Artichoke Dip, Saucepans, and Paper Roses

"As all caregivers know, at four o'clock, children must be fed something."--Laurie Colwin

With triplet boys, Suzanne T. knows this all too well, and around 4:00—at least on the days that I've been in her house—she is putting out little somethings to eat. Cheese and crackers, chips and hummus, veggies and dip.  Of course I've done this myself, who can't do this? But did you ever notice that the hors d'oeuvres always look greener in someone else's kitchen? Why do most of us possess a slightly nagging suspicion that as well as we do it, somewhere there's someone doing it cooler?

Oh screw it. Anyway, where was I? Right, the 4:00 nosh, and out of the oven Suzanne pulls a crock of amazingness: hot artichoke dip. We fell on it with pita chips and groans. I offered a taste to Panda which she accepted with a wrinkled nose. Next thing I knew she was elbowing Jeeps out of the way to get her chip into the heart of the crock. Move over ranch dressing, there's a new kid in town. 

So tonight Redman was at a friend's and got the playdate extended to dinner, and Panda asked if I'd make the dip. Why certainly, my dear. Let's have a little cocktail hour of our own.

By the way, did I ever introduce my little Corning Glass saucepan?  I have two of them.  Did I tell you this story?  No?  Well once upon a time, I used to waitress at Ponderosa. I'll pause while you process that. Yeah, it sucked, but there were small glimmers in the misery. One was this guy David who was a salesman for Corning. 

David would come into the Ponderosa every Wednesday or something, and he'd always sit in my section. He was an older guy, greying with a mustache, and just very nice to me. He possessed that keen trick some men have of taking an ordinary, restaurant-issue paper napkin and folding it into a rose. And he'd leave that along with the tip every Wednesday. 

Time passed and soon I was moving on to bigger and better things, and on my last Wednesday, David left more than a tip and a paper rose: he gave me two little Corning Glass saucepans. We said goodbye and never crossed paths again.

Or we might have.

A few summers ago, when Panda was quite young, we were down at the Jersey Shore and out to dinner at the Italian restaurant on the corner. All through dinner, there was this silver-haired gentleman with a mustache, sitting with his wife and grown children at a table across the room, and he kept glancing sideways at Panda and smiling. 

When he got up to leave with his family, he came by our table and held out to Panda a paper napkin, folded into a rose. "I just love your red hair," he said gallantly, winked at me and left. It was like a full five minutes later when my head snapped up and I thought, Oh my God, was that David?

Highly unlikely, but it makes a nice story to have over the 4:00 hors d'oeuvres.

Suzanne's Highly Unlikely Artichoke Dip

  • 1 can artichoke hearts, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup mayo
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese
  • Pinch of horseradish (optional, I didn't have any, neither did Suzanne when she made it this last time)

Preheat oven to 350

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and pour into a small oven-proof pot, crock or casserole

Bake 25-30 minutes.



Photo Credit (via creative commons):
Tavins Origami

Möchten Sie einen Flügel?

Wings are awesome. Even after eating far too many of them at college in upstate NY, I still consider chicken wings the world's greatest "pick" foods. They are lovely to serve at a party (with five thousand napkins), but frankly I find the only true reason to make chicken wings is to have them around to eat cold for the next two or three or eight days, preferably alone with a dishtowel. 

Thanks to my dad, I can't say "wings." It's always die Flügel. Having outgrown Buffalo style, I actually prefer a very straightforward, garlic-and-herb-marinated, baked wing. Sometimes after marinating I'll dredge them in breadcrumbs, but usually I just make 'em au naturel. Jeeps doesn't care for them much, which is fine, more for me. Although Redman seems to be coming around...

Au Naturel Flügel.

This is my wings-for-a-party recipe, which involved two of those big wing-packs.

  • Two of those big wing-packs
  • 6-8 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 cup herbs your choice - I used oregano, parsley and lemon thyme
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 cups olive or canola oil
  • Kosher salt and ground pepper

Chop garlic and herbs together fine.

Get 2 ziplock bags. Put a 1/2 cup of vinegar and a cup of oil in each. Divide the garlic and herbs equally between the bags.

Put wings into bags. Seal, pressing out air. Moosh wings around in bag until thoroughly coated with marinade. Refrigerate at least 2 hours, or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350. Line 2 baking sheets with foil and arrange wings on sheets. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake for one hour, rotating trays halfway through. Then turn oven to broil, and place each tray on upper rack of oven for about 5 minutes until skins are golden brown and sizzling.

Olympic Onion Tart

So we had a little party on Saturday night. I love to have people over for dinner but I don't like being so busy with dinner that I don't get any time with the people. So the key is to find lots of wonderful things that make themselves, or can be made ahead of time, and appeal to a wide variety of people and ages. A soup party is ideal.

The kids got chicken soup. For the adults, I made a huge pot of butternut squash soup, and my Olympic Onion Tart. I always make it during an Olympic year, to eat while we watch the opening ceremonies. Funny how these traditions get started. 

Anyway, guys, I LOVE this recipe. I got it out of Gourmet magazine two years ago. They called it a tart. It's really pizza. I make it all the time. It's great for an appetizer, with soup, and it's awesome cold the next day for breakfast. Or lunch.

This is one of those things you make according to the recipe twice, and after that you kind of wing it until it becomes something your own.

Make this. Make it your own.

Onion Tart

  • 1 package frozen pizza dough (click here if you want my pizza dough recipe)
  • 3 lbs yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced (you can do just white, or just red. Or combo red and white. You could also do a combo of onion and fennel, which is quite nice.)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (I sometimes use a combination of Dijon and honey mustard. In the pictures below I tried whole-grain which was a mistake. Way too overpowering. Don't.)
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (or any shredded cheese you wish. Literally whatever I have is what I use and it always comes out good)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Fresh (or dried) chopped parsley or any herbs of your choice. If you use fennel, chop the fronds fine and use them.

Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions (and fennel if using), 1 tsp salt, and a few grounds of the pepper grinder. Saute for 5 minutes until well-coated, then lower heat. Low heat and long time is the name of the game when it comes to caramelizing onions. You're going to cook these a good 45 minutes to an hour until they are very tender and golden-brown. The good news is you can do this step up to two days ahead of time, and store the onions in the fridge until it's time to make the tart.

Preheat oven to 450 with rack in the middle.

Oil or spray with Pam a baking sheet. Stretch pizza dough out, into a rectangle if you can but I never seem to manage more than a lopsided circle. Doesn't matter, it's supposed to look rustic. Spread mustard evenly over dough, leaving a 1/2" border around edge.

Spread onions evenly over mustard, then sprinkle cheese, then herbs over all. 

Bake tart 10-12 minutes until crust is golden brown.




Your guests will love it.

I had a great time. I'm so glad you came.

Springing Forward

Always fun to put the clocks ahead on a night when you're partying hard. Makes for an exhausting Sunday but I do love the extra hour of daylight.Between hangovers and lost time, we were all hitting the wall around 5:00 tonight. I knew it wasn't going to be anything more strenuous than toasted cheese and tomato soup.

Now, that gap that the spoon is lying across was supposed to be filled with something. See, I was jonesing for something toothsome like a slaw, and DeCicco's had these really cute bunches of easter egg radishes—white, pink, red, purple. I remembered seeing somewhere a recipe for radish-celery slaw. I had celery. I also had a bulb of fennel.

In the spirit of "don't make a lot of what you haven't made before," I sliced thin 4 radishes, and the very interior heart of two bunches of celery, leaves and all. Then half a bulb of fennel, core removed and sliced thin thin thin, then I chopped up some of the fronds as well for flavor. I tossed it all with the 1/2" of vinaigrette that was left in the bottle. It tasted awesome, and I took a small forkful over to Panda.

"Celery-fennel-radish slaw," I said. "What do you think?"

She wrinkled her eyebrows. "Should be creamier, like cole slaw. Can you put some mayo in it?"

Dammit, she was right. I put in a squeeze of mayo and it was totally, completely perfect.

Now, I set the bowl aside on the kitchen counter and went in search of my camera so I could capture this for the blog. When I got back, here's what I found:

Between the two of them, Lovely and Dovely here polished off THE ENTIRE BOWL!! ON CHIPS!! I could barely get in over their shoulders to take a picture of it, and the one I got is very washed out so you can't see the pretty red, pink and purple edges of the radishes.

I was going to file this under "salads" but I guess I'll file it under "appetizers" instead?

Herbed Garlic Toasts

These are quick to make and fabulous to have on the side of soup or as an appetizer. In a small bowl mix 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, and 2 minced cloves garlic.

Place 12-16 1/4" slices Italian bread on baking sheet. Run under the broiler for 60 seconds to lightly toast.

Remove from oven and spread garlic mixture on each slice.

Run under broiler again for another 60 seconds.

If desired, top bread with shredded mozzarella cheese and broil an additional 15 seconds until cheese is melted.

Best Bar Nuts, Bar None

Taking off for the weekend. I made Union Square Cafe Bar Nuts for the car ride...

  • 18 ounces (2-1/4 cups) assorted unsalted nuts
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 teaspoons Maldon's sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary,coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Spread nuts on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until they are lightly browned, about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the melted butter, cayenne, sea salt, brown sugar, and rosemary. Thoroughly combine toasted nuts with the spiced butter and serve warm.



Ricotta Cheese: How easy was that?

Ina Garten, I love thee. I kiss your bare feet. Maybe not. Anyway I heard you on the radio last month (for Leonard Lopate's interview on WNYC click here) talking about your new book Barefoot Contessa: How Easy Is That? And you started talking about homemade ricotta cheese. Leonard sniffed at the idea, wondering if it were too much trouble, and you gave him a gracious smackdown, distilling the process into three stupidly simple steps. You mentioned you had taught Nora Ephron (I love thee, Nora, I miss you so so much) how to do it and she called you later and said she'd made ricotta cheese four times in one week. I was sold. I had to try this.

Ina Garten's Homemade Ricotta Cheese

  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons good white wine vinegar (I wasn't sure what she meant by good, I assumed that it should cost more than 99 cents. I bought Star because I like the shape of the bottle. We're not going for refined here, folks)
  • Cheesecloth (you don't eat it but you'll need it on your shopping list, unless you are one of those refined kinds who has cheesecloth to hand in your kitchen.)

Did you know that a quart of milk such as pictured above has exactly 4 cups? And that size of heavy cream has exactly 2 cups? I didn't either. Now we know.

Set a large sieve over a deep bowl. Dampen 2 layers of cheesecloth with water and line the sieve with the cheesecloth.

Pour the milk and cream into a saucepan, stir in the salt. Bring to a full boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

Turn off the heat and stir in the vinegar. Allow the mixture to stand for 1 minute until it curdles. It will separate into the thick parts (the curds) and the milky parts (the whey)

Pour the mixture into the cheesecloth-lined sieve and allow it to drain into the bowl at room temperature for 20 to 25 minutes, occasionally discarding the liquid that collects in the bowl (and occasionally jiggling the cheesecloth so you can see that yes, you really really have made cheese!). The longer you let it stand, the thicker the ricotta. Transfer the cheese to a bowl. Taste it immediately because you won't believe how good it is. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate up to 5 days.

So? (Or as my friend Debbie would say, Nu?)


Easy? Totally. Worth it?  Oh yeah. Complaints? Well, in regards to "occasionally discarding the liquid in the bowl", you really do end up pouring a lot of your milk and cream down the sink which seems like such a waste. I'm sure there's something you can do with whey although I'm forever biased by Laura Ingalls Wilder, who tasted the whey in Little House in the Big Woods and didn't like it.

So what do you do with this stunning bit of dairy deliciousness? Ina's idea was to mix the ricotta with herbs and make little bruschettas. So I did just that.  Ina's recipe was to blend in minced scallions, fresh dill and fresh chives.  I only had scallions, dried dill, and chopped parsley so I mixed that up. I toasted my bread, drizzled with olive oil, spread the cheese on......and ate three of them. Myself. Without sharing.

Besides the bruschetta, I have been sneaking spoonfuls of this out of the fridge, my daughter eats it on any available cracker, and tonight we put it in panzarella. Totally totally delicious and yes, stupid easy. Who knows, maybe I'll become one of those refined types who has cheesecloth to hand in my kitchen.