September 29, 2010


A casserole is a dish used both in the oven and as a serving vessel. It also refers to the food cooked and served in said vessel. So, how did the casserole get such a bad rap? I suppose it shares the connotations that I reserve for 'crock pot' and 'slow cooker' cooking: random, messy, unthoughtful and thrown together. Ah, but we're all wrong. I mean, I only want to make casseroles! Cooked and served in the same dish?! Genius for entertaining. Can always be made ahead of time? Check! Way ahead of time? Frozen? Yup. A simple salad completes the meal? Indeed. So I started redefining what a casserole is for me with this fresh, spicy, end-of-the-summer vegetable lasagna. One layer of each component, sandwiched between 'no-boil' lasagna noodles, takes away all of the 'lasagna is such an effort' drama. My layers: spicy marinara; ricotta mixed with egg and parsley; noodles; and a saute of zucchini, garlic, yellow squash, swiss chard and carrots. I was nervous that my casserole lacked a 'wow factor' until greg asked, " Is there bacon in this?" No...but I can't think of a higher compliment.
The Menu

fennel, lemon cucumber, spicy mixed greens, balsamic vinaigrette

layered vegetable lasagna
swiss chard, carrots, zucchini, yellow squash
spicy marinara, ricotta and basil

September 26, 2010

Peanuts and Cracker Jack's

Greg is a die-hard Red Sox fan. Wakes up, checks scores, die-hard. Despite growing up in New York, he rooted against the Yankees throughout our viewing party (ironically, a father/son trip to Fenway as a young lad, created a Sox fan; probably not his Bronx-born father's intentions). Having people over for the game blends our passions: he gets to watch his team and I get to plan a themed menu. Of course we started with beer and peanuts-in-the-shell. Plenty of shell baskets are a must (as is a broom). Now, serving hot dogs would have been the obvious (and delicious) choice, but I decided to mix it up with beer-braised brisket, served in hot dog baskets. Tender and tasty. The best part? Dessert was a play on Cracker Jack's: salted caramel ice cream topped with kettle corn. Sweet, salty, crunch. Better luck next time Boston!!!
The Menu

beer, plenty of it


stout-braised grass-fed brisket
with horseradish creme
roasted carrots
dandelion greens

salted caramel ice cream with kettle corn

September 16, 2010

Last Call

Before we move into the world of root vegetables, soups and braises, I am capturing the final days of summer. By oven drying and freezing the last of my tomatoes, I'll be able to brighten the darker days of fall. They will make great hostess gifts and enhance an array of easy appetizers: tarts, crostinis and spreads. (Of course this is all fantasy speak. Living in LA, I can only dream about cooler temperatures, cozy sweaters and the changing of the leaves. But I can, and will, create a sense of seasons via my meals and parties. Apple themes to come...)To oven dry: Slice tomatoes and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper (plus any herbs you would like). Place on a foil lined cookie sheet. Slow roast in a 200 degree oven for 5 hours, until tomatoes are shriveled but not browning. Place cookie sheet in freezer to freeze tomatoes. Once they are individually frozen, stack in a storage container and freeze for later use.

September 5, 2010

Labor Day Weekend: A Lesson in Labor

In grade school, I didn't exactly excel at group projects. For a presentation on Turkey (the country), I wanted to be in charge of the research, the binding on the folder, the diorama, the presentation and, of course, the extra touches: serving the class baklava. Passionate? Enthusiast? Control freak? All of the above. Similarly, I always want to do it all when it comes to entertaining. Not just to be bossy, but because I love it. Yet I can burn out and it becomes expensive, especially with weekend guests. So this weekend I saw how it can be done another way. We assigned all of the guests lots of jobs. For this meal, Chuck made the margaritas, Marsha the guac and Jill the beans. Everyone pitched in with cooking and clean-up. Way less stress! I realized, it's okay to include others in the process; if we hadn't, I would never have tried Jill's incredible 'cowboy caviar' (a post to follow!). And I still had plenty of fun menu planning and cooking. Highlights: Enchiladas stuffed with dungeness crab and bay shrimp and my mom's favorite summertime appetizer, padron peppers. Salty with a little spice and the risk that you might get a really hot one. So here's to bringing back the potluck...every once in awhile.
The Menu

orange margaritas
chips, salsa and guacamole

chilled watermelon soup
alongside pimientos de padron with sea salt

oregon bay shrimp and dungeness crab enchiladas
with a roasted tomatillo and poblano sauce
drunken black and pinto peans
grilled corn on the cob with lime, chili and queso fresco

kahlua flans

September 2, 2010


Nobu. Black. Cod. Miso. Worthy of all of the hype, and more. When my dad would visit me in NYC during college, this was our place. Without my mom's watchful eye, and more reasonable approach to eating, my dad and I were free to exercise all of our gluttonous tendencies. Sashimi salad. Hamachi sashimi with jalapeno. Waiter: Did you like? Me: Loved. My dad: We'll take another. Me: Make it two! Rock shrimp tempura. Sushi. Sushi. That insane bento box with warm chocolate cake and green tea ice cream. And in the middle, the main event: black cod miso. Replicated at home, this is one of Greg's favorite things I make, but I deserve no credit; it is Nobu's foolproof recipe. I nostalgically prepared this recipe with wild alaskan halibut for my parents' recent dinner party. No surprise, huge hit. Sweet, salty, umami. People freak out for it, and it literally couldn't be simpler. (So enticing it was hard to pause for a good photo, oops). Soba noodles with red peppers, edamame, maitake and shitake mushrooms in a ginger miso broth were delicious, colorful compliments. Even if cooking fish makes you nervous, this will wow. Guaranteed successful entertaining, or your money back!
The Menu

herbaceous salad rolls with vietnamese dipping sauce and peanut dipping sauce

sweet and sour cucumber and walla walla onion salad with oregon bay shrimp

wild alaskan halibut miso
edamame, red peppers, shitake and maitake mushrooms
ginger miso broth

gingered peach, pluout and raspberry crisp
coconut ice cream

kirin beer and sake