Engaging stories of love, joy, comfort and friendship with proven scrumptious, healthy recipes, we celebrate LOVE as the secret ingredient for wonderful food!

Figs wrapped in prosciutto

Figs are here!! I LOVE fresh figs. I get so excited when I see those compartmentalized boxes filled with the beautiful purple variety or the green, all lined up in neat little rows. If they are semi-soft – ripe, unblemished with a beautiful shape and stem, I’m pretty much in heaven.

That was the case a few days ago and I made the little first course you see below. This is not so much a recipe, but a suggestion of the combination of great ingredients to make a fantastic dish. Once again, this is all about the ingredients. If the figs are great, the prosciutto from Italy (de Parma) and very thinly sliced; the English Stilton, divine; the walnuts, super fresh and toasted; great quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar; then you are set to make something truly amazing! It’s easy and you always should have the good quality ingredients on hand as much as you can – you will use less of them, because they pack more flavor and they’re most likely better for you.Figs wrapped with proscuitto topped with Stilton, toasted walnuts, olive oil and balsamic vinegar on a white plate.

FIGS WRAPPED IN PROSCUITTO – serves 2

4 fresh purple or green figs, washed, dried, stemmed and cut in half
2 slices of prosciutto
2 thin slices of English Stilton cheese, crumbled
6 toasted walnut halves, chopped (Oven “toast” at 375 degrees in a cake pan for six to eight minutes – you will probably smell them, then take them out. Toast extra to have on hand for the next time or for green beans.)
Good quality, extra virgin olive oil
Good quality balsamic vinegar, preferable aged, but not necessary

For two plates, place 4 fig halves on each. Take the slice of prosciutto and tear into 4 pieces and wrap around each fig half. Sprinkle on the Stilton and chopped walnut pieces. Drizzle with a tiny bit of olive oil (like a tsp. on each plate) and then drizzle with a tiny bit of vinegar too (a few drops). Serve immediately and listen to your guest tell you how much he/she LOVES you!Chilled gin martini.Now, we have been upstate all week, taking a little R and R. Look at this beautiful martini my husband made me!! (my kind of R and R!)

 

 

Potato Salad Winner Announced!!

Soon after Memorial Day, we set out to find the best potato salad recipe we could before the next big picnic holiday – the Fourth of July – this week! So I asked for my readers’ favorite recipes and had almost too many to choose from, in the best way. The submissions were about as varied as possible, and I recruited my team to vote for the top three.

Those top three were: the decadent and complex Salat Olivier from Misha, the bread-and-butter-pickle-sweetened Mom’s Potato Salad from Nicky, and Aunt Rose’s Potato Salad with anchovies from Nikki. Thank you to everyone who submitted a recipe. They were, quite frankly, all good!

Our team chose the last one as the big winner. It’s simple but really delicious, verging on a “classic” non-mayo potato salad recipe. It is a neat trick to take out the cooked egg yolks and combine them with the olive oil and herbs. That makes a kind of homemade, safe (because the yolks are cooked) mayonnaise. The anchovies give it that boost of flavor. (and you know I LOVE anchovies) It’s possible that people who are turned off by the idea of anchovies will still enjoy this recipe because there’s only one – but to be honest, I would add even more anchovies (3.5) and chives (1 tbs.).

Potato salad with eggs and anchovies - perfect for a July 4th picnic.

Here is the recipe. Thank you, Nikki Landau!! Your prize, our wonderful LOVE apron, will be coming to you soon.

AUNT ROSE’S EGG AND POTATO SALAD RECIPE - serves 4

1. Boil 1 pound of yellow new potatoes in their skins. Peel and chill.
2. Hard boil 4 eggs. Peel and chill.

Dressing:
1. In a bowl put 1 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper.
2. Add 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar, 5 tbsp. light olive oil, 1 tsp. chopped chervil, 1 tsp. chopped chives, and 1 anchovy fillet, minced.

Remove yolks from the hard boiled eggs and crumble into dressing. Whisk to combine. Cut egg whites into pieces. Cut the potatoes into thin slices.

Fold everything together, mix well and serve chilled. It’s simple and very good! Yum!

Fillets of sole with sorrel

I did something really terrific last night. (at least I thought it was!) You should know that sorrel is one of my favorite herbs. It’s lemony and light and so interesting and surprising. I had some fresh sorrel I had just cut from my garden upstate on Monday, that I wanted to use and some fillets of sole. We got home late and hungry. Before it got so late, I had in my mind to roast the fish and make a sorrel sauce. You know, with garlic and olive oil and maybe a touch of cream, but it was late and we were starving, so I came up with this idea. Lazy, I suppose, but a beautiful concept. I remembered this dish I used to make all the time with sorrel when the kids were young. It was sautéed chicken, with lots of onions, and then you throw in the sorrel on top, cover it and it melts. It’s not a pretty dish because the greens turn dark, but it tastes fabulous.

So I thought what if I reversed that and put the sorrel on the bottom of the fish, having it melt underneath? Genius – don’t you think?! You wouldn’t see it then but still get all the flavor, having it form a simple sauce.

So that’s what I did – and here’s our green and white meal. But it was really, really yummy!! I served the fish with sautéed mustard greens with garlic and steamed Jasmine rice topped with chopped parsley.Fillet of sole with sorrel, steamed jJasmine rice with parsley and sauteed mustard greens with garlic on a white Wedgewood plate from May 29, 2013.
FILLETS OF SOLE WITH SORREL
- serves 2

2 sole fillets, rinsed and patted dry with paper towels
2 handfuls of washed sorrel
Olive oil
Salt
Pepper
Chopped fresh chivesPiles of sorrel on a baking sheet, drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Slick a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil. Arrange 2 handfuls of sorrel in the shape of your fish fillet. Drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil on the sorrel and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place your fish fillet on top, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.Fillets of sole on top of sorrel, drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper, ready to go into the oven to roast.

Roast for 10 – 12 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fish. Figure on 10 minutes for an inch of thickness, measured in the thickest area of your fish.

When done, carefully remove the fish with the sorrel leaves distributed on the bottom and garnish with chopped fresh chives.

This is the beauty of having super fresh ingredients, combined with LOVE, to make a fabulous, healthy meal in no time at all.

Enjoy!!

Zucchini, fennel, red pepper and mint torta

A serving of zucchini fennel and red pepper torta with mint on a plate.
Several of you asked for this recipe from our “Birthday Linner”. The truth is that my older son made it up, on the spot, based on vegetables that I had in the apartment, plus some herbs from our grocery store downstairs, which does not have a broad selection, particularly on a Sunday. He originally wanted some basil but they had none. He came back with a beautiful bunch of fresh mint instead. And, I just learned last night from my fellow cooking friend, Margaret, that mint is a relative of basil, so that was a very good choice indeed.

He meant to put in fresh grated Parmesan, but forgot. But as a dish in the middle of this many-course celebration, it did not need Parmesan. The clean tasting vegetables were a welcome interlude between the pasta with spinach and Pecorino Romano cheese and the very rich and super delicious short ribs with polenta.

This son is a big cook – he just gets in there and does things! Fearless and big, that’s what I call him. He says, “Thank you!”

Here’s a stab at his recipe.

ZUCCHINI, FENNEL, RED PEPPER AND MINT TORTA
3 zucchinis
1 and 1/2 fennel bulbs
2 large red peppers
3 – 4 tbs. olive oil
Salt
Pepper
½ bunch of fresh mint leaves

Broil red peppers, checking and turning until all skin is blackened. Using tongs, place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap until cool. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Slice zucchini and fennel on a mandoline, somewhere between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick. Using 1 or 2 tbs. of olive oil for each vegetable, toss separately in a bowl, with salt and pepper (test and taste for proper seasoning) and lay out each on separate baking sheets. Roast zucchini and fennel until crisp tender. Check in 20 minutes. The fennel will most likely take a little longer. This is why you keep them on separate baking sheets.

Peel the red pepper, core, remove the seeds and cut into 1 inch wide strips.
Layer the zucchini, fennel, red pepper and mint leaves in 10 inch round dish, repeating again until all is used up. Place a plate on top and weight it down to press ingredients together. We used a 28 oz. can of tomatoes with a large heavy mason jar of honey on top of the plate. Press for an hour or two. Then carefully slide the torta out, top side up, on a large round cake plate. Cut into pie wedge serving pieces and enjoy!

We used only two red peppers but three might be better. You could also add a layer of grated Parmesan cheese. We talked about that and then forget to do it.
Vegetable torta in a blue Dansk pan.cutting the vegetable torta on a crystal cake plate.

The birthday linner

The birthday cook-a-thon celebration for my husband was a huge success and just so much fun. We started cooking at noon and ate from 2:45 to 6:45 just in time to put Zach on a 7:10 train back to New Haven. So what do you call a leisurely meal like this that encompasses lunch and dinner? Linner!

While every dish was great, what was even more terrific was the time spent together, planning, chopping, sharing pots, debating, arguing, laughing and agreeing. My oldest son was upset at first with the look of the short ribs. He said they weren’t going to look pretty enough. Being a designer, that made me feel good – at least he learned something from me! We played games in between while watching football. And since one person did not have responsibility for the whole meal, there was time off for everyone. It was really a wonderful day of just being together.

Now for the food! Here’s the photo essay.

Birthday making torta– Making a zucchini, red pepper and fennel torta

Onions sauteing in a Le Creuset pot.

Onions sauteing for the short ribs

Browned short ribs in a Le Creuset dish

The short ribs, browned

Mozzeralla, tomato, baby arugula and olive oil salads on a burgandy rimmed plate from Pottery Barn.

The salads – mozzarella, tomato, baby arugula and olive oil

Linguine with olive oil, garlic and spinach topped with broiled breadcrumbs in a bowl, recipe from Union Square Cafe.

Linguine with olive oil, garlic and spinach topped with broiled breadcrumbs

The beautiful zucchini, red pepper, fennel and mint  torta on a crystal platter

The beautiful zucchini, red pepper, fennel and mint torta

The  torta with red bell pepper, zucchini, fennel and mint.

The torta serving – so pretty!

Delicious short ribs with creamy polenta squares on an antique Wedgewood plate.

The main course – delicious short ribs with creamy polenta squares

The birthday dessert - beautiful warm, chocolate-filled pastries.

The birthday dessert – beautiful warm, chocolate-filled pastries made by Agata, so yummy!

Broccoli and shiitake mushrooms

The countdown is here! Christmas is tomorrow. I made this fantastic side dish for dinner last night that was so rich and flavorful, definitely worthy of a holiday dinner, yet so simple. I know you’re all ready for tomorrow but the season is a week long, so try this out.

It’s a new way of preparing and cooking broccoli for me. You get to enjoy the tasty stems as well, in a coin-like shape. The sautéed broccoli combined with the full, rich, complex flavors of the mushrooms – it’s divine. Prepared in butter and olive oil, all you need additionally is salt, pepper and LOVE. Enjoy! Happy holidays!!Sauteed Broccoli with shiitake mushrooms in butter and olive oil in a pan.

SAUTEED BROCCOLI WITH SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS
- serves 4 – 6

2 tbs. unsalted butter
1 tbs. olive oil
15 – 20 large shiitake mushrooms, wipe caps clean with a damp paper towel, trim off ends of stems, then remove stems completely and chop fine, slice caps into 3 or 4 sections
1 large head of broccoli, trim and peel stems with a vegetable peeler, slice into 1/4 -1/2” rounds, cut tops into small flowerettes
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste

Put butter and olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. The butter will sizzle. As soon as the foam begins to subside, add the broccoli and mushrooms, spreading them out evenly over the bottom of the pan and then do not touch the pan for 3 minutes. Then toss, shake, cover and cook until the vegetables are crisp tender or done to your desired liking. This should take 3 – 6 minutes more. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.