In the life of every (American) foodie, there comes a time when turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and sandwiches comprised of the same, lose their appeal. In fact, they collectively become personna non grata, as we collectively rebel against anything remotely resembling that holiday meal.
After travelling to Michigan for Thanksgiving (where there were too few vegetables and fruits present), we felt like we needed a good detox. This is the meal I chose to prepare for us last night. I copied it from the May 2009 edition of Greenwich Magazine, and it was printed there courtesy of Ten Twenty Post Restaurant in Darien, Connecticut.
A note about recipes provided by restaurants and their chefs. I am leery of them. Seriously. As the owner of a food-based business, I am skeptical of any food-related business that is willing to give away trade secrets. What I learned in the making of this recipe is that it does take some interpretation on the part of the cook (in this case, me). While not my strong suit (I prefer recipes that are tried and true and reliable), it was fun to push myself a bit to think about how best to achieve the final dish that sounded so good on paper. I have included my notes in the recipe, so that you might benefit from my trial and error. (Also, I halved this recipe, but my notes will apply to the full recipe as well)
4 8-ounce halibut filets (We used tilapia. Turned out great, but a heartier fish would have been nice, too.)
3 T chopped fresh herbs (thyme, oregano, parsley) (Used fresh thyme and parsley from garden. No herbs? Not a deal breaker. Saute with just salt and pepper)
1 cup chopped red, yellow and orange peppers (See below that they call for julienned, actually, not chopped)
1/4 c sliced kalamata olives (More of these wouldn’t hurt)
1/4 c capers (More of these wouldn’t hurt, especially if you have a 2-year-old who mooches yours)
3 T olive oil (watch how you use this; more for the fish, less for sauteing the vegetables or they turn soggy)
4 ounces white wine
8 ounces softened butter (I couldn’t bring myself to use the full amount so I halved this)
4 capellini cakes
Press herbs into halibut and pan-sear until lightly browned on both sides; finish baking in a 375-degree oven (as needed). (My fish didn’t brown, but as soon as I saw it was cooked on each surface, I threw it on a plate into the hot oven. This yielded nicely cooked, moist fish.)
Saute julienned peppers, olives, capers, salt and pepper in olive oil. In a separate pan, reduce white wine and slowly mix in butter, season to taste. (Okay, first, use the olive oil sparingly for the sauteing, or you will find yourself with limp, oily veggies. Use a small amount on high heat to stir-fry, more than saute. Second, “reduce white wine” is maddeningly vague. I over-reduced–by more than half–and ended up with a slightly wine-flavored brown butter mixture. It wasn’t as succulent on the dish as I had hoped. Watch the wine.)
Place warmed capellini cake in center of plate, top with halibut and spoon caper-olive-pepper mix over fish. Finish the plate with spoonfuls of butter sauce.
3 c capellini pasta, blanched (How does one measure capellini in a measuring cup? I broke mine into smaller pieces, but I’ll do you the favor of letting you know that I weighed the end result. I would say 8 oz of capellini here should be plenty.)
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 c heavy cream
1/2 c chopped blanched spinach
1/2 t chopped garlic (for the amount of capellini, this seemed light on garlic, so I probably came close to doubling it. Your call, depending upon your love of garlic.)
1 T olive oil (if you end up frying your cakes in batches, reserve half the oil for the second batch)Mix together in a bowl; blanched capellini, beaten eggs, heavy cream, spinach and garlic. (This also begged for the addition of salt, even though I salted the water for the capellini. Maybe just 1/2-1 teaspoon would do.)
Form into cakes (about 1 cup of mixture for each cake) and saute with olive oil in a hot pan four minutes or so each side. (Though this part is very simple, “forming cakes” is a bit of misnomer. I used tongs and grabbed a heap of mixture and formed it into a cake on the hot pan. My husband suggested that if you were looking for symetrical cakes, you could implement the old round cookie cutter/tuna can trick. Put the cutter/can–with both ends cut out–on the hot pan, add the capellini mixture inside. Remove cutter/can when you’re ready to flip and the cake should retain a nearly perfect roundness. I say, who can bother? I’m not catering, I’m feeding the masses here.)
Yes, it’s true. I’m going there. Brussels. Sprouts, that is.
Now, when I first met my husband, lo nearly twelve years ago, I knew that we shared an affinity for food. He could cook. I could cook. And boy could we eat! It made for a nice courtship.
I introduced my husband to homemade chocolate pasta with a delicate sauce made from wild dried mushroom. He introduced me to unagi. A fair trade, methinks. I took him to my favorite Mexican restaurant in all the world (Tequila’s, Philadelphia) and he bought me a four pound lobster in Manhattan (Palm, Too). I caused him to rethink olives. He opened my eyes to brussel sprouts.
Romantic, I know.
Knowing his love for the tiny cabbage, I snagged a small brussel sprout seedling to plant in our first garden at our first (and current) house. We watched all summer long, fascinated, unsure of where the actual sprouts would appear. Of course, they ended up growing up along the stalks of the (eventually) great beast, and not long after, our local Whole Foods started carrying brussel sprouts still attached to the stem. Still, there was innocent joy in our ignorance, watching and waiting.
But then, what to do with the prized bulbs, once freed from their stalks? What follows is his tried, true and ultimately tailorable recipe for brussel sprouts on the grill.
First, clean the sprouts. Trim the cut ends back without interferring with the leaves, and peel any withered leaves off the bulb. Score the bottoms (one cut will suffice, as you can see below).
Then place the sprouts in boiling, salted water for no more than five minutes. NO MORE! (That was my husband.) Drain and toss in a bowl with:
a drizzle of oil (vegetable or olive oil)
1/2–1 teaspoon of each: kosher salt, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, celery salt
When the sprouts are nice and coated, place on a hot grill (but keep the bowl handy), turning every four minutes for a total of twelve minutes. Remove from the grill back to the seasoning bowl and toss to coat with any remaining seasoning.
The brussel sprouts are now done. And so are you.
Unless…you would like to doctor them a bit. In our house this ranges from lemon zest to parmesan cheese to bacon, to all of the above.
See? Tailorable. And you thought that wasn’t a word!
I am reposting this lovely recipe after the good folks at Food52 have selected it as a finalist in the “Brussels Sprouts Recipe” contest. Please, if you haven’t already, visit my recipe on their site and VOTE for my lovely little friends (the Brussels Sprouts, that is!). Thank you.
I love all of the fun and spooky food creations I see around the web these days. I have not done a whole lot, other than the sugar cookies from my previous post, and even those have not all been eaten. However, today was my daughter’s Halloween party at school, and I volunteered to bring the sweet snack. Usually I would head straight for my cupcake liners, but while leafing through a parenting magazine, this idea popped out at me. Rice Krispy Treat Ghosts.
I know, I know…the cereal lacks a whole lot in the way of nutrition, and actually breaks one of my cardinal rules by containing high fructose corn syrup. I don’t buy it often…only for making Rice Krispie Treats, and in the past year that means twice. When I have more time, I will research an alternative, most likely a house brand at Whole Foods. For now, I settled. To offset the awful that is Rice Krispies, I used kitchen witch homemade Vanilla Marshmallows, which contain no high fructose corn syrup or blue dye. There is a world of difference in the taste and texture of Rice Krispie Treats made with homemade, fresh marshmallows. You really need to try them. (Be warned, however, that it is hard to stop eating them.) You can buy kitchen witch Vanilla Marshmallows at my Etsy shop or at RegionalBest.com. I make them fresh for every order.
Rice Krispie Treats, in the form of ghosts
3 T unsalted butter
10 oz marshmallows
6 cups Rice Krispie cereal
a handful of mini and regular size chocolate chips. The only mini-size all natural chips I know of are sold at Whole Foods under the name Enjoy Life, I believe.
Thoroughly spray cookie sheet (preferably with non-stick liner) with cooking spray. I used BJ’s brand spray canola oil. Set aside.
Melt butter and marshmallows together. When completely melted, add cereal and stir well to coat.
Once thoroughly mixed, use a cookie scoop to portion out 1/4 cup sized balls of mixture on a the prepared tray. Should make about 24 “blobs.”
Spray hands with cooking spray to work “blobs” into shapes resembling ghosts. If you are really dedicated you can even make bumps at the sides that look like arms. I’ll let you judge for yourselves if I achieved that look with my goblins. And yes, this is where it gets tricky and requires a modicum of artistic skillz. Keep using spray if things start to get sticky.
As ghosts are cooling, use dots of this “Easy Powdered Sugar Icing” where you want to place eyes and mouth. Press in mini chocolate chips for eyes, and an inverted regular size chocolate chip for the mouth. This is where I let my daughter help. We used toothpicks to dot on the icing, and she had a ball decorating with the chocolate chips.
Voila! Rice Krispy Treats that impress everyone, but which really take no time at all.
If you are even moderately familiar with the jargon of the day–or the fall line-up of television sitcoms–you have probably heard of the term “cougar.” I’m not sure if I can sum it up here, other than to say this is a term that has been coined to describe a woman of a certain age and marital status, who is on the prowl for a man, preferrably a younger man, with whom she can put to use her yoga-toned and botox-honed body. I cannot, legally, be considered a cougar because I am married. Because of that, I am not on the prowl for a man, other than the one who stands between me and that feline moniker. My husband, that is. And, P.S., I love him for that, and so much more.
Moving on, though, a new phrase has come into my awareness, via a friend with two small children and one on the way. After the first several weeks at their pricey preschool, she noticed a lot of the mothers who, but for the presence of a husband, looked and maybe even acted a little like this mythical cougar. However, these moms were not on the prowl for men, so much as the bottom of the next glass of wine over a nice plate of gossip while sneaking a smoke on the patio during naptime. Moms with babysitters who could drive themselves home, allowing mommy to stay out until the wee hours with her gal pals at the trendy tapas bar in the next borough.
And so, my friend and her friends did what every good American does, they created a stereotype for this worn-out yet put-together, designer labeled, puffy-eyed, sleek-haired mom. The P.O.W.
Partied Out…(ahem, the last word rhymes with “more” and starts with “W” of course)
I neither judge nor condone this kind of labelling. I just laugh my head off when I hear it. Oh, and post it for all the Internets to read.
Now, the month of September is a busy one in the kitchen witch household. In our family of four, it marks the celebration of one wedding anniversary and three birthdays. The adults in this house (also known as parents) don’t do much to acknowledge their own birthdays (my gift this year: a bag of Pop Chips, a RitterSport chocolate hazelnut bar and a Diet Coke–which I just found out came from our own garage fridge. I don’t really drink Diet Coke, but the others “gifts” were spot on. The point is, not a whole lot of planning and hoopla went into this gift.) The real reason my birthday was noticed at all was due to the presence of the “under seven” set. My two daughters love birthdays, any birthday (strange little girls that they are), so my husband bought those items for the girls to hand to me with giant smiles and goodwill all around. And that was that.
However, you’ll notice that I said September marks three birthdays in our family. If two of them are allotted to adults (they are) that leaves one a child’s birthday. My oldest daughter turned six in September and I kid you not, what my husband and I omitted in our birthday celebrations, the eldest received in spades. Exhibit A: she had four days of parties.
The first, on Thursday, was her kindergarten class celebration. As the kitchen witch, I will always send my kids to school parties with homemade treats, as I can control what goes into them. Plus I love, love, love making cupcakes (which are also perfect for classroom birthday parties). The theme of her official birthday party (planned for Saturday…just hang in there) was “Wizards of Waverly Place” (My husband thought it up and then headed for the hills once she agreed. He didn’t learn so much as one magic trick, the stinker.) So in keeping with the Wizards theme (for the official party), these are the minicupcakes that I made for the 17-something children/teachers in her kindergarten class on Thursday.
My husband demanded a face-to-face, wherein he shook me by the shoulders until I agreed to rethink this offer. In an unexpected gesture of goodwill from the school district, on Friday of my daughter’s birthday week, the school had a half-day, leaving all of the neighborhood kids free for a little lunch party at our house (still not the “official” birthday party, mind you). So, I bargained with her: Thursday you can take in witch hat cupcakes (see above) and Friday we’ll make Dora cupcakes, as it only entailed six customized cupcakes.
This is a photographic journey of the making of those cupcakes:
First, I pulled out some frozen raspberry puree, and attempted to reduce it on the stove. This happened more quickly than I expected, so if you try it at home, keep an eye on it. I actually had to add a splash of water to the pan to release the raspberry juice that had adhered. I put this into some vanilla buttercream for the mouth. Then, I added some raspberry puree and cocoa powder to some vanilla buttercream to make the skin-tone frosting. The hair is melted and piped milk and dark chocolate. The eyes are vanilla buttercream triangles, with a regular size chocolate chip pushed into the triangle (tip down). Then I added some milk chocolate and buttercream details to the eyes. The nose is a small swish of milk chocolate, but that was difficult to get right, as was the milk chocolate outline of the mouth.
All in all these cupcakes were fun to make, and I gather even more fun to eat. But they are a little messy and hard to make look perfect.
But wait! The birthday week wasn’t finished there! On Saturday, we hosted the “official” party, which ended up being very small due to the barfing disease running through one of the families invited. Their absence meant three less girls at the party. Along with Wizards activities (wand-making, black nail-polish manicures, running around the yard like crazies), each attendee decorated her own cupcake to look like a witch. (In all honesty, I had desperately wanted to make an all-natural green-tinted buttercream for the witches’ faces, but lost my gung-ho for the whole thing on Saturday morning. I just couldn’t decide whether pureed basil or mint would do the trick. Weighing the chances of it tasting odd against the chances that the girls would even care that their witch cupcakes had plain old buttercream faces, the scales tipped in favor of plain old buttercream faces.)
Here are two of the youngest girls’ efforts (which in reality are two of my efforts):
On Saturday, when my daughter found out three of her friends (the barfers) weren’t coming to her official party, she said, “Why are we having another party?” So you can see that even she was feeling the drain of three days in a row of cupcakes, buttercream and adrenaline. By this point, we were facing Sunday, which was my daughter’s actual birthday. Guess what? More cake, in sheet form, with Ina’s fudge frosting on half and vanilla buttercream on the other half, to mollify the folks at church who would be eating it. This was a first for me, sheet cake and its preparation. I used the yellow butter cake recipe from this post, baked it in a half sheet pan and froze the baked, cooled cake until the night before I needed it. The cake suffered not at all for the freezing. Which is nice to know.
I will admit, I never tire of cake and frosting. It is the food of the gods. Okay, maybe not. But I love it, and I love making it. However, this particular stretch of cupcakes, chocolate decorations, buttercream and candycorn has left me feeling a little…fatigued. Partied out, one might even say.
Which causes me to hang my head with the realization that at the end of September, I joined the ranks of the P.O.W.’s who have gone before me. There just wasn’t any booze or tapas involved. This time.