Food from the Hart

Posts Tagged ‘food’

Great Finds: Retro Ice Crusher

In Great Finds on October 12, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Drinks always taste better over crushed ice. Whether it’s a coke or a cocktail, finely crushed ice adds that extra “yum” factor to beverages. Even if you don’t have an ice machine in your freezer door you can make your own crushed ice at home.  It’s easy, and the retro design of this guy makes for a cool statement piece, even in small kitchens.

With a design inspired by the 1950’s, this manual ice crusher makes both coarse and fine crushed ice. It’s not only great for drinks and cocktails, but for creating ice beds for vegetables or seafood. The slick chrome finish makes it totally appropriate on a bar or cocktail table at a party. Even cooler, it comes with a funky ice scooper for easy use!

Retro Ice Crusher by Frieling USA,  Amazon.com, $65.00

Halloween Fun: Turning the Dial Up on Your Classic Spook Fest

In Celebrations on October 9, 2011 at 5:44 pm

Halloween is often brushed aside as a children’s holiday. Though as we get older it gives seems to give us license to be someone or something else for one evening.  As children, black and orange, witches and goblins, chocolate and lollipops are enough. For most adults, free candy is simply not reason to embrace the holiday.

This year take your typical garish and goolish fright-fest and turn it into an elegant and evil soiree.  A couple easy cocktails, festive hors d’oeuvres, and a lot of black fabric is all your need to turn your small space into a something far from friendly.

It Begins with an Invite

The devil is really in the details when throwing a successful party.  The tone and feeling of the event begins the moment guests receive an invitation.  You can always go the route of sending paper invitations, but evite.com and paperlesspost.com are easy, cost-effective and earth-friendly.  Each site has a number of Halloween-themed designs to choose from. Remember, this isn’t a child’s party.  Pick a theme that matches the scene you are trying to set.

Set the Scene

Halloween is all about over-the-top theatrics. Don’t be afraid to really play up the ambience. Here are some easy tips for creating the perfect Hallows Eve look:

  • Use black as your base color and work from there, adding tiny pops of dark orange, white and gold.
  • Purchase inexpensive black fabric from a craft store and use to cover table tops and wrap lamp shades for a dark and dramatic look.
  • Place groupings of black taper candles along with smaller tea candles around the space. Use as a main source of light once the party begins.
  • Create creepy tableaux out of old books, skulls, crystal balls and apothecary bottles filled with water and orange food coloring.
  • Raid the party supply store for black leaf garland and cobwebs to drape over lamps, bookshelves and tables.
  • Check out the local flower market for black tulips, burgundy calla lilies, and black roses. Use together in flower arrangements to place around.
  • Turn on televisions and have old black and white films playing on mute.  Anything Hitchcock would work brilliantly.
  • Create a spooky music mix with the help of one of I-Tunes pre-set playlists or pick your favorite Halloween jam and plug into Pandora.

What to serve

Let your menu take a cue from your setting.  Small bites, cocktails and devilish desserts are all your need to round out the evening. Here are a few menu suggestions:

Savory

Spicy Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Chicken Leg Lollipops

Skeleton Fingers

Roasted Potato Moons

Sweet

Monster Eyeballs

Brain Cookies

Bowls of Assorted Candy

Cocktails

Dark and Stormy

Blood Orange Martini

Chicken Leg Lollipops

In Recipes on October 9, 2011 at 5:40 pm

Yield: 24 hors d’oeuvres

Cooking Time: 45 minutes

24 chicken drumettes, skin on

2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup all-purpose flour

2/3 cup buttermilk

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 1/2 teaspoon paprika

2 cups panko bread crumbs

preparation

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Stand a drumette on its wide end and, holding the narrow bone at the top, use a paring knife to push and scrape the skin and meat downward to expose the bone and make a plump “lollipop” of chicken at the bottom. Repeat with the remaining drumettes. Season generously with salt and pepper and set aside.

In a wide bowl or on a plate, season the flour with salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Dredge each chicken piece through the flour so it’s fully coated, tap against the bowl to shake off excess flour and set aside. Discard the flour.

In a large bowl (big enough to dredge the chicken pieces), mix the buttermilk, mustard, cayenne pepper and paprika. Give each floured chicken piece a good buttermilk bath and then roll in the panko crumbs.

Arrange the drumettes (standing up if you can) on a rack set over a baking sheet. Roast until chicken is cooked and the bread crumbs are golden brown and crisp, 20 to 25 minutes.

Blood Orange Martini

In Recipes on October 9, 2011 at 5:20 pm

Yield: 1 cocktail

3 ounces vodka

1/2 ounce triple sec or flavored orange liqueur

2 ounces blood orange juice

2 blood orange slices

preparation 

Pour vodka, triple sec, and blood orange juice over ice in a shaker.  Shake well.  Serve in a chilled martini glass and garnish with blood orange slices.

Fall Produce: Belgian Endive

In Product Spotlight on October 5, 2011 at 5:30 pm

The crisp, juicy texture and bittersweet flavor of Belgian Endive provides a nice contrast to other fall and winter vegetables. Belgian Endive has a graceful shape and lovely muted color, adding elegance to salads, appetizers and side dishes. It also plays well when cooked, the leaves become tender and rich with a subtle nutty flavor, it’s almost like a different vegetable.

Picking the Best

Look for endive that is snow-white with slightly yellow tips.  The leaves should be firm and show no signs of browning or wilting. Choose a head that feels more dense for its size than others.  To increase the self life of endive, store in a dark, cool place.  Wrapping the heads with paper towel and popping them in the vegetable crisper works well.  If the endive is exposed to too much light the leaves will begin to turn green and taste bitter. They are best when used within 3 days.

Preparing Belgian Endive

Belgian Endive can be eaten raw or cooked.  Before you deiced how you plan to prepare it you will want to pull off any outer leaves that look brown and wilted.  Use a damp cloth to then wipe down the rest of the head and leaves.  If you are cutting raw endive for a salad, wait until just before serving to do so, as its cut edges brown quickly.

Endive that will be grilled, broiled, or braised benefits from a quick steam first.  Simply put a few slices of lemon in the water and steam the whole head.  This should only take 5-8 minutes at most.

How to Use it

Endive is a very versatile vegetable. When raw, it’s good in salad or as an all-natural vehicle to serve with dips, spreads or even filled with items as a hors d’oeuvre.  Endive is also wonderful when cooked.  Try putting the whole head on the grill with olive oil, salt and pepper or braising in the oven.  It even tastes great when simply cut in a chiffonade and sautéed.

Incorporate Belgium Endive into You Next Meal

  • Create a healthy hors d’oeuvre by serving smoked salmon on raw Belgian endive leaves with crème fraîche and chives.
  • Toss sliced endive, orange segments, watercress and walnuts with a little balsamic vinaigrette for a wonderful fall salad.
  • Braise by cutting the endive heads in half and browning them cut side down.  Add chopped carrots, onions and celery and cook until golden brown.  Add chicken stock and simmer, covered, until tender.
  • Saute sliced endive over high-heat with a little olive oil and butter.  Add fresh baby spinach, minced garlic and crushed red pepper flakes.  Serve with a squeeze of fresh lemon.

Tip of the Day: Streamline Your Pantry

In Tips on September 29, 2011 at 11:39 am

Three boxes of half empty sugar, two-year old flour closed with a rubber band, brown rice scattered on the cabinet shelf; a variable war zone of common pantry items.  Does this sound familiar? With limited space it’s easy to fall victim to chronic pantry disorganization.

Avoid becoming just another statistic and try streamlining your pantry.  I suggest purchasing hermetic glass jars to store dry ingredients. You’ll be able to see what you have on hand and stay organized. They’re inexpensive and seal to keep moisture and air out, keeping items fresher, longer.  If you want to get really fancy, label and date each jar.

To purchase: The Container Store, $2.99 each

 

Stinging Nettles

In Product Spotlight on June 3, 2011 at 12:12 pm

There’s something really fun about eating a wild plant that, when uncooked, causes burning poison ivy like pain.  But for you adventurous eaters out there, when cooked properly, this plant is not only nutritious but delicious!  The leaves have a mild flavor that is like spinach – only better!

Buy the Best

These are true delicacies and you will be hard pressed to find them anywhere other than local farmers markets (unless you forage for them yourself, which I don’t recommend). Word to the wise, make sure you always handle raw nettles with gloves.  The tiny stinging hairs will hurt and cause redness. When at the market look nettles that are vibrant green and firm.  Avoid those that look brown, yellow or wilted.

What to do with Nettles

Always handle raw nettles with gloves! Rinse them well and remove the stems.  You can leave the leaves whole, chopped or chiffonade.  If you’re still with me and haven’t been scared off, you can cook these guys as you would any leafy green.  You can blanch, steam, or sauté and add to a variety of meals like pastas, grains, frittatas, risottos or simply as an accompaniment to a hearty protein.

Adding Stinging Nettles to your Next Meal

  • Saute with shallots, butter and some red pepper and serve alongside grilled filet or chicken breast.
  • Add sautéed nettles to risotto with leeks and english peas.
  • Throw into a hearty brunch frittata with bell peppers, onions and mushrooms.
  • Make a pesto with nettles, spinach and ramps.  Try substituting the pine nuts for walnuts.

 

Panzanella

In Recipes on May 26, 2011 at 5:15 pm

Yield: 6 servings

Cooking Time: 15 minutes

Panzanella salad is a very classic italian recipe developed as a way to use stale bread. This is a recipe I adapted from Ina Garten’s 2001 cookbook, Barefoot Contessa Parties!  It’s a great summer time salad that’s filling and fresh!

1 small stale French bread cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/2-inch thick

1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes

1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes

1/2 red onion, cut in 1/2 and thinly sliced

20 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped

3 tablespoons capers, drained

For the vinaigrette:

1 teaspoon finely minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar

1/2 cup good olive oil

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

preparation

For the vinaigrette, whisk all the ingredients together.

In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, red onion, basil, and capers. Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Serve, or allow the salad to sit for about half an hour for the flavors to blend.

Tip of the Day: Chill Wine in a Flash

In Tips on May 24, 2011 at 11:20 am

It’s 6 o’clock on Friday evening and you have guests coming over in 30 minutes.  Apps plated, the table is set, flowers look great, but you forgot to chill the Sauvignon Blanc.  Fear not.  Wet a dish towel and wring it out.  Wrap it around the bottle of wine and throw it the freezer for 15-20 minutes.  When you take it out, you will have a perfectly chilled bottle of wine for guests to enjoy! It doesn’t get much easier or quicker than that. Happy partying!

Dining Alfresco! Summertime Picnic Guide

In Features on May 18, 2011 at 12:24 pm

It’s May. And while it might not feel like it now, summer is right around the corner.  If you’re like me than you are itching to grab a blanket, some friends, good eats and celebrate being outside.  This isn’t always an easy feat in a city full of concrete.  Lacking significant backyards urbanites flock to the grassy oasis of Central Park.  As the weather heats up, forget having a party inside and throw a picnic party! It’s a great way to celebrate a romantic mid-day lunch or a boozy afternoon of frisbee with friends.  Regardless of the occasion, this is your ultimate guide to bringing you big party from a small space to the great outdoors.

Best Picnic Spots for Any Occasion

Romantic Party for Two

Shakespeare Garden

Located on the West side at 79th Street, the Shakespeare Garden is an often overlooked area of Central Park.  This lovely hideaway is bursting with beautiful plants and flowers that pay homage to Shakespeare and his many famous plays. The smell of rosemary will dance off your nose as you wander the winding flora filled paths.  There are several secluded nooks and small grassy knolls, perfect for an afternoon tryst for two.

Great for the Group

Sheep Meadow

15 acres of open grass make this an ideal spot for hosting a picnic party.  Located right off the 66th Street transverse in the center of the park, it’s easily accessible for East and Westsiders alike. Even better, the restrooms are right next door!  Word to the wise, bring your blanket and set up camp early, Sheep Meadow is always crowded on those perfect New York days.

Bring the Games

The Great Lawn

The Great Lawn, great for many reasons! First, it’s smack in the middle of the park between 79th and 85th Street.  Impossible to miss for even novice park explorers. This 55 acre green oasis leaves plenty of room to host everything an ultimate Frisbee game to tag football. For a more organize day of sporting fun, the Lawn has eight regulation sized baseball diamonds. The diamonds can be reserved for a fee.  For reservation information go to the Athletic Permits page of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation page.

Iconic NYC

Cherry Hill

Overlooking the Lake and the iconic Bow Bridge, Cherry Hill is nestled west of Bethesda at 72nd Street.  The hill got its’ name from the wonderful Cherry Blossoms that bloom every spring. Cherry Hill also features the Cherry Hill Fountain, another spot featured in many movies and television shows. No matter where you pop-a-squat you can be sure you’re taking in a piece of New York some only see on the big screen.

In a World of its Own

The Conservatory Garden

There aren’t many places in New York where you can truly get away from it all. The Conservatory Garden is a place you can.  It’s the only formal garden in Central Park and features three individually curated gardens; English, French and Italian. Located off 5th Ave at 105th Street, the garden is quiet with a number of secluded spots, perfect for a peaceful afternoon of al fresco dining.

Essential Tips for Successful Picnicking

Two for One – To keep your butt and food dry, try laying out trash bags under the blanket, when you’re done, simple lift the blanket and use the trash bags for garbage.

No Glass Allowed– Bring glass to a picnic is often just asking for trouble. Opt for cans of beer or boxes of wine instead.  I’m not suggesting gas station white Zinfandel, there are plenty of quality boxed wines on the market now.  Here are a few of my favorites, I promise they won’t disappoint.

Blackbox Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles ($22, 3 liters)

French Rabbit Pinot Noir Vin de Pays d’Orc 2006 ($10, 1 liter)

Three Thieves Bandit Pinot Grigio 2006 ($9, 1 liter)

Set the Mood– Okay, you’re outside, how much more mood do you need? I would answer, you can always make a party more festive with a little music and soft light.  Bring along an I-pod and cordless speakers, if you don’t have one, ask a friend.  Music, even in the park can make all the difference. If you’re hosting a late-afternoon / evening shindig, consider bring battery operated tea candles for a little extra ambiance.

Keep it Clean– There’s nothing worse than being in the great outdoors with sticky, dirty hands after eating.  I suggest stocking up on wet wipes or for a greener option, pack a wet towel or dishcloth in a ziploc bag.  You’ll be happy and so will your guests!

Cold is Key– Lots of water is a picnic must, especially on a hot day.  Purchase bottled water the night before and throw in the freezer before you go to sleep. Make sure to empty out a little water before putting them in the freezer.  Use the frozen bottles as ice packs to keep your food cold and as an added bonus you’ll actually have cold water to serve guests. This little trick also cuts down on the amount of stuff you have to carry!

Must Haves– There’s no doubt, picnicking can be a pain.  The planning, organizing and schlepping is enough to give anyone a headache. Here’s a list of frequently forgotten picnic necessities.

  • Wine / bottle opener (if you’re not convinced about the box!)
  • Napkins
  • Glasses
  • Knife
  • Flatware
  • Plates
  • Water
  • Wet towel or wet wipes
  • Trash bags
  • Cutting board
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
Get the Gear

The market place is flooded with a plethora of picnic supplies.  You can find everything from all-in-one picnic baskets on wheels to collapsible chairs.  Here are some of my favorite website to get the latest in picnicking gear.

Everything Picnic, www.everythingpicnic.com

Picnic Fun, www.picnicfun.com

Picnic Baskets, www.picnic-baskets.com

Picnic Food Favs

I could go on for days about good picnic food (I’m clearly a huge fan of dining in nature).  Of course your menu will depend on what type of picnic party you’re hosting. An intimate sunset for two, baseball game for 20, impromptu afternoon for six, each occasion calls for a different spin.

Regardless of the event, anything you bring to a picnic must be easy to eat, easy to transport, require little onsite prep and not temperature sensitive. Be creative with your menus!  To help get your juices flowing, here are some of my personal picnic classics! Remember, never hesitate to take the stress out of cooking and go pot luck!

Make a Meal of It

Perfect Oven Fried Picnic Chicken

Old-Fashion Coleslaw

Fingerling Potato Salad

Mint and Lime Infused Watermelon Slices

No Silverware Required 

Greek Salad Pitas

Turkey Club Wraps

Chips and Salsa

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Nosh Fest

Charcuterie Platter

Assorted Cheese and Bread Basket

Fresh Fruit

Chocolate Brownies


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