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Father’s Day!

Hope all you Dads out there had a great day!! Because our youngest left on Friday for a seven week vacation in Poland and Eastern Europe, our Father’s Day came early. They surprised my husband on Thursday evening, He came home from work to a beautifully set dining room table and both boys busy in the kitchen. I made cocktails for all and we had a grand time.

Here’s what they made. They started with a salad of arugula, topped with thinly sliced radishes and carrots, followed with avocado and a white wine and olive oil vinagrette. The meal was scaloppini of veal poached in a homemade vegetable broth with tarragon, dill and parsley, (a Mark Bittman recipe), served over parboiled broccoli rabe that was then flash broiled, and finished with a tossing of olive oil and chopped garlic, with mandoline sliced potatoes, coated in clarified butter and baked, (a French Laundry recipe). I am not making this up. They did it all and it was amazing and delicious!!!
Arugula salads with radishes on red places.Making an arugula salad with radishes, carrots, avocado, and white wine and olive oil vinaigrette.Arugula salads with radishes, carrots, avocado, and white wine and olive oil vinaigrette on red plates.Veal with parsley.

Mark Bittman's recipe of veal poached in  vegetable broth on red and white plates.

Father’s Day finished plates

Birthday dinner!

Crab cakes and lettuce on white dinner plates.

Crab cake on a Boston lettuce leaf with organic watercress and chipotle mayo

Birthdays are always very special in our house. I am happy to cook a magnificent meal of the celebrated’s choice, served at the dining room table with china, crystal and sterling. However, this year, my oldest son requested a surprise. Dinner was to be of my choosing, so here’s what I made:

Appetizers:
A cheese board with a variety of cheeses, dried apricots and walnuts

First course:
Crab cake on a bed of Boston lettuce and organic watercress with chipotle mayonnaise (search this blog for the recipe)

Main course:
Center cut pork chop with a grape and tarragon sauce (a Food and Wine recipe)
Homemade gnocchi with grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (a Food and Wine recipe) – this was divine!
Roasted asparagus with olive oil and fresh mint (my simple recipe)

Dessert
Vanilla pots with fresh strawberries (a Mark Bittman recipe)

Food and Wine's pork chop, gnocchi and roasted asparagus on a white plate.

Our evening was just great – a special time for just us to catch up on each others lives, watch funny You Tube videos together and of course it ended with viewing the return of Mad Men.

You know, it’s always wonderful to do a special dinner for just your family. When the kids were young, we used to do this every Sunday night. My husband insisted on this tradition, saying that we often entertained our friends specially and why shouldn’t we do it just for us. It gave us a time to regroup before starting the week and taught the boys how to behave at an elegant dinner. The conversation was slower and more interesting, providing a time for all of us to unwind. I hope you do this with your family, creating wonderful stories and memories along the way.

Pretty plates

Because I am inherently a designer and artist, plates should be pretty to be appetizing. Your sensibilities are immediately heightened, taste buds salivating, when presented with a great looking plate.

If you are a mother with young kids, feed them everything. Make it beautiful and I guarantee you, they will eat it. We never fed our kids processed food or took them to fast food restaurants. And they would beg us to go when they were little. After all, their friends went all the time, even for dinner. (Yuk!) So one time, Zach went to either Wendy’s or McDonald’s with a friend for lunch. He was 10 or 12. He later admitted to me he felt very sick and gross afterwards. His body was not used to such garbage.

Here’s a very pretty plate that is so colorful with the beets and carrot/parsnip puree. I threw on the fresh figs at the last minute, because I had them in the fridge, I thought they would look pretty, and they needed to be used up. I did not spend time arranging this plate. It would look even better if I did but this is what you can get, casually putting things together. The chicken is the roast chicken recipe from my last post and here’s the carrot and parsnip puree, one of my favorite vegetables that looks like it’s really very special and it’s really very easy, as long as you have a food processor.

Carrot and parsnips with beets and roasted chicken leg on a blue plate.

Carrot & parsnip puree with Indian spiced roasted beets and roasted chicken leg

CARROT & PARSNIP PUREE
Serves 4

3/4 pound parsnips, peeled and thickly sliced
3/4 pound carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
Coarse sea salt
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon (or fresh parsley if you don’t have tarragon)

In a saucepan, combine parsnips and carrots. Cover with 1/2 inch cold salted water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until soft. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup cooking water. Pulse in a food processor, pouring in 5 tablespoons olive oil and just enough cooking water to make a loose purée. You will not use all of the water. Taste to see if it needs any salt. Most likely it will not need any because you have cooked them in salted water and added some of that salted water back in. Use fresh ground pepper to taste. Stir in tarragon or parsley. Serve. These also reheat very nicely in the microwave. If you’ve made them before everything else is ready, fire some extra heat into them just before serving this very elegant, restaurant/professional-like side dish.