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.

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!

“Mad Men” Caesar Salad and a Manhattan Cocktail

Just a regular evening for me after a day at the office!

Just a regular evening for me after a day at the office!

One of my favorite shows is “Mad Men.” This month I’ve been rapidly re-watching Season 4 so I can catch up with Season 5. While I love the psychological and interpersonal parts of the show, I really enjoy looking for vintage cookery items. Betty Crocker’s Hostess Cookbook that Betty had displayed on her kitchen counter (I have a copy!), the vintage barware and cocktail glasses that everyone drinks out of at work (I’ve searched high and low on eBay!), and the visits to restaurants.

In Season 1, I remember watching a restaurant dinner scene where a Caesar salad was made and served table-side. Ah, how romantic! Wouldn’t it be lovely to have a Caesar salad made just for you, while you watched the waiter gently take the lettuce, add egg and lemon, toss, and serve?

Last year, The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook by Judy Gelman and Peter Zheutlin was published. I’ve never been one for cookbooks based on television shows, but I was able to get a sneak peek of some of the recipes online. The salad dressing recipe struck my fancy, because if this was “Mad Men,” I imagined it would be an authentic Caesar dressing I could make at home.

One thing, this made more than 2 cups of salad dressing, way more than I could use up for one dinner (or even two). It also has a raw egg, so I questioned how long it could last in the fridge. (I used it a couple of weeks later and have lived, but that’s about as far as I would push it.) So if you cook for a small family, you might want to set this recipe aside the next time you have a dinner party. While the ingredient list is long, it’s just the blender and pulsing, so not a lot of work went into making this.

A Manhattan is one of my favorites wintertime cocktails. Dark and brooding, one sip and you can imagine yourself sitting right next to Don Draper in a lounge! This recipe is the way my uncle makes Manhattans and I love the added flavor of the Southern Comfort, but you can always use the traditional sweet vermouth if you prefer.

DSCN0886

Caesar Salad
From The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook by Judy Gelman and Peter Zheutlin

Courtesy of Executive Chef Bill Rodgers, Keens’ Steakhouse, New York, New York
Note: At Keens the waiters dress the salad and add the garnishes tableside.

The recipe makes one large salad portion. You’ll have leftover dressing and croutons. Executive Chef Bill Rodgers also recommends using this delicious salad dressing for marinating grilled chicken.

For the salad
3 1/2 cups clean, cut romaine lettuce
2 ounces Caesar Dressing (see recipe below)

For the topping
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

For the garnish
Raw egg yolk
4 thin slices pimiento
2 anchovy filets, cut in half (4 pieces)
Caesar Croutons (see recipe below)

1. Make the salad: Place lettuce in a serving bowl. Toss with dressing.

2. Sprinkle Parmigiano-Reggiano on top, garnish with egg yolk, pimento, anchovy filets, and croutons and toss well.

Yield: 1 large salad (serves 1–2)

Caesar Dressing
1 1/2 ounces water
1 ounce lemon juice
3/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup pure olive oil
1 1/2 ounces red wine vinegar
1 egg yolk
6 peeled garlic cloves
10 Italian anchovy filets
2 2/3 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoons light brown sugar
3/4 tablespoon dry mustard
3/4 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1. Make the dressing: Combine the water and lemon juice in a measuring cup and set aside.

2. Combine canola and olive oils in a measuring cup and set aside.

3. In the blender, combine the remaining ingredients and mix for 10 seconds. With the blender running, slowly begin to add the combined oils in a slow and steady stream. As you continue to add the oil, the mixture will begin to thicken. When the mixture thickens, thin it out with 1/3 of the water/lemon juice mixture. Repeat this process until all the oil has been incorporated.

4. Chill dressing until cold.

Yield: 2 1/2 cups dressing

Caesar Croutons

Note: Place the bread in the freezer for 10-15 minutes before slicing to make it easier to cut even squares.

Whole melted butter can be substituted for the clarified butter, but will brown the croutons faster. To make clarified butter, melt 4 tablespoons of butter slowly in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and allow to cool a bit until it separates. Skim off the foam that rises to the top, and gently pour the butter off of the milk solids, which will have settled to the bottom.

6 slices white bread, crusts removed and cut into 1/4-inch squares (see note above)
2 tablespoons clarified butter, melted (see note above)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh herbs (rosemary, parsley and thyme)
1/8 teaspoon Kosher salt

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F. Toss bread cubes in a bowl with the remaining ingredients.

2. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or just until slightly browned and crisp. Let cool at room temperature before serving. Store covered in an airtight container.

Yield: Croutons for 6 large Caesar salads

Cook’s Notes:
• You’ll notice I did very little in the way of accompaniments with my salad. I like it almost unadorned, hence why I didn’t include the various salad garnishes.

• I also didn’t make the croutons as described here; I made my usual. Stale Italian bread, cubed, tossed with a little olive oil and salt and pepper, bake at 350 degrees until brown. A lot quicker and simpler than their croutons, although they sound delicious!

DSCN0917
Manhattan Cocktail

Two parts bourbon
One part Southern Comfort
One maraschino cherry

Blend the two ingredients together in a cocktail shaker, stir, and serve up in a martini glass. Add cherry and a drop of cherry juice, if you like.

Variation
If you don’t have Southern Comfort, you can easily make this with three parts bourbon and a small splash of sweet vermouth.

New Year Cheer!

In the last week, the ground was green and we've had a wind storm, a rain storm, and now a snow storm that has brought us more than a foot of snow! It will be a white New Year's!

In the last week, we’ve had a wind storm, a rain storm, and now a snow storm that has brought us more than a foot of snow! It will be a white New Year’s!

I always find the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day a perfect time to invite friends and family over for some cheer and small snacks. Cocktail parties are perfect any time; simple drinks and some nibblies to munch on make for an enjoyable evening (for the cook!) that isn’t focused on a large meal.

I have been making this stuffed mushroom recipe for years and always around the holidays. Relatively easy to put together, they always are a hit, and are easy travelers; you can assemble and bake when you arrive. They are, of course,  best right out of the oven, nice and hot.

The pomegranate martini is a based on one I saw Rachael Ray make on an episode of Oprah years ago. I wrote down the measurements, but through the years I’ve developed my own recipe.

However you celebrate the new year, I hope 2013 will be even better for you than 2012!

DSCN0931
Stuffed Mushrooms
From Prevention’s The Healthy Cook, p. 550.

16 large mushrooms, cleaned
1 Tablespoon olive oil
3 Tablespoons dry sherry or nonalcoholic white wine
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
1 Tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tablespoon unseasoned dry bread crumbs
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 9” x 13” no-stick baking dish with no-stick spray and set aside.

Remove and finely chop the mushroom stems; set aside.

In a cup, combine the oil and sherry or wine. Pour 2 tablespoons of the mixture into a medium no-stick skillet, reserving 2 tablespoons. Warm the skillet over medium-low heat. Add the chopped stems and sauté for 6 minutes, or until the mixture is dry.

Add the parsley, Parmesan, bread crumbs, garlic, thyme, oregano, salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and stir in 1 tablespoon of the remaining sherry mixture until moistened.

Spoon the mushroom mixture into the caps. Place in a single layer on the prepared dish. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the caps are tender and heated through. Halfway through the cooking time, brush the caps with the remaining 1 tablespoon sherry mixture. Serve hot.

Pomegranate Martini
Serves 1, can be easily doubled, tripled, etc.

2 parts vodka
1 part orange flavored liquor
A splash of 100 percent pomegranate juice
Juice of a lime quarter

Cook’s Notes
• While I love Cointreau, the cost is prohibitive most of the time. Triple Sec is a good substitute that is a lot less expensive.
• For the juice, use only 100 percent pomegranate juice, no additional fruit flavors. Trust me, I’ve tried other mixtures, but the Pom Wonderful juice is the best.