CHIC AND SCRUMPTIOUS “PREPARE-AHEAD” ITALIAN
This chic dinner menu can virtually all be assembled in advance.
Who doesn’t love a perfectly balanced baked pasta? Here the combination of penne, radicchio, mushrooms and four cheeses is just that. Assemble it the night before your dinner, and then pop into the oven 45 minutes or so before you plan to serve it. You can even make and freeze extras to defrost and bake when you need to pull a great meal out of your “hat” last minute. In this menu, the pasta serves as the first course, but it also is a great vegetarian main course for lunch or a simple supper.
The rolled turkey breast is elegant, deliciously unusual and one of my all-time favorites. Flavorful and delicious, it too can be assembled a day ahead and baked to order. Or bake it earlier in the day and then just serve at room temperature. Even more special when, accompanied by the gorgeous and super flavorful green herb mayonnaise.
Cauliflower and watercress salad is an unexpected combination and the perfect salad to complement the turkey, while the hazel-nutty chocolate cake with a rich ganache frosting is sublime—a recipe you’ll make again and again once you’ve tasted it. And like all chocolate cakes, it is even better when made a day or two ahead.
ELEGANT DINNER PARTY–PREPARE AHEAD AND FESTIVE
This versatile menu is equally effective as a romantic dinner for two, an intimate meal for four or six, or multiplied accordingly for a crowd. Equally important, everything—other than the quick-cooking of the salmon–can be readied earlier in the day or even a day in advance. In addition, each of these recipes is excellent in its own right; you’ll definitely want to mix and match them with recipes already in your repertoire.
The bread pudding recipe was chosen by the Wall Street Journal for inclusion in my December 3 article on Nursery Desserts and is fabulous, cozy, and comforting in chilly fall and winter. On the other hand, this version–elevated several notches by the addition of dried fruit generously soaked in Cognac–is so good, you may actually end up serving it cold or at room temperature in July. I’ve done just that more than once.
A friend taught me to make the artichoke dipping sauce when I was visiting him in Berlin lastMay, andsince then, I’ve often found myself gobbling it down by the spoonful. It enhances many foods in addition to artichokes—great served alongside grilled meat, chicken, and fish; the perfect dressing for a variety of salads–especially tasty with tomatoes alone or even better with tomatoes and mozzarella on toast. On and on.
The sides are unbeatable also. For me, the crispy beans are a healthy alternative to French fries– easy and delicious hot, warm or at room temperature. Ditto the unusual smash–essentially mashed potatoes, but with the unexpected addition of mushrooms, Parmesan, and the always welcome hint of truffles.
MOROCCAN MEDITERRANEAN BUFFET
Redolent of Morocco and also Italy’s southern tip, this meal for simple entertaining is one of my favorites for the transit from winter to early spring. I created the tomato soup for a cookbook I wrote in the 1990s, and it’s been a freezer staple ever since–wildly good for you and absolutely delicious.
Because they are quite thin, the chicken paillards pick up a huge amount of flavor from the marinade, a mixture of crushed and toasted seeds and spices plus garlic, onion, olive oil and honey. They are tasty and easy as are the mixed potatoes and the broccoli rabe–sautéed with giant yellow raisins as well as with pine nuts and garlic.
A sprinkling of fleur de sel adds a very special something to the chocolate tart which is adapted from Joel Robuchon and was quite divine even without it. I’ve rejiggered the recipe yet again to make it even simpler to prepare and possibly even more delicious to eat.
FRENCH BISTRO DINNER
Chez Allard was a Michelin-starred, family-run bistro in Paris that closed in the ‘80s after being around for decades. If you like lentils and bacon, this chicken dish is for you. Intensely flavorful and perfect for fall and winter.
The fig salad is a wonderful pairing of opposites–soft and crunchy, sharp and sweet, fresh and aged. And figs should be taken advantage of during their not-long-enough season. And Baked Alaska is a classic though I use coffee ice cream instead of vanilla as it is so perfect with the vanilla meringue. Hot on the outside, cold within–another case where the end result is greater than the sum of the (opposing) parts.
GOURMET COMFORT FOOD
It was suggested I do gourmet comfort foods class, and this is what I came up with. All the recipes are updated versions of the classics and DELICIOUS. The names of the dishes essentially are self-explanatory. Though these are great versions of each one.
The biscuits are by far the best I’ve ever eaten. And who can resist Caesar Salad, Fried Chicken, fancy Mac and Cheese or Devil’s Food Cake?
ROAST FISH AND CITRUS FOR JANUARY
This roast fish is a perfectly suited to January; it’s fresh and light after holiday excess and accented with seasonal citrus—blood and navel oranges, lemons and limes–which creates a dual purpose sauce/salad, ideal to accompany this succulent fish. The sunrise colors of the citrus are beautiful on the plate as is the pomegranate and green pea-studded pilaf.
Because both these dishes are light, the meal begins with a hearty and super delicious gratin of cabbage, pancetta and a mixture of cheeses and ends with a favorite—but not dietetic–dessert. Meringue is airy and fat-free but the chocolate is rich, full-flavored and intense–and well, whipped cream is whipped cream.
The gratin is a great recipe to have in your fall and winter repertoire and the dessert is good all times of year. If, in your own kitchen, you have resolved to cook for health in January, then replace the gratin with a salad and the dessert with sorbet and cookies with pears and a bit of cheese. The meal will still be a delight and you’ll have the gratin and the chocolate pie to look forward to when you are ready to indulge.
ELEGANT ITALIAN SUMMER SUPPER
In their marvelous award-winning FIZDALE AND GOLD COOKBOOK, Robert Fizdale and Arthur Gold (of the world-famous piano duo Fizdale and Gold) describe “the Great Turkey Breakthrough,” their visit to a fancy Milan restaurant where when they complimented the chef on his exquisite veal while complaining that there was nothing to compare in the United State. He leaned forward to make sure no one was within earshot and whispered, “Signori, I have a dark confession to make. I will tell you my secret. I make my veal out of turkey!” I’ve adapted this turkey scallopini recipe below. The turkey is delicious, good for you, virtually undistinguishable from the veal, and wildly less expensive. It is EASY and elegant and fits into many menus. A recipe well-worth having.
I’ve paired the scallopini with a deliciously rich artichoke flan, saucing both with tomato couli and anchovy oil (for those of you who don’t like anchovies, the sauce is on the side, but you should try it. It’s great). The plate is garnished with a julienne of crispy fried artichokes.
The first course salad—shrimp, fennel, citrus and capers–is light, flavorful, delicious, cool, and perfect in the heat.
And dessert, a simple almond cake, is very almondy–one of my favorite cakes and appropriate year round—in winter, slices toasted or not, with caramelized apples or pears and in summer with lots of fresh berries or sliced stone fruits with or without a berry-flavored ice cream.
PREPARE-AHEAD, FESTIVE DINNER PARTY MENU
This versatile menu is equally effective as a romantic dinner for two, an intimate meal for four or six, or multiplied accordingly for a crowd. Equally important, everything—other than the quick-cooking of the salmon–can be readied earlier in the day or the day before. In addition, each of these recipes is excellent in its own right; you’ll definitely want to work them into menus you already make.
The bread pudding recipe was chosen by the Wall Street Journal for inclusion in my article on Nursery Desserts and is fabulous AND cozy and comforting in chilly fall and winter. On the other hand, this version–elevated several notches by the addition of dried fruit generously soaked in Cognac–is so good I often serve it cold or at room temperature in July.The Baked Alaska is a real show stopper and literally takes only 15 minutes or so to throw together. EASY and wildly IMPRESSIVE and of course, delicious. I demonstrated it on ABC’s THE CHEW and teach it often.
A friend taught me to make the artichoke dipping sauce when I was visiting him in Berlin last May and I often gobble it down by the spoonful. It enhances many foods in addition to the artichokes—great served alongside grilled meat, chicken, and fish; ideal for dressing many types of salad; a perfect complement to tomatoes alone or even better with tomatoes and mozzarella on toast. On and on.
The sides too are unbeatable. The crispy beans are a healthy alternative to French fries— easy and delicious hot, warm or at room temperature. Ditto the unusual smash –essentially mashed potatoes, but with the unexpected addition of Parmesan and the always welcome hint of truffles.
OTTOLENGHI BEST EVER SPRING BUFFET (for VEGETARIAN, replace the Baked Shrimp with the Roast Vegetable Tart)
For those of you who don’t know him, Yotam Ottolenghi is an Israeli-born chef, cookery writer, and restaurant-owner now based in London. He writes a weekly food column for The Guardian and has written three ground-breaking cookbooks.
I adore this menu adapted from Ottolenghi recipes. It’s green and springy and just right for now, with lots of fresh herbs, peas, and beautiful asparagus.
And the warm pasta salad—which can be a first course or part of the buffet– is unusual and unusually light with its green pea, basil and yogurt-based sauce. And it’s gorgeous to boot. But then the entire menu is. I think you’ll love it.
The easy seafood recipe– the unexpected pairing with feta has made it a priority dish on Ottolenghi’s London catering menu for over ten years–can be put together and then baked last minute. It’s savory and saucy is delicious and a great combo with the flavorful cousous. You can also make the recipe with other varieties of mixed seafood or even using chicken.
Whole wheat couscous is my new favorite side. It’s so much more flavorful than the more traditional version and so much better for you. AND in contrast to most pasta and rice dishes, it cooks in only five minutes and can then sit around for hours.
I love a traditional asparagus “mismosa” –sprinkled with an abundance of grated eggs and capers. Ottolenghi includes tarragon, not “authentic” but fabulous, its “surprise” element as welcome an addition as its taste. My own tweak is grilling the asparagus, also not traditional to the dish but hugely successful.
Also spring-and-summery is dessert, a light, large, crunchy meringue base topped with homemade vanilla bean ice cream, lots of fresh berries and a cooling raspberry coulis. The perfect dessert to take you all the way from now through Labor Day. The meringues last for months and months: If you make several at once—making them in different sizes to serve different numbers of people is often handy—and wrap them well in foil, you can pull one off the shelf last minute and have a marvelous dessert on hand in minutes. The coulis keeps for several weeks in the fridge and indefinitely in the freezer. And well, we all know about ice cream.
ALL SOUFFLES… PLUS A DIVINE WATERCRESS AND WALNUT SALAD
I’ve taught this class a number of times, and people love the magic of so many souffles at once—also a great learning opportunity to really get the technique down pat.
Everyone loves soufflés; and with a few tips and suggestions taken into account, they are a snap to make and fairly foolproof. The soufflé base can be prepared up to three days in advance so when ready to eat, all you have to do is whip up the whites, fold them together with the base and bake for about 15 minutes. Souffles cook more quickly and evenly when made as individual portions so I usually make small ones. Everyone is thrilled to dig into a special soufflé made just for them. We’ll do two savory and two dessert versions—Garlic-Cheese, Spinach, Chocolate, and Coffee.
And I’ll provide a couple of extra recipes as once you get the hang of making one flavor, you will be able—and want to—make them all. In addition, we’ll make a fresh, bright watercress salad with a few walnuts and a walnut lemon juice vinaigrette. Just to break things up and clean the palate. It’s a great recipe to have on hand as it is easy and special and enhances so many different menus.
CASUAL CHIC: A GRILLED LAMB BUFFET (lamb can also be broiled)
A simple and elegant dinner with a decadent, knock-your-socks-off, rich and gooey old time dessert to die for, this is one of my favorite go-to menus for both spring and summer. If you come to class and check it out, I think you’ll feel the same. I’ll lay it out buffet-style, but more typically you can pull out the divine risotto (light and springy with lots of green peas and asparagus and well able to stand up on its own) and to serve as a first course. It is a great starter for many other warm weather menus as well.
The flavorful lamb, first heavily marinated, then grilled (or broiled) and accented by mint-enhanced homemade mayo served alongside is hard to resist, especially when complemented by a mélange of crispy garden favorites tossed with toasted hazelnuts and a hazelnut vinaigrette.
And no one can resist rich, moist devil’s food cake topped as well as layered with homemade “marshmallow fluff” and lots of dark chocolate shavings. Warm Chocolate sauce gilds the lily and is great with the mixed Ice creams a al mode which in turn are pretty great with all that icing.