Thursday, May 28, 2009
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Why do I feel like I'm not really responsible for the coining of that phrase?
Anyways, I'm a firm believer and advocate for entertaining on a budget. And you know why? Because I love to entertain and I love to do it often. And in order for that to fit into both my lifestyle and my budget, I've got to be smart about it. Now is not the time to serve a large fillet of salmon for six. But it could be the time to incorporate a smaller piece of salmon into a pasta dish with the addition of some red onion, lemon, dill, and a touch of cream. It's all about finding ways to stretch your dollar without sacrificing an ounce of flavor.
There's a straight forward, top of the trees guide to entertaining for beginners on Apartment Therapy that's worth taking a look at. And then a couple of supplementary pointers of my own?
1. Delegate. I know, at least for me, it's hard to give up control of a menu once it's planned but if you're inviting people to your home for dinner and they ask you if they can bring anything, perhaps you should take them up on their offer. But in this way: ask them (politely of course) to bring one ingredient each for the starter course, perhaps. (My lovely dinner companions for this evening know all about this.) This alleviates you of paying for however many people you are having over to dine and gets others involved. Invite them to help you chop some veggies, flex those culinary muscles and show them a thing or two. It'll be fun and informative for them and (hopefully) make things easier for you.
2. Alcohol. BYOB. Always.
3. Make simple, casual food. I can't take full credit for this as Miss Rachael Ray is always preaching about this but, I've gotta say, it's true. The more casual and unintimidating the food, the more casual and unintimidating the conversation. This is not to say that you should always play it safe, because I'm a serious believer in pushing your own boundaries and experimenting with new ingredients, but start with a familiar dish and then throw in a few curve balls of your own.
4. Shop the sales. Never did I ever think I would have half as much fun as I do flipping through the circular for my local grocery store. In fact, I'm cringing a little bit in sharing this because I fear it makes me look...well...dare I say sad? But, that aside, I do find it fun (in that challenging kind of way) to sometimes build my week-long grocery list and/or menus based around what happens to be on sale that week. If anything, it pushes you to be creative and certainly adds some variety.
5. Do as much as you can, ahead of time. Most of the gripe I hear from my friends is that they don't have enough time during the week to pull something together. And here's the thing. Where there's a will, there's a way. We know this. And we know this because it's true. If you really want to entertain and cook for friends, then nothing's going to stop you. Even if that means staying up another 10 minutes the night before so you can chop up all your veggies for the next day. Because that extra 10 minutes is going to save your little behind on game day when you can just throw everything into a hot pan as soon your guests arrive and dinner will be on the table shortly thereafter.
And with that, go on, invite your friends over, impress that boy or girl you've been eyeing, catch up with an old friend. Because I'm telling you, it'll be therapeutic and fulfilling for everyone involved.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Then the salads came. Oversized white take-out boxes were opened to reveal a huge mound of frisée lettuce and little pieces of fried calamari scattered throughout. I generously drizzled my dressing on top (what tasted like soy, ginger, and lime, with some sort of spicy kick) and piled up my fork with the perfect lettuce to calamari ratio and shoveled it in my mouth. De-freaking-licious. Crispy, crunchy, cool, and refreshing. It was the perfect bite after a near perfect day at one of my favorite places on Earth. The beach.
As far as home cooking went this weekend, it was kept to a surprisingly drastic minimum. Turkey burgers and hot dogs were grilled one night and last night it was grilled steak sandwiches with a salsa verde mayo-mustard spread, grilled asparagus with truffle oil, grilled red onions, and a huge salad. None of which was consumed by me (read: hello, lunch) in my haste to hop on the 7:43 mad house, sardine-packed train back to New York. But two friends in tow, sitting atop our luggage with ice cold beers in hand, we managed to continue our long weekend of fabulousness even while on over-crowded public transportation.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
And talk about quick! As an unexpected overachiever last night, I went ahead and prepped all my ingredients and arranged the salad and threw it into the fridge (only because I had the time!). Once my first guest arrived, the pasta was in the pot and the onions were cooking away and within 15 minutes or so, dinner was on the table.
Fennel and Orange Salad
3 oranges, peeled and sliced into rounds
1/2 of a red onion, thinly sliced
Arrange all the ingredients on a platter (get creative!). Garnish with the fennel frawns on top and drizzle with white balsamic vinaigrette.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Friday, May 15, 2009
Long story short, I ended up offering to just whip something up at my place. It'd be a heck of a lot cheaper and every menu I had looked at was lacking what I essentially craved. A warm goat cheese salad, chevre chaud. Plus, this dish was somewhat sentimental to my dinner guest and I as we shared this meal on her first day with me in Paris at my all time favorite bistro, Le Comptoir du Septième. So, menu? Done.
I ran through Manhattan Fruit Exchange (If you're like me and can't seem to make it to the Union Square Farmer's Market...ever...go here. Their selection and prices are phenomenal.) on my way out of Chelsea Market and picked up a box of baby greens, a shallot, a boucheron of goat cheese, and a round of Camembert. Quick stop in Amy's Bread for a baguette, and I was on my way home.
The vinaigrette was easy. Finely diced shallot, a touch of grated garlic, plenty of dijon mustard, a splash of white balsamic, and a stream of olive oil until it emuslified into a golden bowl of deliciousness. I then sliced my boucheron in two and slipped them into an egg white bath and straight into a dish of panko breadcrumbs. Back in the fridge they went to chill before my guest arrived. Thinly sliced bosc pear was also added to my salad bowl.
As soon as she walked in the door, two bottles of wine in hand (a bottle of Simi Sauvignon Blanc and an Avalon Cabernet Sauvignon -- smokey and sweet. Get this.), I seared my goat cheese "cakes" in a pan with a touch of olive oil until I could see the cheese begin to ooze. Then off the heat they went and straight onto a plate with a heaping mound of salad (apologizing in advance for picture quality).
As Catherine (one of the ultimate story tellers) recounted her most recent trip à Paris, we cut into our boucheron cadeauxs (goat cheese gifts) of gooeyness, loaded our forks with greens and some pear, and allowed the flavors of France to transport us back. Simple, easy, and always a crowd pleaser. We sipped, munched, and sipped a heck of a lot more into the night at my little French BYOB bistro. 'Cause ya know, if you build it...
Viva la France!
Thursday, May 14, 2009
And again, what a beautifully delicious gift it would make as well...
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
1 english cucumber very thinly sliced (If you have a mandoline, now is the time to use it. If not, take your time to slice these cucumbers as thin as possible.)
1 tsp. salt
1-1/2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/4 freshly chopped dill
1 Tbsp. whole peppercorns
1 bay leaf
Combine water, sugar, salt, vinegar, bay leaf, and peppercorns in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Discard bay leaf. Choose the vessel you'd like to pickle the cucumbers in (tupperwear, or glass jar -- anything with a lid or top) and add the cucumbers and dill to it. Pour the pickling liquid on top of the cucumbers and dill, cover, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Then, they're ready to enjoy!
This would also make a lovely and thoughtful (and uhh, super cheap) hostess or housewarming gift.
Monday, May 11, 2009
Plan B. Something French. Maybe a warm goat cheese salad? A glass of Rosé? And while we all agreed that that would most certainly fit the bill, there seems to be a bizarre and extreme shortage of anything remotely French (or worthwhile) in Fairfield County. So what was the final decision? We'll just have to make something ourselves, of course.
Off to the market we went, three chicks getting to take advantage of the fabulous weather and riding through town with the top down on my mom's new toy, her Volkswagen Beetle Convertible, wind blowing through our hair (read: ridiculous knots), and heat blowing full blast on our feet. Typical.
Once at the market, I had a plan: A grilled pizza topped with zucchini, white onion, dollops of ricotta, and drizzled with a salsa verde. With a salad on the side, we were ready for a light, springy, and admittedly verdant meal. We also picked up a goat, sheep, and cow's milk cheese that had caught our attention (shown below, for $7.99, this was killer. Super stinky, super flavorful; salty and smokey. Delicious.) as well as a loaf of freshly baked ciabatta. Sorry, we couldn't help ourselves.
Once home, the grill was fired up and I stretched out a piece of store-bought pizza dough till it resembled a somewhat round shape. I rubbed it with olive oil and slapped it on the grill. After about three or four minutes, I flipped it and got ready to throw on my toppings. First came a sprinkling of mozzarella cheese, quickly thereafter came the zucchini ribbons and thinly sliced white onion. I closed the grill so that the heat could get trapped inside, and gently begin to break down the veggies.
After about 5 minutes, I took the pizza off and brought it inside to receive its finishing touches. Dollops of fresh ricotta cheese were joined by a generous drizzle of salsa verde. With a salad of baby arugula and field greens quickly dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette, dinner? Done.
Throw in a bottle of Cannonball Cabernet Sauvignon (You must find this wine. Heck, I must find this wine somewhere in the city. Ridiculously affordable. Incredibly delicious.) and you've got a scrumptious spread that was whipped up in 20 minutes.
Then you get to linger for as long as you'd like with Mom. And you know, talk about the power of John Mayer's lyrics and whether or not the back splash tile should go all the way up to the ceiling or not. What? That's not what you talk about with your mom?
Whatever. Love you, Mom.
Friday, May 8, 2009
Thinly sliced ham, melted american cheese, mojo sauce (garlic, olive oil), pickles, and pickled jalapenos on a soft baguette. Please don't hate me. Just make the trek on over to Chelsea Market and get your own. Because as far as sandwiches go, this thing is epic.
75 Ninth Ave. (b/w 15th and 16th St.)
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
What'd you eat?
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Grey Dog Coffee Cafe
Or check out this guide.
Monday, May 4, 2009
The restaurant is surprisingly large inside. Dark wood paneling, budding tree branches placed throughout the restaurant in over sized vessels, large pieces of modern art along the back wall. Not at all what I would have pictured but it was very nice, nonetheless. Cozy and warm, with the friendliest of staff.
As per usual, I had obviously pre-read the menu online days prior so I had a feel for what I was going to order. The lamb ravioli was the first thing that caught my eye but when we had finally gotten there on Sunday, I found myself leaning towards the Salmon-Avocado Tartare. But as soon as our waiter came by, we were alerted that there would be no salmon tonight. And with that, my decision was made.
A glass of dry rose was my aperitif of choice. Although it was far from spring-like weather outside, something about a glass of rose puts me in spring mode no matter what the temperature outside.
Lamb ravioli with mint, French Feta, and a Cabernet sauce was quickly placed in front of me.
Absolutely delightful. The pasta had a serious chew to it and inside these lovely little pockets was a filling of shredded, tender lamb infused with fresh mint. The Cabernet sauce, which at first glance, sounded rather daunting, was actually a very nice accompaniment; slightly smokey and seriously smooth. The French Feta was a fantastic salty bite: a cross between feta and goat cheese, with a much softer mouth feel than that of Greek Feta.
My Dad went with the Grilled Chicken Salad with roasted corn, grape tomatoes, bacon, avocado, and blue cheese. And while it might sound like your run of the mill, Cobb Salad, it was actually really very good. The lemony red wine vinaigrette made the salad pop and all of the flavors played off of one another.
Was it mind-blowing food? Perhaps not entirely. But it was perfectly yummy and the right kind of ambiance. I doubt I'll be waiting in their one hour minimum wait for brunch on the weekends, but I'll definitely be back for a lovely supper on a weeknight to try their Toasted Ricotta Gnocchi with Truffle Oil. And hey, maybe the Salmon-Avocado Tartare.
Because once I've got something in my head, we all know, this girl's gotta see it to fruition. And fast.
100 W. Houston (nr. Thompson St.)
Friday, May 1, 2009
Ok this picture (from Pabo76 on Flickr) is driving me insane. Like I have to eat that and see what in the heck it tastes like because as far as I'm concerned, it looks like perfection. WHY did I have to eat lunch three hours ago?!?
Hakata pork bun from Ippudo.
65 4th Ave.