Thursday, April 28, 2011

Royal Wedding Menu

"Love is a smoke made with the fume of sighs. Being purged, a fire sparkling in lovers' eyes. Being vexed, a sea nourished with lovers' tears. What is it else? A madness most discreet, a choking gall and a preserving sweet." - Shakespeare

"Nothing takes the taste out of peanut butter quite like unrequited love." - Charlie Brown

And so, Prince William and Kate Middleton are about to be married. On this day, single girls and women over 13 and (hopefully) under 35 will mark the Royal Nuptials with the aid of Kleenex, Haagen dazs (or Ben & Jerry's), and chocolate (and maybe even by pinning a photo of Kate to a wall and practicing their dart-throwing). If anyone reading this meets the above criteria, and this sounds like your plans for celebrating the marriage of Prince William, I recommend Godiva for the chocolate part of your festivities. 

For those of you planning to watch the Royal Wedding in a positive frame of mind, and who are looking for ideas for appropriate snacks, here is my suggested menu for the day:
  • Tea (I recommend Yorkshire Gold) in a pretty teapot with pretty teacups, with sugar and cream on the side, if you so wish.
  • My recipe for Tea Scones from a previous post. Serve with clotted cream and your favorite fruit preserves (or marmalade).
  • My recipe for Cucumber Sandwiches from another previous post. Cut the crusts off the bread for an added touch of elegance.
  • If you can find a nearby retailer that carries them, these delicious, raisin-filled biscuits

God bless the bride!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Authentic Greek Salad

"A world without tomatoes is like a string quartet without violins." - Laurie Colwin

Tomatoes inspire either love or hate - there is no in-between. And when I say 'tomatoes,' I do mean raw, cool, gigantic, beefy beauties in all their yellow-red glory. So, if you hate tomatoes, this post is not for you - please come back later. 

...for those who do love tomatoes, glad to have you here.

When I visited Greece a few years back (as detailed in my post about Spanakopita), I was not (at first) a big fan of what I thought was Greek salad. Maybe it was the fact that Americans put lettuce in Greek salad that put me right off it. Neither was I a big fan of raw tomatoes. However, when I went to Greece, I encountered real Greek salad, and my attitude to it and tomatoes improved dramatically.

That's because real Greek salad doesn't HAVE lettuce in it, and is a wonderful way of revealing how amazing tomatoes are.

REAL Greek Salad

Makes: 1 large bowl of salad

  • 4-6 tomatoes, chopped into wedges
  • 1/2 onion, peeled and sliced into thin half-rings
  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled and sliced into small wedges
  • Kalamata olives (according to taste)
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, sliced into strips
  • Feta cheese (according to taste)
  • Good quality olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
Clean and cut the veggies, and place in a bowl. Add as much of the olives and feta cheese (with some of the juices of each included) as you like (I tend to prefer "the more the merrier" as an approximate measurement). Drizzle with olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.


Friday, April 15, 2011

Tangy n' Tasty Buffalo Chicken Crescent Pockets

"Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam" - "Home On The Range," John A. Lomax

When I first heard about buffalo sauce, I was a bit apprehensive. After all, who wouldn't hesitate at trying a sauce that sounds like it was made using the essence of this creature:

...I rest my case.

Thankfully, Buffalo sauce tastes nothing like its namesake, although you should probably avoid it if you don't (or can't) prefer the spicy side of life. Most people associate it with chicken wings, commonly known as "buffalo wings" (although imagining the above creature with wings is more amusing than appetizing):

And even more appetizing than these famous wings is my version of this recipe for Buffalo Chicken Crescent Pockets.

Makes: 8 pockets
  • 12 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tbsp. Louisiana hot sauce or other red pepper sauce
  • 1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1 cup finely chopped cooked chicken breast
  • 2 cans (8 oz. each) refrigerator crescent rounds (16 rounds altogether)
  • 1/3 cup melted unsalted butter
  • Egg wash (1 egg and a few tablespoons of cool water)
Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. In medium bowl, mix cream cheese and pepper sauce. Stir in blue cheese and celery. Stir in chicken until well blended.
Remove crescent rounds from container. Take two crescent triangles and lay out on counter-top with long sides beside each other, so that a square is made, and pinch the long sides together to make one square of dough. Place about a table spoon full of the chicken mixture on top (enough to fill the pocket, but not too much so that it leaks out easily). Fold the corners in, and press closed any openings. Place carefully on the baking sheet, and brush the top with egg wash.
Repeat until all of the mixture and crescents are used. Place with about 1 inch of space between the pockets on the baking sheet. Bake 17 to 22 minutes or until golden brown.
These make nice individual pies for picnics, lunch bags, starving brothers about to take college finals, or just around the house.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Quick and Easy Hollandaise Sauce

"Sauces are the splendor and the glory of French cooking." - Julia Child

As mentioned in the last post, here is a quick and easy recipe for Hollandaise sauce, from the Dec. 2009 issue of Real Simple magazine.
Julia is quite right when it comes to sauces - they absolutely make French cooking. French cooking by itself tends to be simple enough, especially when you stick to the provincial French recipes and steer clear of the adventurous "haute cuisine." But whatever you try, the sauce absolutely makes the dish.
Hollandaise is great on asparagus (as well as other green veggies like green beans), as well as eggs and fish and other things.

Makes: 1 cup
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
In a blender, combine egg yolks, lemon juice, cayenne and 1/2 tsp. salt and blend until frothy. Heat the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until bubbling but not brown. While the blender is running, remove the center cap from the lid and add the hot butter in a thin stream until the sauce is thickened. If it is too thick, add warm water 1 tbsp. at a time until it is thin enough (it shouldn't be watery, but creamy enough to pour)


Simple Chicken Cordon Bleu

 "The secret of torture, like the secret of French Cuisine, is that nothing is unthinkable." - Phyllis Rose

While I'm not an advocate of torture, I am a dedicated advocate of French Cuisine. Sadly, it's not for everyone - it takes a special set of taste buds to appreciate the finer points of Escargots (Snails cooked in herbed butter) or Cuisses de Grenouilles (frog's legs). I sometimes think that if more of us had an adventurous palate, it would solve about 50% of the world's problems. But alas, we are what we are - chaque a son gout (literally, "each to his taste").

However, you don't have to have a dangerously adventurous palate to appreciate this simple recipe for Chicken Cordon Bleu.  

Makes: 2 servings
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 slices thin-sliced ham (deli)
  • 2 slices thin-sliced swiss cheese (deli)
  • garlic powder
  • dried parseley
  • salt and pepper
  • bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup milk
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Using a mallet, flatten the chicken breasts. Place one slice of ham and one slice of cheese on top of each chicken breast. Sprinkle with a light dusting of garlic powder, parseley, salt and pepper and roll up inside the chicken breast - secure using wooden (not plastic) toothpicks. Dip each rolled breast in the milk and then in the bread crumbs, coating thoroughly all over. Place in a baking dish and bake for 35-40 mins., until crumbs are browned and chicken is done.

Menu suggestions: To complete the French theme, I would serve this for dinner with asparagus (and maybe Hollandaise sauce, if you're feeling daring - a post on a simple version of this lovely sauce will be coming soon), and matchstick potatoes.

Bon Appetit!