It’s Labor Day Weekend Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

This time of year, the front meadow is a sea of goldenrod.

This time of year, the front meadow is a sea of goldenrod.

I always use Labor Day weekend as the benchmark for the end of summer. Kids are back at school, the days are getting shorter and cooler, and the local apple orchard is now open. So this weekend is a perfect time to say goodbye to the season and to invite some friends over for some a delicious meal! I’ve scoured MVK’s archives for some recipes that would be perfect for this time of year. I hope whatever you do this coming weekend, it is filled with good food!

Appetizers

Deviled Eggs
Who doesn’t like deviled eggs? Take this to a party and they will be gone in the blink of an eye!

Baked Artichoke Dip
While this is a little fussy, it is well worth the effort.

Homemade Hummus
Know the ingredients in your hummus by making a batch of your own!

Mediterranean Kebabs
You don’t even need to know how to cook to make this tasty appetizer!

Entrees

Marinated Grilled Chicken Legs
Get the grill going for this flavorful chicken dish.

Linguine with Clam Sauce
If you can find fresh clams, this dish will be phenomenal, but canned work just as well.

Mystic Pizza
Impress your guests by grilling this pizza!

Marinated London Broil
Mmmmm…..

Brazilian Fish Stew
This stew tastes like a professional made it. Show off your skills!

Salads and Such

Potato Salad
I made this over Fourth of July weekend and am still thinking about it!

Kale Salad
Instead of a usual green salad try using kale instead!

Quick Pickles
Because I love these!

And you can never go wrong with a platter of sliced fresh tomatoes with basil and a little drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Desserts

Warm Roasted Peaches with Cream
Pick up some Amish peaches if you’re in the Northeast and roast them with a little cinnamon and nutmeg. You won’t be sorry!

Brownies
You’ll make a friend for life if you make a couple batches of these incredible brownies.

Crumbly Peach Pie
A summer isn’t complete without making my grandmother’s peach pie.

Cocktails

Mad Men Manhattan

Margaritas

Mocktails

sunday dinner

(Photo Steve Cavalier/Alamy/Alamy)

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Should Sunday Roast Dinners Still be on the Menu?
One of the things I was most excited about when I was in London last year was going out for Sunday Roast, which is basically a full dinner at lunchtime. I have a version of that in my own home almost every Sunday because there is more time to cook; a really nice meal, usually a roast of some sort, to end the weekend and to have a nice start to the work week. Sunday just feels odd if I’m throwing together a stir fry.

So I really enjoyed this pro and con op-ed piece out of The Guardian last week for Sunday roast dinners.  Of course I’m in the “pro” camp; they truly are a comfort blanket meal. You can read the article in its entirety here.

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Brownies

Simple as that.

I try not to repeat recipes too much, but when something I wrote about three years ago is so delicious, I only thought it was fitting to bring it forward so new readers can take advantage! (Plus, I made these twice last week, so they are the forefront of my mind)

Baking is definitely not a specialty of mine; give me a piece of meat or a pile of vegetables and I can create something delicious, but baking is more specific and goes against my devil-may-care attitude I have in the kitchen. Unless it is super easy. Which this recipe is and trust me, you’ll be the bell of the ball if you share these with friends or foes. (Or the bell in your own home. Either way, you’ll be a star!)

Originally printed in the New York Times in 1943, it was noted these treats traveled well in a soldier’s care package. Trust me, those soldiers were lucky! The recipe I grew up making were mediocre; they were nice and soft right out of the oven, but were rock hard the next day. When I found this recipe, they turned into my go-to brownies. Deep, dark, and soft, even the next day, they are delicious enough that I even broke my “no sweets during Lent” vow and had two small ones. And it’s simple, it comes together in about ten minutes! You know how the Betty Crocker box mix gets “glossy” on top when it’s done cooking? This does, too, and it’s homemade, so you know what is going into it!

Note Amanda Hesser’s tip at the end (which I will say, dividing the pan into 16 is hardly a small bite, it’s a normal size brownie in my opinion), and I’ll add to that; make these and take a nice long walk in the March light and don’t worry about the stick of butter and cup of sugar!

brownies

Brownies
From The Essential New York Times Cook Book, Classic Recipes for a New Century, by Amanda Hesser, 2010. Makes 16 brownies.

¼ pound semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (Cook’s note: I use a bar of Ghirardelli semisweet chocolate)
8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
½ cup sifted all-purpose flour
½ cup chopped nuts
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan and line the base with parchment.

2. Melt the chocolate and butter in a saucepan over low heat. Remove from the heat.

3. Beat the eggs with the sugar until the sugar is mostly dissolved, and add to the chocolate mixture. Add the other ingredients and mix well. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

4. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost, but not quite, clean, about 25 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes, then invert the brownie onto a rack, remove the parchment, and turn it right side up. When cool cut into 16 squares.

Hesser’s Cooking Note: You might laugh at the size of these brownies, which are 2-in squares–brownie “bites” by today’s standard. Cut them larger at your (waistline’s) peril.

serious eaMVK’s Endorsement of the Week: A New (to me) Food Website
I can never have too many food websites to wander and dream. Friend and reader, Carol, sent me an email the other day, asking if I knew about the website Serious Eats. I didn’t, and of course immediately visited. Funnily enough, what caught my eye were a lot of articles focusing on Asian dumplings, like I wrote about last week! This website has the potential for losing lots of hours online, looking at recipes, checking out recommendations. You should check it out, too! www.seriouseats.com.

A Homemade Valentine’s Day Dinner

I thought I’d pop in early this week to pass along a Valentine’s Day dinner menu for you in case you were thinking of making a special meal on Friday night! I’m not one to really celebrate Valentine’s Day, but I never need an excuse to make a nice dinner. Restaurants always raise their prices and they’re usually packed, so I usually opt for making a special dinner at home. CookingVintageValentineSince Friday is a work night, the choices on this menu is special enough for the holiday, yet easy enough to put together after a long week at the office.

So let’s start with cocktails! Since it’s a special night, it calls for making a special cocktail! Care to go retro? Try my ManhattanIf you want to splurge on the juice, try a pomegranate martini. Or if your meal is on the spicy side, how about a margarita?  

You must have something to serve alongside your cocktails! The stuffed mushroom recipe I make is easy, and you can make these the night before and just pop them in the oven when you get home. If you have extra time, this recipe for gougères is to die for, and are best right out of the oven–just don’t burn your tongue! Or this recipe for Artichoke Dip is always a crowd favorite. If it’s just the two of you, you can refrigerate the leftovers and warm the next evening and it will still be delicious.

Soup or salad? I will always go for salad whenever given the choice. You could make a simple salad of  greens but include something special like avocado or my favorite, Hearts of Palms. These run about $3+ a can, so I buy them only on rare occasions. Maybe a few grape tomatoes, a quick vinaigrette, and you’re set!

I always think seafood makes a special meal. You could make this scallop recipe (and forego the aforementioned salad), or linguini with clam sauce, which is quick and easy. Or what about this salmon recipe? Just pop the fish in the oven and make the quick sauce on the stove. If you have a little extra time and money, this Brazilian Stew is fantastic! A bit of crusty bread and dinner is served!

Dessert anyone? If you want something chocolaty, you could make these brownies the night before and serve warmed with a little bit of vanilla ice cream. Or what about gingerbread? This cozy cake is another recipe you can make in advance. Of course, one of the most special recipes of all is Julia Child’s chocolate mousse. This must be made in advance, so that way it will be ready and you can focus on the rest of the meal.

Whatever you have or make for dinner on Friday, whether it’s an elaborate four course dinner or takeout pizza, I hope you can share it with someone you love. Happy Valentine’s Day!

That’s Amore!

CookingVintageValentineI have never been one to go out for a big high falootin dinner on Valentine’s Day evening. The restaurants are packed and the prices raised just for this one meal. Home cooking is always healthier, and less expensive, and in some (many?) cases, just better tasting.

If you are thinking of making dinner tomorrow night, I thought I would give you a dinner menu that is special enough for the holiday, but also easy enough so it can be put together on a work night.

Depending on how fancy the dinner is, how about starting with some appetizers? The stuffed mushroom recipe I make is easy, and you can make these the night before and just pop them in the oven when you get home. If you have extra time, this recipe for gougères is to die for, and are best right out of the oven–just don’t burn your tongue!

Soup or salad? I will always go for salad whenever given the choice. You could make a simple salad of  greens but include something special like my favorite, Hearts of Palms. These run about $3 a can, so I buy them only on rare occasions. Maybe a few grape tomatoes, a quick vinaigrette, and you’re set!

I always think seafood always makes for a special meal. You could make this scallop recipe (and forego the aforementioned salad), or linguini with clam sauce, which is quick and easy. Or what about this salmon recipe? Just pop the fish in the oven and make the quick sauce on the stove.

Dessert anyone? That is, if you haven’t given up sweets for Lent! If you want something chocolaty, you could make these brownies the night before and serve warmed with a little bit of vanilla ice cream. Or what about gingerbread? This is warm and cozy and another recipe you can make in advance. Of course, one of the most special recipes of all is chocolate mousse, and this must be made in advance, so you can focus on the rest of the meal.

So open up a bottle of your favorite wine, turn on Dean Martin, and just relax and cook for the ones you love.

OMG! Brownies

Happy Valentine’s Day! In honor of this day, I thought I would bring you a special recipe, with enough time to pick up the ingredients at the grocery store on the way home from work to make for your Valentine! 

Anyone who knows me well knows sweets aren’t a particular weakness of mine. Crunchy, greasy potato chips and a creamy dip, yes; dessert, not so much. I will jump at a good homemade pie and will eat the obligatory birthday cake, but for the most part, I can pass on sweets when they’re offered. Until now.

A few weeks ago we were invited to spend the afternoon with friends. A downfall of being told to others you’re a good cook by your significant other is you (I) feel obligated to always take along something special; a plate of nice cheese and crackers wouldn’t do. I always want to make something delicious that people would just say “wow.” I wasn’t sure if I was going to make something sweet or savory, but while looking for a recipe in the Essential New York Times Cook Book, I came across a recipe for brownies. Originally printed in the Times in 1943, this was noted as a treat that traveled well in a soldier’s care package. I had all the ingredients in the cupboard and the instructions were super easy, so I thought I would try these. (If you hang out with me long enough, you are bound to be a guinea pig for a variety of recipes!) The recipe I’ve been using for the past  30 years have always been just OK; they are moist when they come out of the oven and are flavorful, but tend to turn rock hard in a day.

I pulled these out of the oven and they were super moist, too moist to be done I thought. I was told by the sweets eater in the house, “I think that’s they way they are supposed to be.” And he’s right. Right out of the oven, the top is crackly and shiny. They are moist, dense and dark, with a deep chocolate flavor. Heaven in a little square.

I packed them up carefully, still warm, and brought them to our friends. Set on the table, they were gone in a matter of minutes. (I think the “wow” was there; it’s called silence. And when people have seconds!) These are sure to be a hit with any group. You can take these to a bake sale or potluck or even bribe friends to help you with something (yes, I’ve done this). Or make a batch just for yourself. (I’ll give you a little hint, wrap each brownie individually and put in a freezer bag. This way you can control how much you eat, and have a nice little treat for a later date!)

Enjoy!

Brownies
From The Essential New York Times Cook Book, Classic Recipes for a New Century, by Amanda Hesser, 2010.
Makes 16 brownies

• ¼ pound semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (Cook’s note: I use a bar of Ghirardelli semisweet chocolate)
• 8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
• 2 large eggs
• 1 cup sugar
•½ cup sifted all-purpose flour
• ½ cup chopped nuts (Cook’s note: I use walnuts)
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
•¼ teaspoon salt

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan and line the base with parchment.

2. Melt the chocolate and butter in a saucepan over low heat. Remove from the heat.

3. Beat the eggs with the sugar until the sugar is mostly dissolved, and add to the chocolate mixture. Add the other ingredients and mix well. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

4. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost, but not quite, clean, about 25 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes, then invert the brownie onto a rack, remove the parchment, and turn it right side up. When cool cut into 16 squares.

Hesser’s Cooking Note: You might laugh at the size of these brownies, which are 2-in squares–brownie “bites” by today’s standard. Cut them larger at your (waistline’s) peril.