recipes

French Green Salad

Sometimes you just want a leafy green salad, am I right?  Especially when it gets hot out, and especially after you spent the weekend eating lots of fried things (guilty).  I tried my best to copy the green salad they serve at one of my favorite restaurants Le Diplomate.  Just like them I add fresh tarragon to the Boston lettuce and merely kiss the salad with dressing.  The addition of hazelnuts was my idea to give a little nutty flavor and crunch, but you can certainly omit them.  This is the perfect side for a nice grilled steak or some chicken.  Or grab a big hunk of french bread and a glass of rose and call it lunch!

DSC05586

French Green Salad (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  the salad vert at Le Diplomate
Special Equipment:  none

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon minced shallot
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 2 heads of Boston (also called Butter) lettuce, well rinsed and torn into bite sized pieces
  • 1/3 cup hazelnuts
  • 1 to 2 sprigs of tarragon

In a small bowl combine the olive oil, champagne vinegar, shallot and dijon mustard.  Season with salt and pepper.  In a small dry skillet toast the hazelnuts over medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Let cool.  Right before serving pull the tarragon leaves off of the sprigs and toss the leaves with the Boston lettuce pieces.  Add 3/4 of the dressing, toss, then add the rest only if you need it.  You want this salad to be very lightly dressed.  Top with the toasted hazelnuts and serve.

French Green Salad

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 7 minutes
  • Print

Inspiration:  the salad vert at Le Diplomate
Special Equipment:  none

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon minced shallot
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 2 heads of Boston (also called Butter) lettuce, well rinsed and torn into bite sized pieces
  • 1/3 cup hazelnuts
  • 1 to 2 sprigs of tarragon

In a small bowl combine the olive oil, champagne vinegar, shallot and dijon mustard.  Season with salt and pepper.  In a small dry skillet toast the hazelnuts over medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Let cool.  Right before serving pull the tarragon leaves off of the sprigs and toss the leaves with the Boston lettuce pieces.  Add 3/4 of the dressing, toss, then add the rest only if you need it.  You want this salad to be very lightly dressed.  Top with the toasted hazelnuts and serve.

Southern Fried Chicken Dinner

As I may have mentioned before, my mom’s desert island food is fried chicken (as is mine which would be really convenient if we ended up stranded on the same island) so in honor of her birthday today I thought I would post a menu all centered around my Fried Chicken Perfected – this has your weekend plans written all over it.

For this comforting, Southern themed meal I was inspired to use my vintage oyster cans as decoration.  I have been collecting these for several years – they are a symbol of the oyster industry that used to dominate the Chesapeake bay region.  I have them all over my house year round but they act as great vases for hydrangeas that I gathered from my front yard.  Since they were the center piece, and its almost summer, I figured just pull out all of my nautical gear and run with it.  How adorable is this row boat salt cellar??

DSC04022

Paper placemats are my jam and great for a casual dinner party like this – I have several nautical themed ones (#ihaveaproblem) like this or these rope ones.  I used these rope napkin rings we got on Nantucket and the rattan chargers remind me of their famous baskets.  Seersucker napkins top off the preppy vibe.

DSC04037

Curried Cashews

To start with I just wanted a couple of things to nibble on since the dinner is pretty heavy.  These curried cashews are easy to throw together and great with a beer or glass of rose.

DSC04027

Broccoli Slaw 

I make this broccoli slaw from Smitten Kitchen ALL THE TIME.  It is so healthy and so addictive.  People will think you are nuts, shaving down whole heads of broccoli but they will be converts once they have tried it.  The dried cranberries give a little nod to my New England upbringing at this Southern meal and the slaw is a nice crunchy foil to the fried chicken’s tenderness.

DSC04041

Fried Chicken Perfected

I can’t say better things about this fried chicken that hasn’t already been said by my friends.  Years of research and lots of mediocre fried chicken (which lets admit is still pretty good) led me to the perfect recipe that I share with you.  Eat it and be happy.

DSC04050

Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese

Probably the second most requested thing I make right after the fried chicken so why not pair them together?  The Southern tradition of mac and cheese with fried chicken has been around forever and for good reason.  The velvety cheese sauce some times picks up crunchy bits of the chicken skin on your plate and then you are in heaven.

DSC04053

Bourbon Peaches with Ice Cream and Candied Pecans

You need a sweet treat at the end of this meal and a nice simple fruit dessert is just the ticket.  I make these bourbon peaches just like I do in my pancake bar post – sauté them with a little bit of butter, sugar and bourbon.  You can use frozen peaches or fresh ones if they are ripe enough.  Either way paired with vanilla ice cream and candied nuts (I had Southern appropriate pecans on hand) they are delicious.

DSC04058

So happy birthday mommy and I hope you all celebrate this weekend with fried chicken!

Hummus

Hummus definitely falls into that category of foods where you ask yourself, “Is it worth making this or should I just buy some?”  There are plenty of good brands of hummus to purchase, especially if you doctor it up with a drizzle of olive oil or a sprinkling of zatar spice.  The thing is you can never quite buy yourself the super smooth, fresh tasting, garlicy punch of your own homemade hummus.  There are a zillion of hummus recipes out there and once again I have practically tried them all to try and find the right combination of teqniques.  Most purists will tell you to start with dried chickpeas, soak them over night, cook them with baking soda etc etc but at that point, for me at least, the scales of why can’t I just buy this and dispense with the hassle starts to tilt into convince’s favor.  So canned chickpeas it is.  That doesn’t mean there won’t be some work involved.  I found the somewhat tedious task of taking the skins off of the canned chickpeas makes for a substantially smoother and better tasting hummus.  It’s not as easy as just dumping the can into the food processor but at least it’s not a multi day effort.  To peel them, drain and rinse the canned chickpeas.  Then take the chickpea between your fingers and gently squeeze – you will find the weird white casing comes right off.  For a can of chickpeas it took me about 15 minutes – just turn on your favorite cooking show and get lost in the mindless task.

DSC04013

From my research I learned that the other benefit of cooking your own chickpeas was that when they are warm they take on the other ingredients better.  Well here we can easily cheat that by quickly nuking the skinned chickpeas in the microwave for a couple of seconds before adding them to the food processor.  After that its just a matter of taste with the amount of tahini, lemon juice and garlic.  The recipe below is how I like it but play around and see what you like best – some people really want more of that sesame tahini flavor, others really hate lemon juice and replace it with water.  The method is the key and once you have that down the sky’s the limit.  Hummus away!

Hummus (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  simple but not too simple method of making hummus
Special Equipment:  food processor

  • 15.5 ounce can of chickpeas, rinsed, drained with the skins removed (see above)
  • 5 -6 tablespoons warm water
  • 3 tablespoons tahini sauce
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • olive oil and zatar for serving (optional)

Once all the chickpeas are peeled (see above on how to remove the skins) place them in a  microwave safe bowl and microwave them on high for 20 seconds.  Add the warmed chickpeas to the food processor along with the rest of the ingredients.  Puree until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides.

DSC05435

If its not as smooth as you would like add more warm water.  Chill for at least 1 hour to let the flavors meld – serve room temperature with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of zatar (optional).

DSC05560

Hummus

  • Servings: 2 cups
  • Time: 2 minutes (plus 15 minutes to peel the chickpeas
  • Print

Special Equipment:  food processor

  • 15.5 ounce can of chickpeas, rinsed, drained with the skins removed (see above)
  • 5 -6 tablespoons warm water
  • 3 tablespoons tahini sauce
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • olive oil and zatar for serving (optional)

Once all the chickpeas are peeled (see above on how to remove the skins) place them in a  microwave safe bowl and microwave them on high for 20 seconds.  Add the warmed chickpeas to the food processor along with the rest of the ingredients.  Puree until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides.  If its not as smooth as you would like add more warm water.  Chill for at least 1 hour to let the flavors meld – serve room temperature with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of zatar (optional).

Ham and Cheese Panini

This rainy spring weather has me in the mood for comfort food and what fits the bill better than a warm cheesy gooey sandwich??  They key to a sandwich this simple is the best ingredients – imported ham, fresh bread, peppery mustard and rich cheese all come together for the perfect combination.

DSC05412

I made mine in my panini press but you can easily just make this in a skillet like a regular grilled cheese.  I got my ham at Dean and Deluca and had them slice it impossibly thin.  Make sure its high quality, salty ham so that it almost melts along with the cheese.   The bread is a nice pullman loaf from Spring Mill Bread Company – no Wonder bread please!  Mustard makes a really nice foil to the rich ham and cheese so make sure to use a spicy dijon.  I really like this version that has green peppercorns in it but any strong mustard will work.

DSC05413

So get out of the rain and make this delicious sandwich – in only a couple of minutes you will be warm and happy.

Ham and Cheese Panini (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  rainy days
Special Equipment:  panini press (optional)

  • 2 tablespoons room temperature butter
  • 4 slices of white sandwich bread
  • 3 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 3/4 cup grated gruyere cheese
  • 1/4 pound of thinly sliced ham

Butter one side of each piece of bread (it is important to have room temperature butter so it spreads thinly and easily).  On the other side of the bread (the non buttered side) spread a thin layer of mustard.  Divide the ham and cheese and pile them up on 2 slices of bread on the mustard side, then place the other 2 slices in top to create two sandwiches with the butter sides out.  Heat the panini grill (or a skillet over medium high) and add the sandwiches.

Toast for 3 minutes or so until the bread is nicely browned and the cheese has melted (if you use a skillet use a plate and push down on the sandwich in the pan, flip once – it may take a minute or two longer).  Let rest for 1 minute then slice in half.

DSC05427

 

Ham and Cheese Panini

  • Servings: 2
  • Time: 4 minutes
  • Print

Special Equipment:  panini press (optional)

  • 2 tablespoons room temperature butter
  • 4 slices of white sandwich bread
  • 3 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 3/4 cup grated gruyere cheese
  • 1/4 pound of thinly sliced ham

Butter one side of each piece of bread (it is important to have room temperature butter so it spreads thinly and easily).  On the other side of the bread (the non buttered side) spread a thin layer of mustard.  Divide the ham and cheese and pile them up on 2 slices of bread on the mustard side, then place the other 2 slices in top to create two sandwiches with the butter sides out.  Heat the panini grill (or a skillet over medium high) and add the sandwiches.  Toast for 3 minutes or so until the bread is nicely browned and the cheese has melted (if you use a skillet use a plate and push down on the sandwich in the pan, flip once – it may take a minute or two longer).  Let rest for 1 minute then slice in half.

ACC Parties: A Spring Menu for Easter

Easter in my family is a big deal and definitely my 2nd favorite holiday (sorry nothing beats Christmas!).  There is something about the little chickies, the pastel candy and all those spring ingredients that make me so happy.  Even if you don’t celebrate Easter the beginning of spring is a great time to gather your family and sit down to a nice meal that celebrates the best parts of the season.  Here is a suggested menu that has a lot of moving parts but actually very little needs to be done the day of, leaving you free to hunt Easter eggs and binge on candy with the fam.  I wanted the table setting to be whimsical, especially with kids in attendance.  I found these super cute carrot utensil holders at the dollar section of Target and paired it with our Vera Wang wedding china, set on chargers that sort of mimic an Easter basket.  Glitter eggs scattered over my homemade seersucker tablecloth and bam, spring is alive.

DSC03136

I don’t like to have giant flowers getting in the way of conversation so instead I opted for some thyme from my garden staggered down the center of the table in white pots.  How cute is that cabbage serving dish?  I found it for $4 at Home Goods the week before Easter so I knew it had to make it to the table.  I set up our kitchen island as a appetizer and drinks station with a floral Cynthia Rowley tablecloth (also Home Goods!) and some baby’s breath mixed with bells of Ireland for flowers.

DSC03127

Cheese and Chartucherie Board

DSC03122

No party is complete without one!  Since both of the aps I was actually making were veggie based I knew I had to get some cheese in here somehow.  Just pick a nice selection and throw some dried apricots or grapes on the plate to jazz it up.

Chilled Sweet Pea Soup with Mint and Cream

DSC03126

Nothing is more springy that sweet peas (no one needs you know you get em out of a bag!).  This soup is simple and can be made up to two days in advance.  I served it in cute little glasses for sipping but discovered that the texture really wasn’t ideal for that so I would suggest providing spoons for people to eat the soup with instead.  It’s a super light appetizer that adds a nice green punch to the mix.

Za’atar Spiced Beet Dip with Goat Cheese and Hazelnuts

DSC03121

I had been dying to make this dip since the first time I spotted it in Food and Wine Magazine all the way back in 2012 – goes to show how many recipes I have socked away!.  It’s totally beautiful but I knew it would also be delicious, being the brain child of Yotam Ottolenghi, of Jersuleam (and this post) fame.  Everyone loved the earthy complex flavor and of course the color!

Lamb Kebobs with Minted Yogurt Sauce

DSC03198

Lamb is the quintessential Easter dish but with grilled lamb kebobs you can make life much easier.  Marinate the lamb up to two days before and then just throw on the grill as you are having appetizers.  I love that it doesn’t hog the oven like a big lamb roast and it also encourages your guests to go outside and enjoy the spring, keeping the grill master company.  This version by Ina is so good though I skipped her sauce and went for my standard mint and yogurt sauce found here.

Make Ahead Polenta

DSC03194

As described in this post, make ahead polenta can be really done with any kind of polenta recipe you have by just increasing the liquid content.  This was a great side for the lamb and didn’t require me standing over a hot pot frantically stirring the polenta – it was even a hit with the kiddos!

Roasted Asparagus

DSC03190

Just toss spears with olive oil, salt and pepper and put them on a baking sheet.  During the last 15 minutes of the polenta put the baking sheet in the oven, toss once and voila!  A nice crunchy veggie side with almost zero effort.

Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

DSC03105

Ok so here is where most of the effort for the meal came in.  I realized when I was planning the menu that I had so many make ahead items that I didn’t really have much to do “day of.”  That can sometimes spell disaster because then I set and reset the table, putter around driving my husband crazy (and myself) before our guests arrive.  So I made an easy layer cake and decided to try my hand at the basket weave frosting on top.  I followed this tutorial from Wilton – it was actually pretty easy once I got the hang of it.  It does take a while and my hand was sort of cramped into a claw for a bit but you can do this first thing in the AM and just keep the cake at room temp (or in the fridge if it’s really warm in your house).  I also got  beautiful edible dried flowers from Terrian and scattered them on top.  I have to say I was really proud of this one but if you don’t have the time or energy a store-bought dessert or even this cake without the fancy pants frosting would be delicious.  Happy Spring to everyone!

Cheesey Creamed Spinach

This dish is inspired by an incredible meal Patrick and I had when we were in Chicago last summer (you can see more about our trip here).  Of course we had to hit up one of the city’s steak houses and Bavette’s Bar and Boeuf did not disappoint.  Dimly lit, with strong drinks and large steaks it was everything we could want right down to the amazing creamed spinach side covered in melted cheese.  The minute I got home I wanted to start figuring out this recipe but being that it was July in DC I had to wait for the temps to drop for this ultimate comfort food classic.  It took a couple of tries but I think this version comes pretty close.  For anyone who has ever cooked with fresh spinach you know how much it wilts down.

dsc04393

Make sure when you drain the spinach after its been cooked that you really press as much water out as possible so your finished product isn’t all watery.  I used my Crate and Barrel pasta pot with the colander right in it which was perfect because I would really press on the spinach to get it dry.  This dish would also be really cute done individually for a dinner party.  I am mildly obsessed with these Staub mini roasting dishes which would be perfect so that everyone gets their own cheesy crust.  Probably goes without saying but this is the perfect dish to serve alongside a steak and a large glass of red wine.  I hope to get back to Bavette’s at some point but for now this should hold us over.

Cheesy Creamed Spinach (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  Bavette’s Bar and Bouef
Special Equipment:  none

  • 2 pounds baby spinach
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 large or 2 small shallots, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1/2 cup grated gruyere cheese

In a large pot of boiling salted water cook the spinach for 30 seconds, then drain in a colander squeezing out any excess water.

dsc04396

In a saucepan or skillet with high sides melt the butter over medium low heat.  Cook the garlic and shallots for 3 minutes until softened.  Add the nutmeg and flour and stir so that everything is combined.  Cook for another minute until the flour is incorporated then whisk in the milk.  Cook for another minute or two until the mixture begins to thicken.  Stir in the spinach and the cream and allow to cook for another minute or two.  At this point you can cool and refrigerate for several days.

dsc04404

If you are going to serve it right away, preheat your broiler and pour the spinach mixture in a baking pan.  Sprinkle it with the gruyere and place the pan under the broiler for 2 to 5 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly (watch closely so it doesn’t burn).  Let it cool for several minutes then serve.

Cheesy Creamed Spinach

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 15 minutes
  • Print

Special Equipment:  none

  • 2 pounds baby spinach
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 large or 2 small shallots, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1/2 cup grated gruyere cheese

In a large pot of boiling salted water cook the spinach for 30 seconds, then drain in a colander squeezing out any excess water.  In a saucepan or skillet with high sides melt the butter over medium low heat.  Cook the garlic and shallots for 3 minutes until softened.  Add the nutmeg and flour and stir so that everything is combined.  Cook for another minute until the flour is incorporated then whisk in the milk.  Cook for another minute or two until the mixture begins to thicken.  Stir in the spinach and the cream and allow to cook for another minute or two.  At this point you can cool and refrigerate for several days.  If you are going to serve it right away, preheat your broiler and pour the spinach mixture in a baking pan.  Sprinkle it with the gruyere and place the pan under the broiler for 2 to 5 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly (watch closely so it doesn’t burn).  Let it cool for several minutes then serve.

Some Spring Cocktails and Entertaining Goodies

Apparently it is finally supposed to turn warm in DC this weekend (and by finally I mean again, since it was 80 degrees in February).  Nothing like seeing patios opening and flowers blooming to make me want to set down the heavier drinks of fall and winter and start sipping spring flavors.  I thought for the weekend I would pull together some of my favorite spring cocktails to inspire some deck parties.

IMG_1798

Thyme Vodka Lemonade

Mule with a Kick

Blackberry Mojito

The Cherry Blossom

This time of the year also makes me want to run out and buy everything in fun springy colors so I am sharing some of the spring entertaining items I have been drooling over lately (hint hint Mr. Easter Bunny!).

How cute are these Mark and Graham gingham plates?  Perfect for a picnic.

ceramic-dessert-plate-set-of-4-gingham-1-c

They would look super cute on this Kate Spade lemon tablecloth that I already have (I found it at Home Goods for $12!!).

157623OB8_974

How about these adorable cheese boards from Anthropologie?  It’s hard to pick just one.

I love these peacock blue glasses from CB2 – great for water glasses or any of my spring cocktails.

marta-peacock-double-old-fashioned-glass

And last but not least how cool is this ice mold from Crate and Barrel?  You can put flowers, fruit, leaves etc in the mold and it perfectly fits a bottle of wine.  It chills your wine and makes a functional and beautiful centerpiece!

ice-mold-wine-bottle-chiller

I hope wherever you are it’s warming up there to and you have a weekend full of friends, flowers and festivities!

 

1 2 23
%d bloggers like this: