Monday, May 31, 2010

The season begins with a Memorial Day cookout

This is the start of our season here on Cape Cod. We had lovely weather which is always a treat, but never a guarantee, so it was the perfect weekend for cooking out. For us, there is no better way to welcome the summer season than with burgers and hotdogs on the grill, served with a couple of nice summer salads. Dessert was a traditional strawberry shortcake with local berries from Cotuit.




Natural Angus Beef Cheeseburgers with Hotdogs:


Fresh Corn and Cherry Tomato Salad:


I saved the leftover cooked corn from last night and cut if off the cob:

 

Add two sliced scallions:

 

Cut one pint of cherry tomatoes in half lengthwise:


Add a tsp of vegetable oil, 1/2 tsp of red wine vinegar and 1/2 tsp of balsamic vinegar. Salt and pepper to taste. Finely chop 3-4 leaves of fresh basil and add to the salad and toss:

 

Taste the salad and add a little bit more vinegar, if needed. Prepare a few hours in advance as it will taste better if allowed to sit. Just cover and store in the refrigerator until you're ready to serve.


Coleslaw with Vinaigrette Dressing

Thinly slice two quarters of a cabbage:


Finely chop a quarter of a red cabbage:



Add 3 carrots that have been peeled and shredded:
 

Dress with a tbsp of vegetable oil, 1 tsp of red wine vinegar, 1 tsp of seasoned rice wine vinegar, 2 tsp of mirin and 1/2 tsp of balsamic vinegar. Toss and then add salt and pepper to taste. Add a little bit more vinegar, if needed. Allow to sit covered in the refrigerator for several hours. Before serving, add one tsp of Victoria's Taylor's Toasted Sesame Ginger Seasoning, and toss well.

Strawberry Shortcake with Homemade Biscuits and Fresh Whipped Cream
(Photo by Ally)


Biscuits:
2 cups of sifted flour
1/4 cup butter
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
Sift together the dry ingredients. Cut in the shortening until like coarse meal. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add the buttermilk and stir to make a soft dough. Turn out on lightly floured board. Knead for about 30 seconds. Pat out to 1/2 inch thick. Cut with round biscuit or cookie cutter. Bake in 450 degree (400 if using convection oven) for 12 minutes or until lightly browned.




Slice one quart of strawberries and add 2 tsp of sugar.  Mash the berries with a potato masher. Take the other quart and remove stems and slice them in half. Add a tsp of sugar, mix well and set aside.


Whip one pint of heavy cream with a tsp of sugar and a tsp of vanilla. Strawberry shortcake is so delicious if you have both the 'juicy' berries, along with the sliced berries. Slice a biscuit, add the mashed berries, and then the sliced berries.

 

Top with whipped cream and enjoy!




Hoping you all had a wonderful weekend and were able to take the time to reflect on those who have given so much for all of us. Happy Memorial Day!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Pretending I'm French with my 'panier en osier'

Today my dear friend, Laurie, arrived from Paris. I had forgotten that I'd asked her to bring me a french market tote (panier en osier). What a pleasant surprise! I could hardly wait to go to the store and purchase what I needed for dinner. I went to the Cotuit Fresh Market, which has the feel of a small European market, so I was in my glory.
Tonight's dinner: Sausage with Green and Red Peppers, Sauteed Spinach, and Cherry Tomato Salad
Start with a good quality homemade sausage. Cotuit Fresh Market has both sweet and hot sausage.

Slice the peppers and lightly coat with extra virgin olive oil, add salt and pepper.
Grille the sausage and peppers:

Add a tbsp of olive oil and one clove of chopped garlic to a saute pan. When the garlic begins to brown add the spinach and saute for about 3 minutes, or until wilted. Set aside.

Chop cherry tomatoes, cucumber and sweet white onion.  Toss with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and just a dash of red wine vinegar. Add chopped basil and salt and pepper, to taste.
Place the spinach on the plate and the sausage on top of that. Add the tomato salad and the grilled peppers. Bon app├ętit!
For dessert, we savored the Laduree macaroons:
Merci beaucoup to Laurie!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Chocolate Cake

Today is my daughter's birthday and I made 'the cake'. Everyone in my family makes this chocolate cake for their birthday celebrations. It's moist, delicious and no fuss at all to make. It will get rave reviews every time!


The Chocolate Cake (recipe usually found on the Hershey's cocoa box):
1 3/4 cup flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil (for an extra moist texture try olive oil)
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup of boiling water
Combine all ingredients except the water. You can mix by hand or with an electric mixer. Add the boiling water. The batter will be thin. Bake in a greased tube or bundt pan at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. Test with a toothpick. It should come out clean. The cake will look moist. Allow to cool completely and then frost with vanilla or chocolate butter cream frosting.
Frosting:
3/4 stick of softened butter
1 box confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup cocoa (optional)
2 tsp of vanilla
3 tbsp milk
Cream butter with electric mixer. Add vanilla and milk. Beat until smooth and creamy. Add a little bit more milk if the frosting is too thick.

 



Give it a try. I promise that you won't be disappointed and it might just become a family tradition. It sure beats a store bought cake or a mix.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Cooking can be a life changing event

I grew up in a very large Italian family on my Dad's side, and a much smaller Russian family on my mother's. Both lived in Mansfield, MA, so we were either on one side of town eating homemade macaroni, or on the other side of town eating borscht and stuffed cabbage. Eating, and coming together as a family, has been an enormous pleasure for as long as I can remember. Both sides of the family made everything from scratch. My Italian grandmother made pasta, by hand, on her macaroni board.  There was a standing invite, to anyone in the family, for Sunday dinner. All you had to do was show up and Grandma fed you her delicious homemade sauce and gnocchi, or whatever pasta she decided to make that week. This pasta making tradition was passed down to her 15 children, and has been passed on to my generation, as well. It's a loud and boisterous family that just oozes love, acceptance and kindness. Once you're in their presence it's hard to tear yourself away. The food is always delicious and the family experience is just priceless. Oh, and everyone who shows up is considered family!

My Russian relatives were much more reserved but their love and devotion was undeniable. My great-grandparents immigrated to this country in 1912 and 1913. Papa came first and Nanny joined him the following year. Nanny was a peasant in the Ukraine (which was part of Russia at that time) working in the fields from morning until night. She witnessed enough heartache to give her the courage to sneak out of her country and immigrate to this one. They settled on a small farm in Mansfield where they grew their own vegetables and raised chickens. She cooked the peasant food of Russia, which I started eating as a baby, and I'm pretty sure it was love at first bite.

So where was I to go with this rich ethnic background? To the kitchen, of course. My family taught me the importance of taking meals together. Yes, the food is delicious, and so much better for you, but when you include the emotional and spiritual satisfaction that comes from being together as a family, you begin to understand what really matters in this world. This is where the real life lessons are learned, and it's why I love to cook. It enriches my life and those around me. Some say they don't have time, but maybe we need to make time as our health and well-being depend on it. I know it's time well spent.

Homemade ravioli continue to be a Palanza family tradition:


And Nanny's Russian Egg Bread lives on thanks to my mother who documented her recipe:



Monday, May 3, 2010

What do you like to eat at 36,000 feet?

I love Terminal A in Boston. It's new and has a few good spots where you can eat, or get some good food to take on your flight. My favorite is Legal's Test Kitchen (LTK) which is a scaled down version of the Boston favorite, Legal Sea Foods. Both restaurants live up to the Legal Sea Foods tag line, "If it isn't fresh, it isn't Legal." Here's a peek at the LTK menu.

I always order the garden salad with fresh lobster meat. It's not on the menu, but they're always happy to oblige. I've tried to veer into other areas of the menu, but haven't succeeded yet.
They also serve delicious burgers (natural beef from Niman Ranch), chowder, and an array of prepared sandwiches and salads. It nice that airports are hosting higher caliber restaurants where we can enjoy some really nice food. If we're forced to haul our own food on board, it might as well be tasty. My lobster salad is usually the envy of my seat mates. Enjoy one next time you find yourself in Terminal A. LTK is a quick right just after you go through security. There's also LTK in the Seaport area of Boston. Oh, and if you find yourself in Terminal C there's a Legal Sea Foods in the main gate area. So what do you like to eat at 36,000 feet?