set for anyone who wanted to come. Thus was founded a group of wonderful women, self-named “Henny’s Girls,” whose common point of reference is my mother. My mother has enriched their lives with good food, like her stuffed cabbage and charred eggplant dip (see page 79) and lively conversation. They have, in turn, enriched her life with affection and devotion. Most recently, back in Lake Worth, she is working on establishing a chapter of Henny’s Girls South.

Henny’s Stuffed Cabbage
The night we opened Frog in 1973, my mother prepared her delicious sweet and sour stuffed cabbage rolls as Frog’s debut special. Over the years they have become a staple on our Rosh Hashanah menu, but there is no reason to restrict these wonderful morsels to that holiday. One roll makes for a nice first course; two or three for a filling entrée. Sometimes we make thumb-sized versions and serve them as hors d’oeuvres.
do ahead Stuffed cabbage is best when made at least one day ahead and reheated before serving. It can also be stored in the freezer for up to one month. Defrost and reheat in a 325º oven.

Cabbage Rolls
1⁄3 cup cooked white rice
1 large head green cabbage
6 gingersnaps
1⁄2 cup water
1 pound ground beef
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1⁄2 cup ketchup

Sauce
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 cup sauerkraut
15-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1⁄2 cup light brown sugar
6 gingersnaps, crumbled
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon pepper
1⁄2 cup ketchup

1 Cut out the core of the cabbage and place in a pot. Nearly cover with water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until leaves can be parted easily, about 5 minutes. Remove cabbage, drain and peel off softer leaves. If inner leaves are still stiff, return to water and repeat. Pat leaves dry.
2 Make the filling: crumble gingersnaps in water to form a paste. In a bowl, combine paste, rice, beef, salt, brown sugar and ketchup.
3 To form the cabbage rolls, lay a leaf flat on a clean surface. Place about 3 tablespoons of mixture in the center of each leaf. Fold the two sides over the filling and then roll tightly and set aside, seam side down. Repeat with remaining ingredients, reserving the smaller leaves for the sauce.
4 Preheat oven to 350º. Chop reserved small cabbage leaves and set aside. Rinse sauerkraut well, squeeze out water and set aside. Gently squeeze tomatoes to remove some juice, then tear tomatoes apart.
5 To make the sauce, heat oil in a deep sauté pan and add onion. Cook until onion begins to brown, about 10 minutes. Chop reserved cabbage, add to pan and continue cooking until nicely browned, about 5-10 minutes more. Mix in sauerkraut, tomatoes, brown sugar, gingersnaps, salt and pepper. Continue cooking slowly for 15 minutes, adding water if it gets too thick.
6 To assemble, spoon half of the sauce into a baking dish. Place cabbage rolls in a single layer, seam side down. Cover with remaining sauce. Make a ribbon of ketchup across the top of the rolls. Cover with foil.
7 Bake for at least 2 hours. Remove foil after 1 hour and add as much as 1⁄2 cup water if cabbage appears too dry.
8 Serve hot or hold for one day and reheat in a 325º oven.
serves 6-8


After the core is removed, the whole cabbage head is briefly cooked in boiling war to soften leaves so that you can separate them from the head and roll. If removing  individual leaves becomes difficult, just return the head to boiling water again to further loosen leaves. Once removed from the head, if they are not soft enough to roll you can return them to the water to further soften.

It is important to pat dry the leaves. Dry leaves are easier to roll. Also, residue water could thin down the sauce.

Slowly saute onions until lightly browned and caramelized to bring out their maximum sweetness. Take care not to burn.


Cabbage leftover from the whole head — leaves too small to roll — get chopped and added to onions to be used in sauce.

Continue cooking until cabbage lightly browns.

The cabbage leaves will run the gamut from large outer leaves to smaller inner leaves. To make more uniform rolls you can use two small leaves together to make a larger roll. Try to keep the stuffing together and don’t worry too much of you have formed a perfect roll. As my mother used to say, “It all gets mixed up in the stomach.” If you want to make all smaller rolls, cut large leaves in half.

Here’s a very helpful tip: The outer leaves are best for making large cabbage rolls, but outer leaves tend to have very sturdy ribs that are difficult to soften without overcooking the leaves. To solve this problem, turn the leaves so that the inner side is face down and the outer side — now face up — exposes the sturdy rib. With a sharp knife, make a series of slits in the rib without cutting all the way through. Turn the leaf over and toll. The slits now make that much easier

Place a generous amount of sauce in over-proof baking dish.

Place cabbage rolls over sauce, top with move sauce and a ribbon of ketchup.

Cover with foil and bake for the initial two hours. Then remove foil, add some water if sauce appears  too thick and bake uncovered for an additional hour.

The finished product.

Next: Don’t Try This At Home: Behind the Scenes at the Dad Vail Regatta.

Thank you for visiting.

Steve
Your Home Entertaining Coach

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Filed under Memories, My Life, Recipes, Tips

Company’s Coming: Part 6 — Company Came

Blog posts have come hot and heavy over the last week or so. Maybe more than you bargained for when you signed up. This has been an unusual series that seemed to require extensive blogging. I hope you have enjoyed them and found them useful. Posts will now return to their far less frequent pattern.

Note: This is the sixth post in a series.
Part 1: A Conversation with Myself, click here.
Part 2: Party Parameters and Menu Planning, click here.
Part 3: Organizing Tasks & Time, click here.
Part 4: Shopping, click here.
Part 5: Countdown to Guest Arrival, click here.

Re-cap
Several months ago Christina and I contributed to the Philadelphia Theater Company’s Sweetheart Brunch Silent Auction. Our contribution was a  dinner with us in our home for four guests. We both have long connections to the Philadelphia Theater Company. Sunday evening our guests joined us.

I began planning and preparations nine days prior in keeping with At Home’s principles of spreading tasks over time — ideally beginning one full weekend prior to your party. My goals were for entertaining at home to be a pleasure and not a chore; to have one relaxed hour prior to guest arrival; and, to spend time with guests. Of course I wanted a very nice meal for our guests.

I wanted to use the occasion of our party as a model for you to encourage you to have More Parties. Better. Easier. While I am not suggesting that you tackle my menu — I do this professionally — I was hoping that in following how I approached planning and executing my party  — including my struggles, you would gain insight that you could use in planning your next party.

Sunday
Sunday morning I read the newspapers and watched the usual line-up of news shows. Late morning I headed into the kitchen to do some odds and ends — primarily around the Spring Vegetable Antipasti — and begin pulling things from the refrigerator that could sit out. We made a game time wine substitute of a wonderful chardonnay we had for the Viongier.

At 4:30 PM I was comfortable on the couch in the den alternating between the NBA play-offs and the start of the Phillies game. Our guests arrived a few minutes past six and by around 10:30 we bid them bon voyage with small boxes of chocolates that I ordered online from Recchiuti Confections in San Francisco. In between we got to know two interesting and delightful couples by, as I say in At Home, “sharing the warmth of your home (our home) and a good meal.”

Note the large flower arrangement in the background. As I was enjoying my final few minutes of relaxation on the couch, I got an alarmed call from Christina and Jill (who was our Frog Commissary helper). It turned out that the tall flower arrangement I had made on Saturday of pink apple blossoms and lavender lilacs had sprung a leak! Not a big leak, but a hairline fracture through which water leaked onto our breakfront. We had no vase of the required scale to make a quick switch and it would have made a mess to re-work the arrangement in a smaller scale — plus some lilacs were already looking none too good. I made an executive decision and banished the arrangement from the scene.


Our kitchen trash can was empty.


Empty dishwasher at the ready.


Ready to receive dishes. A bus pan to collect dirty dishes. A small container with soapy water for silverware. An empty sink because…when your sink is full, you’re sunk. Empty drain board and dish rack.


My menu with notes (on the right) and final prep tasks (on the left) were posted on a kitchen cabinet on re-positionable labels along with an admonition to myself to “KEEP PORTIONS SMALL.” As tasks get completed I move completed labels off to the side. Using re-positionable labels also enables me to group and/or re-group tasks.

Each place setting had a menu card. Toward the end of the night we all signed menu cards to keep as souvenirs of our evening together. Regardless of how elaborate or simple the dinner – menu cards take only a few minutes to make and let your guests know that they are special — a hallmark of hospitality. It’s not every day guests sit down to a dinner with a menu card! I simply typed out the menu in Word, printed it on nice heavy paper and cut it down to size. Easy.

The first course of Spring Vegetable Antipasti was laid out before guests arrived — absent last-minute touches of balsamic syrup, a wonderfully green and spicy olive oil drizzle, pink sea salt and chervil leaves.

Dinner
My menu objectives were to rely on fresh, local products and keep things reasonably light. We knew our guests were well-traveled and enjoyed wine so we wanted a series of interesting wines. Most critically, my menu was planned so that I needed to spend a minimum amount of time in the kitchen.

On Behalf of the Philadelphia Theater Company
Steve & Christina are pleased to host Lisa, John, Ken & Teresa
Sunday, April 25, 2010

Welcome
Spring Champagne Cocktail with Honeydew & Mint

Assorted Olives
Fragrant Star Anise Lotus Root Chips
Lancaster Red Radishes with Sea Salt
Dill-cured Salmon with Honey Mustard
Spanish White Anchovies & Piquillo Peppers on Crostini
Chilled Jerusalem Artichoke Bisque
with Hackelback Caviar

Dinner
Spring Vegetable Antipasti with Sorrel Mayonnaise
Grilled Asparagus, Ramps & Baby Artichokes
Rainbow Chard • Fiddlehead ferns
Roasted Beets • Fava Beans
Nasturtium Blossoms
Sorrel Mayonnaise
Prager Gruner Veltliner 2007 • Wachau Austria

Malfadine with Wild Mushrooms
Morels, Honey Cups and Miatake
Mushroom Broth
Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc 2008 • Martinborough New Zealand

Pan-seared Striped Bass dusted with Wild Italian Fennel Pollen
Lentils du Pay salad with roasted butternut squash and sun-dried tomatoes
Kistler Durell Vineyard Chardonnay 1999 • Sonoma Valley

Assorted Cheeses from Pennsylvania & New Jersey
Shellbark Farms Fresh Goat Cheese – West Chester, PA
Cherry Grove Farm Asiago – Lawrenceville, NJ
Cherry Grove Farm Shippetaukin Blue
Cherry Grove Farm Toma Primavera
Paraduxx 2004 • Napa Valley

Meyer Lemon Sorbet
Rhubarb Relish Scented with Rosemary
Anne’s Raspberry Hearts
Felsina Vin Santo 1999 • Chianti Classico

Bon Voyage
Recchiuti Chocolates

Spring Vegetable Antipasti on over-sized plate. I had meant to get a little squeeze bottle to control adding the balsamic syrup, but never got to it. As a result, the balsamic syrup ran into places I didn’t want it. I felt this course did what I wanted — namely to be a reflection of the arrival of spring. I particularly liked my decision to decorate plate with chervil leaves. Could have used two ramps per person rather than one. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with the rainbow chard, but ended up wilting it quickly in a little olive oil and folding up into little packages. The nasturtium blossom and lemon wedge made for the perfect notes of color.

Melfadine pasta with wild mushrooms and mushroom broth — needed more mushroom broth, under-salted and maybe could have used some garlic in addition to shallots. Earlier in the evening I lightly sautéed the pasta in butter and shallots and let it sit in the pan until a final heating with peas. In a separate pan I sautéed the mushrooms in shallots, butter and added a little white wine. The mushroom broth was slowly heating on the stove. To turn I got everything hot, distributed the pasta between six bowls that I had heated in a 2o0 degree oven, distributed the mushrooms and ladled the broth. Finished with fresh chopped parsley.

Pan-seared striped bass dusted with fennel pollen on a salad of French lentils, roasted butternut squash and sun-dried tomatoes. Another easy turn-out: the lentil salad was cold and placed in the middle of the plate. Added four roasted grape tomatoes and a drizzle of olive oil to dress up plate. Forgot to dust plate with additional fennel pollen — I had not written this down. I cooked two pieces per person, but decided that one looked better and more consistent with my goal of keeping portions small. The fish just had to go on top of the lentils with a little mound of microgreens added. Christina felt her fish was over-cooked and I hoped that only Christina got unlucky. I was rushing to get this out, started to take the fish off the flame, got concerned that it needed a little more time as I did not want to serve fish under-cooked in the middle. Overall,  I thought the course worked well.

The cheese course (I forgot to photograph) was surprisingly great. In keeping with my fresh and local theme, I bought three of my cheeses at the Rittenhouse Square Farmers’ Market from Cherry Grove Farm, Lawrenceville, New Jersey.  The fourth cheese — a fresh goat cheese from West Chester — came from DiBruno’s. The Cherry Grove cheeses included a firm “asiago,” a softer and mustier “toma” and a blue.

I forgot to temper the sorbet — meaning to let it get a little soft. When I took it from the freezer to serve it was hard as a rock. I stuck it in the microwave for one minute and it was perfect. The sorbet sat on the rhubarb relish with the addition of a heart-shaped Linzer cookie — cookies that had been given to us the week before by Anne Clark, a dear friend, my first baker, co-author of The Frog Commissary Cookbook and author of the Baking Required recipes in At Home.  Two candied Meyer lemon rinds, two blood orange segments and a tiny sprig of rosemary — homage to the fragrance added to the Rhubarb relish — finished the plate. Together they made for a wonderful mix of fresh flavors, colors and textures.

Our final gesture of hospitality was to bid Bon Voyage to our guests with little ribbon-tied boxes of chocolates from Recchuiti Confections. Michael Recchuiti is one of the world’s leading chocolatiers. Based in San Francisco, Michael used to work in The Commissary’s bakery.  Christina and I served Michael’s chocolates at our wedding along with those of famous Belgium chocolatier Pierre Marcolini.

At dinner’s end, one diner left “stuffed.”  “Pleasantly sated” the consensus of the rest.

Lessons of Company’s Coming
I don’t mean to pretend that this dinner is something you should plan. Though frankly, I believe you could do this with coaching. Home entertaining is much more a matter of aspiration and planning than unique culinary skill.

Of course, the subject of home entertaining came up during dinner. One couple did it frequently and the other infrequently. The later couple had done it more, but stopped, as it seemed reciprocation was rare — the result of people just finding it too hard. We all agreed that entertaining at home is special and that our spending this time together in a noisy restaurant would just not have provided the warmth and connection of this evening together. I reiterated what I often say: “I don’t care if you order out pizza and make a salad. Just do it at home.” I resolved to create some home entertaining menus that are easy and not just easier. Look for these in future blogs.

Postscript: Conversation with Myself
The Good Enough Entertainer: Well, how did it go?
The Entertaining Overachiever: I guess OK.
The Good Enough Entertainer: What do you mean by OK?
The Entertainer Overachiever: It wasn’t perfect. Christina’s fish was over-cooked! The balsamic syrup ran!! The pasta was under-seasoned and lacked the broth that was a key part of the dish — not just another sauteed pasta!!! And I forgot to dust the striped bass plate with fennel pollen!!!!
The Good Enough Entertainer: STOP! Perfection was not one of your goals. Your goals were for this to be a pleasure and not a chore — for you to have fun.  And not to be bound to the kitchen. Anything else was a bonus.
The Entertaining Overachiever: But…
The Good Enough Entertainer: No buts! Here’s another At Home principle. It’s similar to the Home Entertainers Deserve One Relaxed Hour thing. When all is said and done, Home Entertainers Deserve a Big Pat on the Back from Themselves. Inviting guests into your home is special…even noble. You did this and in so doing, you enhanced human connection. With that — and I don’t mean to turn overly spiritual here — you made the world a better place for yourself and for people about who you care.
The Entertaining Overachiever: Wow!

Reminder about At Home’s Mother’s Day Special
Last Monday At Home blog readers received an email from me about At Home’s Mother’s Day Special. The special includes an inscribed book by me to your mother, a Pascal Lemaitre Mother’s Day Card, a recipe card with my mother’s Stuffed Cabbage Recipe, and an At Home book plate for you to inscribe your own message. Check your Monday email. Note: At Home’s Mother’s Day Special is not available from our online store. You have to use the order form that comes with the email. You can also access the At Home Mother’s Day Special and download the order form by going to the blog site. If you read the blog via email or on Facebook, just click on the blog title to get to the blog site.

Next: Don’t Try This At Home…Behind the Scenes at The Franklin Institute Awards Dinner
At Home’s planning principles are based upon my more than 35 years experience as leader of Frog Commissary Catering. We have catered more than 15,000 events. Thursday evening, Frog Commissary Catering will serve a great dinner to 800 guests in conjunction with The Franklin Institute Awards. These annual awards are given to individuals across a spectrum of scientific disciplines. In addition, the Bower Award is given to a business person who has made a particular contribution to science. This year’s recipient of the Bower Award is Bill Gates. We have catered this event for many years. I will provide you with a behind the scenes look of how we cater for this large group in space designed to be a museum and not a catering hall! Certainly the scale is different from my little dinner for six, but you may be surprised at its similarity to what I encourage you to do at home.

Thank you for visiting.

Steve
Your Home Entertaining Coach

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Filed under Entertaining at Home, Family and Friends, Menus, Tips

Company’s Coming Part 5: Countdown to Guest Arrival

Note: This is the fifth post in a series. If you missed Part 1: A Conversation with Myself, click here. For Part 2: Party Parameters and Menu Planning, click here. For Part 3: Organizing Tasks & Time, click here. Part 4: Shopping, click here.

Sunday Morning
All is well. I have planned well and spread my tasks over time. It’s been a pleasure and not a chore. Only a little bit of work remains and my one relaxed hour before guests arrive is within my grasp.

Shopping Update
My Friday shopping did not start so well. I rushed out of the house without my carefully crafted shopping list. I stopped and made a new list as I ran through my dinner menu in my head.

Friday’s Reading Terminal Shopping was a pleasure.

My first stop was Fair Food. I had a general idea as to what would be included in my Spring Vegetable Antipasti — but open to unexpected discoveries. Fair Food had beautiful fiddlehead ferns, ramps (wild spring onions), rainbow chard and asparagus — all just-picked and grown within a stone’s throw of Philadelphia. Red scallions will be added to the French lentil salad. I picked up fresh sorrel for the sorrel mayonnaise I planned for the anitipasti. Fair Food also had beautiful Jerusalem artichokes (aka Sunchokes) that I picked up for my missing hors d’oeuvres — a cold, creamy white soup topped with caviar.

A blog reader had let me know that Livengood’s was no longer at Reading Terminal Market and directed me to a wonderful website called Local Harvest. For information about where Livengood’s organic produce will be available, click here. Thank you Ken.

I found an abundance of wild mushrooms at Iovine Brothers — beautiful morels, honeycups and hens in the woods. These were supplemented by the gift of maitakes from a dear visiting friend who is a blog reader and knew of my quest for wild mushrooms. She also brought beautiful edible nasturtium blossoms that I will use with my Spring Vegetable Antipasti.

My regular fish stand was out of striped bass, but I found plenty at another stand.

At DiBruno’s I switched pastas from pappardelle to malfadine. I thought this narrower but still ample pasta would be easier to eat with the wild mushrooms. Picked up some crackers for cheese, Spanish white anchovies and caviar for my hors d’oeuvres soup.

Saturday morning I walked across Rittenhouse Square to the farm stands that line Walnut Street. It was a perfect spring day with a deep blue cloudless sky and azaleas in full bloom. My mission was to buy local cheeses for our cheese course. Cherry Grove Farm from Lawrenceville, New Jersey makes organic cheeses from their own grass-fed cows. I picked an “asiago,” a toma and a blue. I wanted a fresh goat cheese, but the neighboring stand only could offer a goat gouda. At DiBruno’s I found a fresh goat cheese from Shellbark Farm in West Chester. Cheese course complete.

I also picked up wonderful fresh lilacs, apple blossoms, sweet peas and nameless yellow and blue flowers from the Amish farm stand. I love arranging flowers. I think of it as a cross between painting and sculpture.

Honeydew Roulette
I don’t know about you, but I rarely have luck with honeydews. I find that if you don’t find a ripe honeydew, hell may freeze over before an unripe honeydew ripens. Fortunately, I found a ripe honeydew last Saturday at Whole Foods. Unfortunately, it had no flavor. At Reading Terminal Market I found another, pre-peeled and in a plastic bag for 99 cents. Once again, not much flavor — but marginally better than the first. With a little mint syrup mixed with champagne it will be good enough.

Sue’s $1 Packets of Fresh Herbs
My little local produce market is Sue’s on 18th Street between Sansom and Chestnut. Family-owned and well-priced, it is a welcome alternative to Whole Foods and Rittenhouse Market. Among the things I love about Sue’s are the $1 packets of fresh herbs. I only use fresh herbs, but nearly all markets sell expensive packs of herbs that provide much more than you can use before the herbs gets too old. Sue’s breaks down the large packets into small $1 packets that provides plenty of herbs for a meal or two. Sue’s also had nice looking Sicilian blood oranges — not exactly local, but a nice addition to dessert.

Perils of Internet Shopping
I ordered fennel pollen on Monday from Chefshop.com. Standard shipping. I just assumed it would get here by Friday.  By mid-day Friday I started wondering where it was?  I went to the email and tracking number and lo and behold, not due until Monday!!! That’s right, Monday. Not good for a Sunday dinner. A touch panicked, I called Chefshop.com who confirmed 1) it was not due until Monday and 2) it had not even arrived in Pennsylvania. It turns out that Chefshop.com ships from Redmond, Washington and my assumption about when it would arrive was profoundly wrong. It seemed my only option — if available — was to ship it overnight, Saturday delivery with a shipping cost of $55.  Overhearing this, Christina said I should try our neighborhood DiBruno’s.  I said, with a man’s confidence, that DiBruno’s did not carry it. They did not even show it on their website. (This is the shopping version of real men don’t ask directions when lost!)  Ignoring me, Christina called DiBruno’s. Sure enough, they had it…just as I suspected. Thank you Christina.

Step 5: Organizing Space
Step 5 in my Plan to Entertain is Organizing Space. A critical early task is to clean out your refrigerator to make room for what is likely to be something than its normal line-up. By dinnertime on Sunday, my counters will be clear of everything but what I need to turn-out our dinner. That will include an empty dishwasher and dish rack. Next to my sink I will have a bus pan (like you find in restaurants) and small plastic tub filled with soapy water for flatware. My sink will be empty and I will keep it empty because I know that once my sink is full, I’m sunk.

Step 6: Setting the Table
Step 6: Setting the Table provides suggestions and tools to get your table together including a Setting the Table Worksheet. My preference is to use re-positionable labels.  See At Home Page 12 for more about re-positionable labels. As I watched the Phillies loose to the Diamondbacks on Friday night, I created my re-positionable labels for setting the table. On Saturday Christina used these to pull, pile and label everything we needed to serve our guests with a need for only the occasional menu question. It seems as though Christina has worked hard getting our apartment together. I know she enjoys entertaining and likes an excuse to get things organized, but I hope she has found this to be a pleasure and not a chore.

Prep Work
By Friday mid-day my shopping was well in hand. My plan was to do prep work on Saturday, but I was more in the mood to cook than go back to my desk. Doing my prep work on Friday would make for an even more relaxed Saturday than I had planned. So I trimmed the mushrooms and finished the mushroom broth, portioned the striped bass, pureed the honeydew, made the Jerusalem artichoke soup, cooked and peeled the fava beans, made the sorrel mayonnaise and figured out my rhubarb relish.

Rhubarb Relish
I had to resolve what to do with my rhubarb. The rhubarb had been macerating in sugar since last Sunday creating a pinkish syrup. I love the crunch of raw rhubarb and despair of cooking it. But I I had never seen it used un-cooked — something about not eating raw rhubarb. I had nibbled on quite a bit and I seemed none the worse. Some internet research revealed that the prohibition extended only to rhubarb’s leaves and roots. I strained the rhubarb-infused syrup, added a few sprigs of rosemary and reduced my two cups to one cup of a fragrant syrup. After allowing the syrup to cool fully, I poured in over my rhubarb. Now I have my relish to serve with the Meyer lemon sorbet.

Rhubarb Relish
Rhubarb relish retains the crunchy character of raw rhubarb and is perfumed with rosemary. It’s the perfect complement to a citrus sorbet or vanilla or strawberry ice cream.

Do Ahead May be made up to one week in advance.

1 pound rhubarb, leaves and bottom trimmed and discarded
1 cup sugar
2-3 small springs rosemary

1 Cut rhubarb into long, thin strips and 1/4-3/8 thick. Line up strips and cut across creating little cubes.
2 Combine rhubarb cubes and sugar in bowl and mix well. Allow to macerate for 24 to 48 hours, stirring occasionally to make sure all sugar melts into syrup.
3 Strain syrup and reserve. You should have about 2 cups syrup. Return rhubarb to refrigerator. Place syrup and a few springs rosemary in small pot and cook over moderate heat until reduced by half to about 1 cup. Strain rosemary from syrup. When syrup is cool, pour over rhubarb and mix well.

Yield 1 1/2 cups

Looking Ahead and Looking Forward
My tasks today are primarily getting the Spring Vegetable Antipasti together plus a few other pre-dinner odds and ends. The antipasti is designed to be a celebration of our local harvest — seasonal cooking that reminds us of our place and time. This will will include baby artichokes, wild ramps, fava beans, fiddlehead ferns, rainbow chard, asparagus and beets (more homage to winter past than spring present, but some needed color). These wonderful vegetables are best left to “day-of” preparation.

I have arranged for a helper from Frog Commissary to assist in serving. Before dinner I will group the elements of each course together on the kitchen counters. I will have posted my menu and my re-positionable labels with my final tasks and reminders. I will post a sign reminding myself to “KEEP PORTIONS SMALL” as we have lots to enjoy. And enjoy has what I have done so far.

Christina and I are looking forward to meeting our guests and, as I say in At Home,” sharing the warmth of our home and a good meal. ” (OK, maybe a very good meal!)

Coming on Tuesday
On Tuesday — my day job permitting — you can read about whether I ended up getting my one relaxed hour and how the evening went including photos. More importantly, I will share with you the central lesson of Company’s Coming.

Coming Next Weekend
I know posts have been coming hot and heavy with an unusual number of pretty long blogs over an unusual few days. I hope you have enjoyed reading them and how to do More Parties. Better. Easier. After a break of several days, I will post Don’t Try This At Home, a behind the scenes look at Frog Commissary’s catering The Franklin Institute Awards dinner this Thursday where the guest of honor will be Bill Gates.

REMINDER: If you plan to order At Home’s Mother’s Day Special, Mother’s Day is only two weeks away and you need to order in time to allow for shipping.

Thank you for visiting.

Steve
Your Home Entertaining Coach

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Filed under Entertaining at Home, Recipes, Tips

Company’s Coming Part 4: Shopping

Note: This is the fourth post in a series. If you missed Part 1: A Conversation with Myself, click here. For Part 2: Party Parameters and Menu Planning, click here. For Part 3: Organizing Tasks & Time, click here.

So far, so good. But it’s still early in the game. I feel confident in my game plan, but the game is really just starting. What’s important is that I feel focused on making this fun…for me.

Plan to Entertain’s Step 4 is Shopping. On Sunday I filled out the At Home Shopping List based upon my menu plan. I had my “what” shopping plan. With At Home’s Organizing Tasks & Time Schedule, I had my “where and when” shopping plan.

Last Saturday I did a little “pre-shopping” — and picked up bread for crostini on Tuesday.
Thursday I will do a little light neighborhood shopping for a few things I want to do on Thursday evening. My preference would to have done this on Wednesday, but I had the opportunity to have dinner with a friend I only see rarely so I changed my plan. A sub-principle of planning  is to be flexible.
Friday My day for fun shopping at Reading Terminal Market.
Saturday More fun at the Rittenhouse Square Farmers Market for cheese, flowers and maybe a little last minute inspiration.

There are several ways to look at food shopping.

Shopping can be purely functional. You’ve got your list…milk, check…eggs, check…coffee, check.  You’re on a tight schedule, you’re in, you’re out…done. Task completed, check. I concede that with good reason, in our busy and over-committed lives, this is how we do most of our food shopping. In fact, for much of what we shop for, this works just fine.

However, not all food shopping need be the same. I invite you to look at some food shopping differently..shopping with more foreplay! It has to do with enjoying the journey and not rushing to the destination. Enjoy exploring what’s seasonally new in the produce aisles.  Rhubarb and local asparagus are as sure a sign of spring as the daffodil and robin. Shad roe has just appeared in markets — the annual evidence of shad’s life force. Shopping slowly extends beyond fresh food. Buying dried pasta? Explore its origin. Honey? There are now honeys available with all manner of natural flavor accents — the result of where the honey is from and where and on what bees fed.

I remember, as a teacher many years ago at the Green Tree School (See At Home Page 69: The Green Tree Cafe), using food shopping to teach learning-challenged inner-city children that bacon does not simply come from the supermarket, but from pigs and some is smoked and some is not and pigs are raised on farms. Food is the result of farm and farmer, ranch and rancher, fish and fisherman. Food is not just “there.” Food goes through a journey to get there and that journey is “contained” in the food itself…if you just stop to think about it.

Do your functional shopping wherever, but occasionally seek out better markets and farm stands and shop slowly and for fun.

Reading Terminal Market
Which brings me to The Reading Terminal Market. The Reading Terminal Market is my favorite place in Philadelphia. This extends from the wonderful prepared foods your can buy — no better lunch options in the city — to the fresh fish, meat and produce. Strolling the aisles for me is akin to wandering the galleries of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

My principal objectives on Friday will be seasonal local vegetables. There are two stands in particular that I will visit. One is the Fair Food Farmstand. Fair Food is formerly a program of White Dog Community Enterprises — a program to focus community support of and access to local farm products. See www.fairfoodphilly.org. It is centrally located along the 12th Street perimeter of the market. The other produce stand specializing in local produce is Livengood’s Produce, located in the center of the market.

Here are some notes about some interesting ingredients I am using for our dinner.

Wild Italian fennel pollen
Wild Italian fennel pollen is a distinctly Tuscan product harvested from wild fennel plants in full bloom, dried and screened. It has the texture of a coarse powder with sweet notes of anise plus musty and floral aroma. I bought mine from chefshop.com. It’s actually from Umbria and costs $19.99 plus shipping. It is pricey but a little goes a long way and keeps well.  While cooking with wild Italian fennel pollen might not make you swoon, it tastes wonderful and just saying those words are somewhat transformative! You may substitute toasted fennel seed coarsely ground in a spice grinder. Not quite fennel pollen — but a perfectly reasonable substitute.  (See At Home’s Fennel-scented Striped Bass on P.260.) But if you do make the substitute you won’t get to say “wild Italian fennel pollen.”

I will use the fennel pollen to coat my striped bass before searing and maybe sprinkle a little fennel pollen “dust” on the entrée plate as a garnish.

Meyer Lemons
Meyer lemons are a cross between a lemon and Mandarin orange. They are more round than a lemon and more oval than an orange. Correspondingly, their flavor is a cross between the two – sweeter and a lemon, more sour than an orange. Same thing with color – pale orange to deep yellow.

Meyer Lemon Sorbet
Meyer lemon produces a sorbet with a distinctive flavor that results in the crossing of a lemon and mandarin orange. Remember to remove sorbet and other frozen desserts from freezer ahead of time to allow to temper and soften a bit.

Do ahead Must be made at least one day ahead and as much as two weeks ahead stored tightly covered in freezer. You may pre-scoop portions and hold in freezer to speed the process of serving.

3 cups Meyer lemon juice (about a dozen Meyer lemons)
3 cups simple syrup
2 tablespoons Meyer lemon rind

Combine Meyer lemon juice, simple syrup and Meyer lemon rind. Chill. Transfer to ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacture’s directions.

Yield About 5 1/2 cups serving 6-8

Wine Shopping
Start by getting a sense of what style/type of wine you would like to serve based on your menu. (At Home includes two terrific wine charts on Pages 32 and 33 than can help you.) If you are planning for a single wine for your dinner it should be paired with your entrée with some consideration given to what comes before. More interesting than doing one wine with a three course dinner would be to do one wine with your first course and another with your entrée. You will probably spend about the same — for example, two of the same bottles or one each of two different wines — two bottles. Rely on the store personnel to the degree that you can. Some Pennsylvania State Stores are better than others and they have all made great strides since the State Store dark ages. New Jersey is blessed with numbers of excellent wine sources including Canal’s and Moore Brothers. Moore Brothers is especially good for high value uncommon wines. Unless you are dealing with a wine store with extensive variety, it makes no sense going into the store with a specific winery and/or year in mind. The chances the store will have that particular wine are slim. They know their wines best. Give them a per bottle budget, let them know what you are serving, what you think you came in for, and trust them. You really have little choice other than making your own best guess. And they want you to be happy so you will return.

In our case, knowing that our guests are wine enthusiasts, we decided that having several wines is a way to add interest to our dinner. As a result, we planned our wines corresponding to each course. With cocktails we will serve At Home’s Spring Champagne Cocktail — champagne with a little honeydew puree and mint syrup. (Page 43)

Here’s our wine line-up
Spring Vegetable Antipasti — Gruner Leltliner, a medium dry Austrian white wine.
Pappardelle with Wild Mushrooms —  New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc
Striped Bass with wild Italian fennel pollen – Viognier
Cheese – a red from our little “cellar” – actually a rack and two small Cuisinart wine refrigerators, TBD
Dessert – also from our little wine cellar, TBD

We bought two bottles each of the Gruner, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier, but it is unlikely we will need two. A bottle of wine typically yields five glasses, but with all this wine six per bottle seems fine – one slightly small glass for each guest. In fact, as host I have the responsibility to control the amount of wine guests drink. Alcohol is an area where the generous host is not the caring host. I am not concerned that this will be an issue with our guests, but as moderation in portion size is a goal of my dinner, that extends to wine.

Next — Step 5: Organizing Space and an Update on Thursday’s prep work

Reminder about At Home’s Mother’s Day Special
On Monday At Home blog readers received an email from me about At Home’s Mother’s Day Special. The special includes an inscribed book by me to your mother, a Pascal Lemaitre Mother’s Day Card, a recipe card with my mother’s Stuffed Cabbage Recipe, and an At Home book plate for you to inscribe your own message. Check your Monday email. Note: At Home’s Mother’s Day Special is not available from our online store. You have to use the order form that comes with the email. You can also access the At Home Mother’s Day Special and download the order form by going to the blog site. If you read the blog via email or on Facebook, just click on the blog title to get to the blog site.

Thank you for visiting.

Steve
Your Home Entertaining Coach

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Filed under Entertaining at Home, Menus, Recipes, Tips