Tag Archives: Pascal's Illustrations

On the Table: The Farm Stands of Long Island’s South Fork

This is the companion post to On the Road: Farm Stands of Long Island’s South Fork. It is best viewed at the blog site. If you are not viewing it there, click on the title above.

Nearly every year for more than a decade, I cook for my brother’s birthday. This usually occurs over Labor Day weekend as his birthday is September 3rd.

My brother Fred is four years my senior. Fred lives in Tribeca with Nancy, his wife and my sister-in-law. They have a summer home in Remsenberg. Remsenberg is near Westhampton, the closest of the Hamptons to New York. One year, as the house was undergoing renovation, guest accommodations were trailers on the lawn with little in the way of kitchen. Noah and his friend slept in the cabin of the boat docked adjacent to the house. I grilled a lot that year. We enjoyed dinner on a 4′ x 8′ sheet of plywood over saw horses. Usually at Fred and Nancy’s I have a great kitchen to work in and lots of slicing and dicing help provided. I always arrive to a generous bowl filled with chopped garlic. Generally, Nancy “procures” from food lists provided — often with the help of my nephew Jake.

Given this summer’s farm stand journeys, it made sense to incorporate a visit to the neighboring South Fork of Long Island for my shopping. Earlier in the summer I visited Fred and Nancy’s Long Island home with my friend Pascal and his daughter Maelle. On that occasion I visited the North Fork. There are On the Road and On the Table posts on that visit.

The North Fork had a very different character than the South Fork. Clearly, there are fewer affluent shoppers on the North Fork — it is not the chic summer paradise of the South Fork. The land is less valuable and the farms bigger — relying less on just selling at the farm stand and more on hitting the road to metropolitan farmers’ markets. With land less expensive, there are many more wineries on the North Fork than South.

While the focus of Fred’s birthday is a birthday dinner, inevitably there are other meals to be prepared for the gathered family and occasional friends. Typically the “arrival” dinner is cooked lobsters — supplemented with grilled shrimp, corn-on-the-cob and sliced tomatoes. Dessert is a low-fat yogurt “ice cream” cake — always plenty of fresh sliced fruit and berries and a selection of cookies from Olish’s. My role in this meal is modest with responsibilities pretty much limited to enjoying my lobster.

Friday’s Lunch

Ginger & mint lemonade
Mafaldine (pasta) with lobster, shrimp and fresh tomato sauce
Garlic-grilled ciabatta

I made a simple pasta sauce from a load of farm stand plum tomatoes and thin-sliced garlic — into which I folded left-over lobster — yes, there was left-over lobster! — and shrimp. This was tossed with my favorite pasta shape – Mafaldine — a wide crenellated noodle.

To make the Ginger-Mint Lemonade, I made a simple syrup flavored with lots of fresh mint. I combined this with fresh lemon juice, a fresh concentrated ginger tea sold at several South Fork farm stands, water and ice. There are recipes in At Home for Four Seasons of Lemonade including Minted Lemonade and another recipe for Ginger Syrup. You can combine these to make your own Ginger-Mint Lemonade. As my mother would always say, the key to making lemonade is to balance the sweet and sour – plenty of both without either overwhelming.

Saturday’s Lunch

Chicken tacos with sweet peppers
Heirloom tomato salsa
Arugula
Roasted “peanut” potatoes
Pickled cucumbers

The chicken was left-over from our previous dinner with salsa from the larder of ingredients I purchase from farm stands. I love tacos — the soft variety. They are easy to make, fun to eat and very under-used by the home entertainer. Arugula was incorporated into the taco.

The potatoes were the hit of lunch. I found these peppers toward the end of my South Fork tour at Balsam Farm. When I say I found them, it’s not like I was looking for them. Such are the pleasures of shopping at farm stands — sans shopping list. I had never before seen such tiny potatoes — Yukon golds. They are not officially named “peanut” potatoes, but guests mistook them for peanuts. They were simply cooked with lots of chopped garlic, a light coating of olive and a finish of sea salt – lots of sea salt. Crisp of the outside and creamy on the inside.

Saturday’s Birthday Dinner
As guests gathered we served Bellinis with local peach nectar

Hors d’ouvres on the Kitchen Counter


Montauk tuna tartare – spoons make for an elegant platform for an hors d’oeuvres. Here the tuna is diced with a little red onion with a touch of olive oil, salt and pepper. On top is unsweetened whipped cream accented with a little wasabi and topped with chives.


Pickled okra — I used the basic “Quick Pickles” recipe that is featured in the At Home blog athomebysteveposes.wordpress.com/recipes/.


Roasted tomatoes with fresh mozzarella & basil on crostini


Radishes and cherry tomatoes with sea salt.  Fresh, cold, crisp radishes are the perfect light summer hors d’oeuvres. It helps if the radishes are slightly moist so the salt can adhere. Recently at a wonderful dinner in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia Christina and I were served a pair of elegant radish wedges with a little “line” of pink sea salt at the peak of the wedge as a little amuse bouche meal starter. I have incorporated plattered wedges into my hors d’oeuvres repertoire.

Hors d’oeuvres in the kitchen were followed by a seated dinner in the dining room served on incredible “China.”

The first course was my translation of the soup prepared the previous weekend at Blooming Hill Farm by David Gould of Roman’s Restaurant in Brooklyn. Look for a coming post about Blooming Hill Farm.

Squash Soup
Red rice, corn & zucchini
Squash blossoms & Padron peppers

Our entree
Grilled Montauk swordfish with roasted garlic aioli and tomato relish
Grilled peppers & eggplant
Corn cakes with jalapeno

I loved the plates though, in general, I like food against a simple, patternless background. In retrospect I should have gathered the food closer together.

And dessert.

Blackberry sorbet
Honey-grilled doughnut peaches & raspberries
Farm stand zucchini bread & chocolate chip cookies

Behind the Scenes

Making Corn Cakes See Corn Cake Recipe on At Home blog Recipe Library

Sweet red peppers and scallions add color to the blanched and shaved corn and diced jalapeno add a little kick.

The vegetables were combined with a basic pancake batter of all-purpose flour, eggs, milk and baking powder.

I used a 1/4 cup measure and cooked pancakes in olive oil.

You need to regulate the heat so the pancakes brown evenly. Too much heat causes the edges to darken too much before the interior surface browns. Once the batter is set on top, you can flip the pancakes.

Brown the second side.

As the pancakes will be re-heated in the oven, they may darken a bit more. The pancakes went from the pan to a rimmed baking sheet lined with paper towel to absorb residue grease.  I re-heated the pancakes uncovered — after removing the paper towels — for about 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven just before serving. Pancakes can also be held in a 200 degree oven once they are hot for another 20-30 minutes — lightly covered — but not sealed in — with a sheet of aluminum foil to prevent from drying out. If you seal the pancakes in foil they will steam and lose their outer layer of slight crispness.

Grilling Peppers
By Labor Day Weekend, farm stands and bursting with a rainbow of peppers of various shapes, sizes and degrees of sweetness and heat. As with the rest of the Labor Day menu, the choice of grilled peppers grew out of what looked most appealing at the stands.

These were some of the peppers at Green Thumb.

Grilling peppers is very simple. Start by slitting peppers lengthwise and removing stem, seeds and membrane. Lightly coat with olive oil. Here I also added some chopped garlic. Your goal is to lightly char the peppers while getting them soft and pliable. If you cook them at too high a heat they char too much on the exterior without softening on the inside. Conversely, if you cook them too slowly — at too low a heat — they will soften without charring. I start the peppers with the skin side up. This allows the peppers to begin softening without risking over-charring the showy side of the pepper.

Once peppers start softening and the edges in contact with the grill char, turn the peppers. Continue cooking as the skin blisters and chars and peppers continue to soften. Not all varieties of peppers cook at the same rate so you need to pay attention.

One of the joys of grilling peppers — and the adjacent eggplant — is simply being outdoors in the cool Labor Day breeze and lengthening shadows of late afternoon with nothing to do but nurture your grilling peppers along.

The soup was one of those “complicated-but-worth-the-effort” affairs. Here are the components ready to go. The squash soup in the large pot — made from a long “stewing” of three kinds of yellow squash, onion and a corn stock. Added to each soup bowl just before serving is a saute of corn, zucchini and a cooked red rice. The recipe for this soup will follow the upcoming post about Blooming Hill Farm and the farm dinner.

Here the bowls are laid out on the kitchen island. Turning out the soup quickly takes a second pair of hands.  The mix of corn, zucchini and red rice goes into the bowl first. The soup is next. On top goes the squash blossoms and satueed Padron pepper. The soup is “finished” with a drizzle of very good olive oil. In the background are the dinner plates with the roasted garlic aioli, lemon wedges and grilled peppers and eggplant ready.

Making Blackberry Sorbet

There were luscious and plumb blackberries at the farm stands and sorbet seemed like the right light note to finish Saturday night’s dinner. Sorbet is simple to make. A lightly cooked the blackberries in a syrup. The hardest part is getting rid of the seeds by passing the cooked berries through a fine strainer.

At my home in Philadelphia I use a Cuisinart ice cream maker that has a built-in compressor. Here, Fred and Nancy happened to have two never-used Cuisinart ice cream makers that require overnight freezing of the chamber that provides the chilling of the sorbet as it turns. I was surprised how effectively these worked — actually making sorbet much more quickly than the one that I use at home. They are quite reasonably priced — less than $50 — and would make a very good holiday gift  — along with At Home with its large section on ice creams and sorbets including a Mastering Ice Creams recipe.

So that was this Labor Day Weekend. Cooking is an act of love. Giving the gift of cooking is unlike any other gift that you can give.

The Farm Stand Series — Coming to the end of the Road
This series about farm stands and farmers’ markets is coming to the end of the road with just a few more posts in the pipeline.

Two Nova Scotia Farmers’ Markets — Lunenburg and Halifax
Christina and spent a wonderful late September week in Nova Scotia that included visits to two very different farmers’ markets. The first was Lunenburg, a small town near where we stayed for the week. The second was the very large urban market of Halifax — the oldest continuous functioning farmers’ market, dating from 1750. Lunenburg, in particular, provided not just a warm and welcoming experience, but food for thought about farmers’ markets that I will share in the final post of the series.

Blooming Hill Farm
Blooming Hill Farm was the best farm stand visit of the entire summer. This post will focus on that visit the the farm stand dinner that I attended.

Reflections on a Summer’s Journey
This post will be a combination “Best of” as well as thoughts on how farm stands and farmers’ markets might be even better.

The Thanksgiving Series
Beginning in the next few days will be a series of posts sharing with you my process of planning for and hosting this year’s family Thanksgiving.

Happy Halloween!


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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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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Easy Oscar-Winning Menu

The Oscars are awarded next Sunday so it’s time to start thinking about your Oscar-Winning Party. One of At Home’s key principles is that you plan ahead and always have one full weekend before your party so that you can spread your tasks. The Awards show begins at 8 PM (Eastern Standard Time) on ABC with the red carpet glamor parade beginning two hours earlier.

Here’s my suggested Easy Oscar-Winning Menu from At Home that will leave you with plenty of time for one relaxed hour prior to guests arrive and catch all of the awards and acceptance speeches. The entire menu (except for the ice cream) is happily served at room temperature. The only item that I would suggest you need to make next Sunday is the Lemon-Garlic Chicken. Cooked chicken is just so much better when it avoids refrigeration after cooking. This is also a very cost-friendly menu.

If you do not yet own a copy of At Home, there’s time to order now and receive your book along with your book owner’s access to At Home Online well in advance of the Oscar’s. Order here.

At Home’s Oscar Easy Menu

As guests arrive…
Pomegranate-Lemon Martini (P.46)
Oscar time definitely calls for some Hollywood sophistication. This Winter Martini is one of four seasonal martinis featured in At Home. You can approach our pitcher-sized recipes two ways. Approach #1: Follow the recipe including the water, pre-chill overnight and just pour into martini glasses.  Better yet, let your pre-mixed martini spend an hour in the freezer to get extra chilled. Approach #2:  Omit the water called for in the recipe and use a martini shaker with ice. Just add the pre-mixed ingredients – sans water – over ice and shake and pour.  Note: This recipe was featured in a prior post.

If you don’t own a set of martini glasses, go out this weekend and buy yourself a set. In addition to serving martinis, serving a first course or dessert in a martini glass makes for a wonderful presentation.  For  a glass that works both for martinis and food, I would suggest a 6 to 8 ounce glass and not fill the glass to the rim when serving a martini as that’s a lot of alcohol!

Out and Around
Garlic-Parmesan or Curry-Spiced Popcorn (P.66)
What would the movies be without popcorn. And it’s very easy to transform ordinary popcorn into a snack altogether more tasty and interesting. See also Thai Popcorn from the original Frog Commissary Cookbook. (P.144)

Za’atar Toasted Pita (P.72) with Tangy Yogurt Dip (P.76)
Za’atar is a Middle Eastern blend of spices. See note on same page to learn more abut za’atar. Straining transforms yogurt into a thick, mellow canvas for aromatics.

Crostini with Slow-Roasted Tomatoes & Garlic (P.82)
Slow-roasting intensifies the flavor of tomatoes, but at this time of year I suggest using ever-flavorful grape tomatoes rather than the larger plum tomatoes that don’t have much flavor this time of year. I’ll test the grape tomato recipe tonight and post it tomorrow.

Deviled Eggs (P.95)
Not unlike Pigs in Blankets, deviled eggs are a guilty pleasure that pleases all.

Dinner Buffet
Lemon-Garlic Chicken Parts (P.158)
This recipe — featured in the Easy Roasts chapter — can happily be served at room temperature. Serve it hot from the oven or make it some time Sunday afternoon and let it sit out until ready to serve. We have made a correction in the online version of this recipe to include 2 lemons in the ingredient list so that you have a lemon to cut into wedges in step 4 of the procedures. Sliced jalapeno adds some mild heat to the classic combination of lemon and garlic.

Nutted Quinoa Salad (P.301)
This is one of my favorite At Home recipes. If you don’t know the grain quinoa, this a very good way to get to know it.

Celery Root & Brussels Sprouts Slaw (P.305)
I love seasonal slaws. They are easy to make and hold up well on a buffet when a dressed leafy salad would wilt. At Home includes recipes for five different slaws.

Dessert
Vanilla Ice Cream served in Crisp Cinnamon Cups (P.422) with Apple Cider Syrup (P.424)
You are certainly encouraged to make one of At Home’s ice creams if you have an ice cream freezer. But you will be happy with the easy combination of these ingredients with good store-bought vanilla ice cream. Easier still is to skip the Crisp Cinnamon Cups, but the cups are simple to make and provide a dressy dessert worthy of the red carpet.

Chocolate Mint Truffle Cookies (P.461)
Something chocolate is a welcome addition to any menu. These cookies – best served warm (you can microwave them) — are from At Home’s baker extraordinaire, Anne Clark. Their “truffle-ness” provides an elegant exclamation to your Oscar-winning party.

Easier still, you be the party’s producer/director. Organize an Oscar Pot Luck by assigning out parts of this menu to your “actors.” At Home Online does not yet have its direct recipe email function up and running, but it is easy to cut and paste a recipe from At Home Online into an email. Whatever you do, best wishes for your Oscar-Winning Party…At Home.

Thank you for visiting.

Steve
Your Home Entertaining Coach

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My Valentine’s Dinner…At Home

Note: This photo-filled post is best viewed at the blog site.

The core of At Home’s philosophy is that sharing a good meal at home is the ideal way to make human connection. And that by planning ahead and spreading tasks over time, preparing food can be a pleasure and not a chore. So it was for My Valentine’s Dinner. Pre-dinner entertainment included watching Pixar’s delightful “Up” — part of Christina’s goal of watching all 10 Oscar nominated films before the Oscars. “Up” turned out to be the perfect Valentine’s foil — an adventure fueled by love with a grouchy Ed Asner providing the voice of the aged hero.

Christina’s dinner requests: A light meal that included the “tea” from our wedding and shrimp. I wanted each course to have some romantic reference that could include the color red.

My Valentine’s Menu

Radish, Baby Mizuna & Belgian Endive with Feta
Red Wine Vinaigrette

Wild Mushroom “Tea” with Fois Gras Stuffed Morels
“Angel Hair” of Parsnips, Carrots & Celery
Shaved Parmesan

Grilled Saffron Shrimp
Braised Fennel, Leeks & Artichokes
Tasso Risotto

Winter Citrus Fruit Salad with Candied Kumquats
Burnt Caramel Chocolates with Hawaiian Sea Salt

To Kalon Vineyard I Block Fume Blanc 2004
Robert Mondavi Winery

Most shopping was completed on Thursday and prep gently spread over Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning. Flowers arranged on Sunday.

The table was set by mid-afternoon.

Our first course — like much of menu planning — was more a matter of imagination and shopping than any culinary skill. Our lovely light salad was an “appetizing” mix of color, taste and texture. It included a base of shredded Belgian endive leaves, a small nest of baby mizuna that I found at Whole Foods, thin sliced red radishes that spent several hours in cold water prior to thin slicing to maximize their crispness and a topping of Mt. Vikos feta cheese. The dressing — made Sunday morning — included finely chopped shallots, good quality red wine vinegar, Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. This simplest course was probably the course of our dinner that we enjoyed the most. Slightly bitter endive, spicy mizuna, peppery radishes and salty feta and a just a little drizzled dressing that balanced the richness of olive oil with the sharpness of red wine vinegar infused with a gentle onion-ness from the shallots.

We had a spectacularly delicious wedding a year ago November 29th at The Franklin Institute — catered, naturally, by Frog Commissary Catering. Our first course that evening was “borrowed” from a dinner we had a Jean Georges in NYC. It was a Wild Mushroom “Tea.” The wonderfully theatrical element was that after presenting beautifully styled bowls artfully loaded with wild mushrooms and vegetables, waiters poured into the bowls a “tea” made from the soaking liquid from dried wild mushrooms.

Certainly more complicated than our first course, this was hardly difficult to prepare. The “tea” includes the dried mushroom soaking liquid, a touch of fresh thyme and rosemary, a splash of white wine, a few thin slices of garlic and some bits of vegetables leftover from making fine matchsticks of parsnips, carrots and celery that would form a nest in the center of the bowl on which the fois gras stuffed morels would sit. The tea was steeped over low heat to infuse, strained, lightly salted and set aside. I bought a thin slice of duck fois gras mousse from Di Bruno’s and cut shards to stuff into some select soaked morel. I lightly sauteed soaked morels and chanterelles in butter with some chopped shallots. The “angel hair” of vegetables were separately microwaved to soften with a little water in the bottom of covered bowls.

Before we sat down to dinner, I arranged the ingredients in bowls. When it was time to serve, I microwaved each bowl for just under a minute to warm while not melting the fois gras, topped with a few celery leaves and shaved parmesan and brought the bowls to the table.

The steaming hot “tea,” at the ready in a tea pot, was poured into the bowl and the perfume of wild mushrooms exploded. It was a delicious reminder of our wedding dinner.

As tomorrow is Fat Tuesday, I decided that our “shrimp course” would be an homage to the approaching Mardi Gras.

My Thursday night dinner was steamed mussels. Mussel “stock” — the result of steaming mussels in white wine — was to be the basis of my braising and risotto liquid. I added to this the shells from the shrimp that I peeled and strained.  On Saturday I braised the leeks and fennel with saffron and some stock. I trimmed whole artichokes down to the “bottom” –  just the meaty core, along with two baby artichokes. I blanched the artichokes in lemon water to keep from discoloring. Sunday morning I marinated the shrimp in saffron, crushed pink peppercorn, garlic and olive oil. Sunday afternoon I cut tasso — a spiced Cajun ham — into small cubes and cooked them with shallots in a pot. Next I added aborio rice and cooked until the rice turned from opaque to translucent. I let this sit until just before dinner when I gradually added the rest of my mussel stock and some store-bought chicken stock to nearly finish my Tasso Risotto.

Just before serving, I grilled the shrimp in a pre-heated grill pan, re-heated the braised fennel and leeks along with the artichoke bottoms, added more stock to heat the thin out and finish the risotto. On to waiting plates, an added lemon wedge and off to our table. Yum.

Our Valentine’s dinner concluded with Winter Citrus Fruit – pink Cara Cara oranges, red grapefruit, murcotts, honeybells (a recent gift from my Florida-residing mother) and deep red blood oranges. I segmented all of the fruit Saturday morning so all that I had to do was arrange it in bowls, accented with two luscious chocolates.

Candying kumquats is simple. Pick off any little bit of green stem that remains, cut in half, pick out the seeds, cook in simple syrup until translucent, drain (reserve the syrup — it’s a delicious sweetener ) — and place on rack to dry for at least a day and as much as three days. Unused candied kumquats sit in granulated in my kitchen — a snack at-the-ready. You can find the recipe for candied kumquats as part of the recipe for Tangerine Kumquat Martinis in a December post or on Page 47 of At Home. To candy 1 pint of kumquats, I used 1 cup sugar to 1 cup water.

Our dinner wine was a very special bottle that I had picked up a few years ago at the Robert Mondavi Winery. We needed a wine that could hold up across courses with very different spirits. The wine was a 2004 Fume Blanc. What made this special is that it comes from what are believed to be the oldest Sauvignon Blanc vines in North America located in the revered To Kalon I Block plot of grapes at the foot of the Mayacamus Mountains in Napa’s Oakville district.

Overall, I continue to make the mistake of too much food. All the courses worked and it was a wonderful dinner, but by dinner’s end we both felt more stuffed than pleasantly sated. Other than our small salad starter, each course could have been a third less in size.

I suspect that you think this was lots of work. But here’s the point. I enjoy cooking. It only becomes less enjoyable when I feel pressured and over-worked. By planning and spreading out my tasks over several days — and with a few good college basketball games and the start of the Winter Olympics on my kitchen TV — and by being organized, preparing dinner for My Valentine was a pleasure…At Home. Your dinner does not have to be this dinner. But, the moral of the story is the same.

Thank you for visiting.

Steve
Your Home Entertaining Coach

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My Best Wishes for Eggnog

I will be signing At Home at Reading Terminal Market today (Wednesay) from about 11 AM. Look for me in Center Court across from Meze. Books are also available at Coopermarket at 302 Levering Mill Road in Bala Cynwyd and at Joseph Fox Bookshop at 1724 Sansom Street.

Please pass this post along to any friends and family responsible for the eggnog at the Christmas celebration.

Among the joys of Christmas is eggnog and there is nothing like homemade. I learned to make eggnog from the legendary Peter von Starck nearly 40 years ago as a cook at his La Panetiere restaurant. For a Jewish kid from Yonkers, Peter was an epiphany — as was his eggnog. Peter, an extravagant personality, took no culinary shortcuts. And for a once a year treat for guests, you should not take shortcuts either.

So, here’s my recipe for Traditional Eggnog — an homage to Peter — from At Home by Steve Poses: A Caterer’s Guide to Cooking & Entertaining. Don’t be intimidated by making the custard base. Just keep the heat low and the custard moving to avoid scrambling your eggs. If your eggs do scramble slightly, pass custard through a fine strainer and it will be fine. Bourbon is my favorite alcoholic accent but feel free to substitute brandy or rum — and don’t skimp on the quantity of alcohol.

(Book owners, once you get comfortable with making a custard base, check out my Peppermint Ice Cream Sundaes on Page 416 of At Home. Ice cream is the ultimate do ahead in desserts. There’s no a better holiday ice cream than my peppermint made with chunks of candy canes.)

At Home’s Traditional Eggnog

There are all sorts of approaches to eggnog, but our favorite is to make a custard base, add some spice and bourbon, brandy or rum, and enrich with some whipped cream. It’s thick but delightfully drinkable. Serve very cold.

do ahead Eggnog can be made up to four days ahead, but add whipped cream no more than a few hours before serving. Stir as needed.

7 cups whole milk
10 egg yolks
11⁄2 cups sugar
3 cups heavy cream, divided
11⁄2 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 cups bourbon, rum or brandy
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, plus more for garnish
8 cinnamon sticks

1 In a large mixing bowl, combine egg yolks and sugar and beat until mixture thickens and turns pale yellow.
2 Add milk to a 4-quart pot and over moderately high heat, scald milk to just below boiling. Working very gradually at first, add milk to egg-sugar mixture, whisking constantly. Once you’ve added about a third of the milk, you can add the rest more quickly.
3 Return mixture to pot over low heat and cook, constantly stirring, until mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. If you’re using a thermometer, shoot for a temperature of 170°. Remove from heat, and immediately transfer mixture back to the mixing bowl. Add 1 cup heavy cream, vanilla, bourbon and nutmeg and mix well. Allow to cool and transfer to refrigerator. Chill for at least 6 hours.
4 Just prior to serving, whip 2 cups heavy cream until soft peaks form and fold into custard mixture. Transfer eggnog to a pitcher. Divide between glasses and serve with a cinnamon stick and some grated nutmeg on top.

yields 3 quarts

Thank you for visiting.

Steve


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The Best Granola I Ever Ate: A Delicious Holiday Gift from At Home

What to give as a gift? People already have so many things. Past blogs have made suggestions for Twelve Days of Stocking Stuffers and my Top 5 Serious Gifts for Home Entertainers. But what about the more casual and less cook-focused gift? A gift for your office Pollyanna, a next door neighbor or the legion of family members gathered at the tree? My suggestion? The gift of made-at-home food. Homemade food — like entertaining at home — is a gift from the heart. It can be savored and remembered.

A year ago this week I was testing At Home’s recipe for granola. My goal was the best granola I ever ate. Something wildly extravagant — for granola.

I imagined my Nutty Maple Granola – loaded with toasted nuts (almonds and pistachios) and seeds (sesame, flax, sunflower and pumpkin) and dried fruit (apples, apricots and cranberries), nestled in rolled oats and lightly sweetened (brown sugar and maple syrup). An irresistible snack, ice cream or yogurt topping or Christmas morning cereal treat.

Recipe development begins with an idea. From there, I sit at my computer, think through and type and print a recipe draft. The draft includes the ordered ingredient list, with my best guess as to the quantity of each ingredient, followed by the numbered steps in the procedures as I imagine them. This part all occurs in my head.

After shopping, I go into my kitchen with my recipe draft for my first and carefully measured run-through. I must say that the “carefully measured” part is always a challenge for me. I am a cook. I love the spontaneity of cooking –“measuring” ingredients by how they feel in my fingers. Careful measuring takes every ounce of discipline I can muster. Occasionally I have to go back to the beginning to re-think and re-test a recipe. Usually I come pretty close with my draft and testing notes such that when I taste the tested result, I can make modest “on paper” adjustments to the specified ingredients and certify a tested recipe ready for editing.

Here’s a side note along with two great Pascal Lemaitre illustrations about the difference between Cooks and Bakers from At Home:

Technique
Cooks and Bakers
There are cooks and there are bakers, and they are fundamentally different. Cooks are by nature impatient and improvisational. Bakers are patient, and although great ones learn to improvise, baking generally requires a steadiness, consistency and a willingness to let things happen slowly and on their own. With cooks, measuring is optional. Bakers must measure. Cooking is alchemy; baking is chemistry. This characterization may not be entirely fair to bakers—but I am most assuredly a cook.

I loved my Nutty Maple Granola. With little time to holiday shop and in need of holiday gifts last year, I couldn’t think of a more delicious gift for my holiday list. I made three very big batches, packed my Nutty Maple Granola into clear bags, wrapped with ribbon. This granola is not like any granola someone could buy in a store because the ingredients would be too expensive and drive the retail price too high. But as a make at home gift, $50 worth of ingredients will go a very long way. So, this weekend, think about making my Nutty Maple Granola and cross off a bunch of gifts from you list. Tripling the recipe will yield nearly 4 quarts or four to six generous gift bags. Bake in batches rather than crowding your rimmed cookie sheets. You’ll get into a rhythm and before you know it you’ll be done.

Nutty Maple Granola

No store-bought granola is this good. Honey tends to overwhelm everything else, so in this honey-less version, maple syrup serves as the glue. Don’t be put off by the list of ingredients—that’s just shopping.

do ahead Granola may be made up to six months ahead and stored in the freezer or up to two weeks ahead and stored in an airtight container.

2 cups rolled oats
1⁄2 cup shelled pistachios
3⁄4 cup slivered almonds
1⁄4 cup hulled sesame seeds
1⁄4 cup flax seeds
1⁄2 cup sunflower seeds
1⁄2 cup pumpkin seeds
1⁄4 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoons salt
1⁄3 cup maple syrup
1⁄4 cup vegetable oil (any except olive oil)
1⁄2 cup dried apples, cut into 1⁄4-inch cubes
1⁄2 cup dried apricots, cut into 1⁄4-inch cubes
1⁄2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 325°. In a large bowl, combine oats, pistachios, almonds, sesame seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, brown sugar and salt. Mix well. Add maple syrup and mix well. Pour oil in a separate bowl. Add granola mixture to oil and toss well. Spread mixture on 2 parchment-lined rimmed cookie sheets. Bake for about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. When granola is nicely tanned, remove from oven and cool. Transfer to a bowl. Stir in apples, apricots and cranberries.
yields 61⁄2 cups

Buy At Home

If you enjoy my At Home blog, but are not yet a book owner, you have a sense of my approach to cooking and entertaining at home. I am suggesting that you buy the book, first and foremost for yourself. I promise you will immediately consider it one of your most cherished books — cooking or otherwise. Honest! Next, it is the perfect gift for everyone on your list who enjoys reading about food, cooking and entertaining. The book is available online at athomebysteveposes.com.


Upcoming Book Signings

The Reading Terminal Market to include next Tuesday and Wednesday
I will be at Reading Terminal Market lots between now and the end of the year. This Saturday two elves will be manning the table while I travel to Weaver’s Way. I will be at Reading Terminal after 3 PM, but books will be there all day. Look for At Home’s table in Center Court across from Meze on Saturday’s and near Spataro’s Cheesesteaks — across from the pig — on Sundays. I will also be at Reading Terminal Market on Tuesday, December 22nd and Wednesday, December 23rd across from Meze. Buy a book or stop by to say hello.

Saturday, December 19th at Weaver’s Way
I will be at Weaver’s Way in Mt. Airy this Saturday, December 19th from 11 AM to 2 PM. Weaver’s Way’s Mt. Airy is located on 559 Carpenter Lane.

Plus Two Retail Locations
You may also buy At Home at Beth Cooper’s Coopermarket at 307 Levering Mill Road in Bala Cynwyd where you can also buy wonderful prepared food. In addition, books are now at the Joseph Fox Bookshop at 1724 Sansom Street in Philadelphia. (Note: In the past I have said that At Home would not be available in bookstores. Joseph Fox is no ordinary bookstore. It is one of the great independent bookstore and for nearly twenty years my Commissary restaurant was a Sansom Street neighbor. You may buy signed copies of At Home at the Joseph Fox Bookshop.

Thanks for visiting.

Steve

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