Archive for December, 2009

Lunch for Kelly

December 31, 2009


A couple of months ago, I got a call from a guy speaking in a hushed voice.  He said he had locked himself in the bathroom and wanted to arrange something with me.  His name was Gregg and he is the husband of one of my close friends.

Now, you may be thinking something naughty but what Gregg wanted to arrange with me was a surprise lunch for his lovely bride.  Kelly’s birthday is December 31st – a New Year’s Eve baby – and this year she turns 40.  He wanted to do something special for her and first he asked me if I was free to come to the lunch.  Once I said yes, he sheepishly asked me if I would cater it.  I laughed out loud and said of course.

I have known Kelly since 3rd grade but we really became friends our freshman year in high school.  We have taken road trips together, thrown parties, done lots of laughing, and even lived together for a year.  She has two boys as well and we have enjoyed getting our kids together, although not as often as either of us would like.  Kelly is a quality person, a class act as my dad likes to say.  She deserved to find happiness with a wonderful man and that she did.  Not only did Gregg invite 15 people to their house for lunch, but he is sending her out for some spa treatment so that I can set everything up without being detected.  Can we all stand up and give Gregg a hand?

So, what’s for lunch?  Well, the birthday cake will be this one.  I am making two galettes – the Butternut Squash one and the Roasted Tomato one.  I’m making a Mediterranean chick pea salad.  I plan to have veggies and Buttermilk dip on hand for people to snack on.  And I made this pasta salad.


One of my least favorite words for food is gloppy.  In my book, anything with mayonnaise is gloppy and for some reason most pasta salad, even if it doesn’t star mayo, is gloppy.  Over-dressed, over-cooked pasta, under-seasoned.  If you agree with me, you might want to try this recipe.  It is far from gloppy.  In fact, it is light and bright and very tasty.  Golden beets, almonds, fennel, and radicchio mix together with Orecchiette in a lemony dressing.  It’s one of those wonderful recipes that looks and tastes great.  Happy birthday, Kell!

My little family and I are going to be heading out of town right after lunch for 2 nights away with wonderful friends.  If I could, I would personally wish each and every one of you amazing people who read this blog a Happy New Year, but my super powers only extend so far.  I hope your 2009 was filled with life, love, and good food and I wish you more of the same in 2010!


One Year Ago:  Vegetable Couscous Paella and Manchego Skewers

Orecchiette Salad with Roasted Beets, Fennel, & Toasted Almonds
Adapted from Macrina Bakery and Café Cookbook
Serves 4-6

Do yourself a favor and serve this (and every) pasta salad at room temperature.  It needs some warmth for the flavors to bloom.  Also, don’t be afraid of salt here.  Add enough to make the flavors pop.

2 medium golden beets, washed
4 tbsp. olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup whole almonds
2 cups dry orecchiette pasta
1 cup thinly sliced radicchio
½ cup thinly sliced fennel bulb
¼ cup chopped fennel fronds
½ cup sliced scallions
¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/3 cup Lemon Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place washed beets in the center of a large piece of aluminum foil.  Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with a bit of salt and pepper.  Gather up the edges of the foil and seal the beets inside a pouch.  Bake on center rack of oven for about 1 hour, or until beets are tender when poked with a fork.  Let cool, then peel the beets and chop to a medium dice.  Set aside.  Leave oven on.

Spread almonds on a rimmed baking sheet and toast for 15 minutes, or until golden brown.  (This can be done while the beets are roasting.)  Let almonds cool, then coarsely chop and set aside.

Fill a large saucepan with water.  Add a pinch of kosher salt and bring to a boil.  Drop in pasta and simmer for 10-12 minutes, or until tender.  Drain in a colander, shaking off excess water.  Toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil to keep pasta from sticking.

Add the diced beets, toasted almonds, radicchio, fennel bulb and fronds, scallions, and parsley.  Drizzle in Lemon Vinaigrette and toss all ingredients together.  Season to taste with kosher salt and pepper.  Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Lemon Vinaigrette
Makes approximately 1¼ cups

This dressing makes more than you need for the pasta salad, but it’s also delicious used as a green salad dressing.  Go ahead and make the whole amount and use it over the course of a week.

1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. honey
1 tbsp. freshly grated lemon zest
1 garlic clove, finely chopped or pressed
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. freshly ground pepper
¾ cup olive oil

Combine mustard, vinegar, lemon juice, honey, lemon zest, garlic, salt and pepper in a medium bowl.  Mix well with a whisk.  Add olive oil in a slow stream, whisking as you pour in the oil.  Continue whisking until dressing has emulsified, then cover and store in the refrigerator.

What I Make When I Don’t Want To Think

December 29, 2009


Last week was CIK (that would be Crazy In the Kitchen).  This week is CIK².  I have a cake to make tomorrow, an event on Thursday, and we are hosting our supper club on Saturday.  Add into the mix that we are going away New Year’s Eve and Day and I’m a little frantic.  When my kitchen is this busy, I get easily overwhelmed by such simple decisions as what to make for a weeknight dinner.  And when I find myself in that place, I often turn to this dish.  For me, it’s a no-brainer – healthy, easy, tasty, and no fussy ingredients.

My mom made this for me many years ago, just after I got my own apartment and started cooking for myself.  I loved everything about it and asked her for the recipe.  I don’t know where she got it but she wrote it out for me on a piece of paper in her script, familiar from so many letters addressed to me over the years.  These days, I would like to think she would email it to me or send me the link.  Or at the very least photocopy it.  But I’m glad I have it in her “looks like a lefty” writing (she is not a lefty).

Over the 23 years that I have been a vegetarian (19 of those without fish), I have had many things like this dish.  Look at the ingredient list and it may not seem all that special – it’s basically a bean stew.  I have made countless things like it.  Of all of them, I like this one the best.  Lentils and chickpeas are some of my very favorite things in the world but I’m guessing it’s the caraway seeds and the healthy dose of coriander that makes it taste to special to me.  And the squeeze of lemon at the end just makes the whole thing pop.  I haven’t messed with it too much, but I’m sure that you could add cubed new potatoes or sliced cabbage to this dish to make it even more hearty.  You can serve it to almost anyone seeing as it is gluten-free and vegan.


Chickpea, Lentil, and Vegetable Stew
Adapted from Bon Appétit (most likely)
Serves 4

I served this with brown rice but it is also good with white rice (I would use basmati) and also with steamed quinoa.  If you are going to make this ahead of time, wait to add the spinach until you reheat it so it retains the lovely green color.

Olive Oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tbsp. tomato paste
2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. caraway seeds
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups water
1 cup dried lentils
1 15-oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced ¼-inch thick
1 cup frozen lima beans or edamame
½ cup chopped parsley
10 oz. fresh baby spinach
lemon wedges

Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom and then add the onions.  Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add the garlic.  Cook another 3 minutes.  Add the tomato paste and all the spices; stir 1 minute.  Stir in broth, water, and lentils.  Increase heat to high and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until lentils are almost tender, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.

Add chickpeas, carrots, lima beans, and half the parsley.  Cover; simmer until carrots are very tender, about 20 minutes.  (Can be made one day ahead.  Cover and chill.  Bring to a simmer before continuing.  Refrigerate remaining parsley for garnish.)

Stir spinach into stew in batches until wilted.  Season with salt and pepper.  Ladle into bowls with rice.  Garnish each bowl with remaining parsley and serve with lemon wedges.

Eggnog for Next Year

December 27, 2009


I’m a little late with this cake.  Can you eat eggnog flavored things after Christmas?  I say sure, why not?  If we are all going to leave our trees up until after the first of the year, we can certainly enjoy a little eggnog pound cake until then, right?

If you don’t agree, please file this recipe away for next Christmas.  Even me, the avowed chocolate lover, thought this cake was pretty special.  So pretty, so fragrant, so buttery and delicious.  Eggnog is about the last thing on Earth that I would ever drink, even with lots of rum in it, but the flavor in the cake is subtle and intoxicating.  Spicy, creamy, and rich.  Plus the cake is easy to make and it stores well.  I got this recipe from Flo Braker’s Baking for All Occasions which is not my favorite baking book.  I have mentioned this before, but I don’t like how the recipes are laid out and I have also baked some duds from it.  But, this cake makes up for a lot.


One Year Ago:  Penne with Greek Style Vegetable Marinade

Eggnog Pound Cake with Crystal Rum Glaze
Adapted from Baking for All Occasions
Serves Many

1/2 cup dried currants (DT: I used dried cranberries)
2 tbsp. dark rum or water
3 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup store-bought refrigerated eggnog
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Crystal Rum Glaze
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp. dark rum
2 tbsp. water

Before Baking: In a small bowl, combine the currants (or cranberries) and rum and set aside to macerate for 15 minutes.  Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F (or 325°F if the pan has a dark finish).  Butter a 10-inch angel food pan, then lightly flour it, tapping out the excess.

To Make the Cake: Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg into a medium bowl.  Set aside.  Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-low speed until creamy and smooth, 30-45 seconds.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add the sugar in a steady stream and continue to beat on medium speed until light in color and fluffy, about 5 minutes, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

With the mixer still on medium speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, beat after each addition until incorporated and stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl.  One the lowest speed, add the flour mixture in four additions alternately with the eggnog in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and mixing after each addition until incorporated.  Stop the mixer as needed to scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add the vanilla during the final moments of mixing.  Scrape the paddle and using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the currants (or cranberries) and any remaining rum.  Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly with the spatula.

Bake the cake just until the top springs back when lightly touched in the center and the sides are beginning to come away from the pan, 55 to 65 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes while you prepare the glaze.

To Make the Crystal Rum Glaze: In a small bowl, combine the sugar, rum, and water and stir with a rubber spatula just until blended.

Using a thin knife, gently pry the cake away from the pan to release it.  Invert a wire rack on top of the cake, invert the cake onto it, and carefully lift off the pan.  Slide a sheet of waxed paper under the rack to catch any drips from the glaze.  Using a pastry brush, coat the top and sides of the warm cake with all of the glaze.  Let the cake cool completely before serving.

(I wrapped this cake well in foil and let it sit at room temperature overnight and it was still totally fresh.  I’m sure it could freeze beautifully for at least a month.)


December 25, 2009


Here in the Dana Treat household, we have big celebrations on both Christmas Eve and Christmas.  I am Jewish, so that may seem strange.  But friends of my parents starting including us in their Christmas dinner when I was just three years old and, aside from a few years when I was out of town, I have gone to their house ever since.  There are many traditions that I look forward to – champagne cocktails, Marilyn’s cheeseball, and a wonderful dinner that is essentially the same as our Thanskgiving feast.  I always sit next to Tom, Marilyn’s husband, because when I was a little girl, I thought he was the greatest (he is pretty great).  After the dinner is over, Marilyn opens up the windows and the guys smoke cigars while the women try to escape the stench.

Over the years, we have started our own Christmas Eve tradition.  It is my parents’ anniversary (42 years!) and I always cook a big meal for them since they have never really been able to go out to celebrate.  Yes, hotel restaurants are usually open but they long ago decided they would rather eat a meal that I have cooked.  Because that night is one of the only times we can all seem to get together in the month of December, that is when we open our presents for each other – regardless of when Hanukkah falls.  We have taken to calling it Hanumass.

Our dinner was good – I made it a point to use some of the bounty from our CSA so we had dishes featuring beets, parsnips, and brussels sprouts.  I made two desserts and ice cream because I am crazy that way.  We ended up only eating one of the desserts (a Pecan Gingerbread tart that I thought wasn’t much good) and my mom took the Eggnog Poundcake for us to share tonight.  I do all the cooking in our house but I have to say, Randy sets a mean table.  IMG_4218


One of the things that Randy brings from his family tradition (in addition to requesting sauerkraut at both Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner), is the spirit of hospitality.  And for parties at our house, that means a well-stocked bar.


Most of our friends are beer and wine drinkers, but Randy always sets it up anyway.  I tease him about it but the truth is, it makes me happy.  We both love to entertain and nothing says party like a bar.

I hope you and your family are celebrating with one another and enjoying the season.

I Just Can’t Stop Myself

December 23, 2009


Yes, I have a sickness.  It’s the I can’t resist anything with a chocolate and caramel combo disease.  Actually I have a much more serious illness which is the I can’t stop baking even though I have one million other things to do syndrome.  Please send help.

I was paging through The All American Cookie Book (why?  just why?) and I swear it fell open to this recipe.  I mean…how can you not?  Never mind that I have a huge feast to prepare for on Christmas Eve plus a few dishes to make for Christmas, not to mention shopping to finish and gifts to wrap.  And please don’t get me started on the cooking list for next week (three large desserts in there and our turn to host our supper club) and the two dinners that I promised myself I would make for our little family this week because I haven’t been cooking, and…and…and.  Who cares?  These little beauties have Rolos or Reese’s in them.

I think I can credit the humble Rolo with starting me off on my intense love affair with chocolate and caramel.  They were one of the very best candies to have because, in addition to tasting great, you got a bunch of them in each roll.  They were always a first choice for me.  Truth be told, my adult palate finds them a little sweet, but they are still pretty hard to beat for a store-bought candy.  (Anyone remember Marathon bars?  Those were actually the best because they were huge and a little saltier.)

So yes, I went to the store and bought Rolos.  And I also bought Reese’s peanut butter cups because you can make these sweet treats with either one so why not double the recipe and make both?  If you are getting concerned that I am going to put myself into some kind of chocolate coma, don’t worry.  Most of these are going into the freezer for various parties we have next week.  In addition to everything else.  I’ll rest in January.  After our supper club.  Oh and after the 7th when I am catering a dessert party.  Sigh.


Chocolate and Caramel Previously: Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake #1, Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake #2, Chocolate Caramel Cookies,

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Previously: Holly B’s Peanut Butter Brownies, Peanut Butter Cup Brownies

Peanut Butter (or Caramel) Candy Mini Brownie Cups
Adapted from The All American Cookie Book
Makes 24 mini brownie cups

I am more or less sharing the recipe as written.  I have two 24-count mini muffin pans so I doubled the batter recipe and did 24 Rolo and 24 Reese’s.  Want to come over?

5 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into chunks
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, broken up or coarsely chopped
1 oz. semisweet chocolate, broken up or coarsely chopped
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
24 Reese’s miniature peanut butter cups or Rolo candies, unwrapped
24 roasted peanut halves, for peanut-butter-cup topping (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Grease two 12-cup or one 24-cup minimuffin pans or coat with nonstick spray.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and both chocolates over lowest heat, stirring frequently; be very careful not to burn.  Once almost melted, remove from heat.

Stir the sugar into the chocolate mixture until well-blended.  Let cool to warm.  In a small bowl, thoroughly stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.  Beat the egg into the chocolate mixture.  Add the vanilla and stir vigorously until the mixture is completely smooth and shiny.  Stir in the flour mixture until evenly incorporated.  Spoon the batter equally into the muffin cups.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 10 minutes, or until almost firm when pressed in the centers.  Immediately press 1 peanut butter cup or Rolo candy, smaller end down, into the center of each cup until flush with the surface of the brownie.  Place a peanut half, if using, in the center of each peanut butter cup.

Transfer the muffin pans to a wire rack and let stand until the brownies cups are completely cooled.  Gently loosen the brownie cups with the point of  table knife, then remove from the pans.

Store in an airtight container for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 1 month.

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