We often have a dinner of meze, tapas, small dishes, apps…whatever you call it – we love a dinner of many small plates to share. For Thanksgiving, there is no such thing as “small” anything. These are some of the appetizers we made this year: stuffed artichokes (full disclosure: my husband makes the crowd favorite artichoke…I still don’t know how that happened, but here we are), stromboli, sauteed rock shrimp (not always easy to find, but if you can DO IT!) and, the piece di resistance, sauteed zucchini flowers. These beauts are super hard to find, very seasonal and exceptionally fragile. I can always find them at Eataly in NYC (Flatiron) anytime of the year (they are imported from Israel) and during the late Spring at the Union Square farmer’s market. They only stay fresh for a day or two so you pretty much have to cook them immediately. If you want the 411 on how to purchase and prepare these yummies, send me a message and I’ll fill you in.
This was the smallest Thanksgiving I’ve ever hosted and thusly the smallest turkey I’ve ever bought (13 lbs). It was also our first Thanksgiving in New York in five years – everything was different this year – thanks a lot COVID. In any case, we had a great meal with lots of great appetizers, side dishes and desserts. I’ll break the food up in stages here since there was so much. I was thankful to have my hubby, daughter, her boyfriend and my best friend for the day, we had a really awesome Thanksgiving despite 2020.
This year, because my kitchen is so small in NY, I decided to dry brine my turkey instead of a wet brine (I imagined a disaster of wet brine leaking all over the fridge) I actually think the dry brine was much, much better. The dry brine was simply fresh herbs (thyme, sage, dill, parsley, salt, pepper mixed with a bit of EVOO – which created a thick paste) I slid a knife just beneath the skin (careful to not pierce skin) and rubbed the mixture generously under the breast, legs and cavity nd over the top of the skin with whatever mixture was left. This sat in fridge UNCOVERED – you want the salt to do its magic and dry the skin out a bit before cooking. The next day I put some soft butter under the skin as well, stuffed turkey cavity with homemade potato bread stuffing (!!) and put a halved apple in the butt (to keep the turkey extra moist and delish). Right before putting the bird in the oven I massaged it with a little EVOO, salt and pepper and fresh thyme, then put aluminum foil around the wings to prevent burning. I also put some fresh cut onions, carrots and celery in the bottom of the pan with about 2 cups of cold water (this base will make your gravy when it’s all cooked). Beside the stuffing we made a side dish of roasted root vegetables (potato, sweet potato, butternut squash, beets, and onion) – tossed with fresh herbs and EVOO and then baked for about 45 minutes.
I know there are folks out there that really love cranberry sauce from a can. That gelatinous, cylindrical, wiggly cranberry mass that sits at the Thanksgiving table. I am not one of those folks. When my daughter was little I started making homemade cranberry sauce in defiance of my canned cranberry sauce parents. It was super easy, fun (watching the cranberries pop as they became cooked) and the color was stunning. It soon became a staple for thanksgiving. This will be a short post (I’m going crazy cooking for tomorrow) but maybe one that you can use for tomorrow. Pro-tip: I usually double this recipe so we have leftovers for that midnight post tryptophan nap…
I mean, which looks better?
1 bag (3 cups) of fresh cranberries
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of water
(Yes, that’s all!)
How to: bring water and sugar to a boil (stir a bit so sugar is incorporated). Add whole cranberries to simple syrup and let cranberries cook for between 8-10 minutes until mixture boils again (you’ll start to hear the cranberries pop). Remove pan from heat and let cool. Put in a pretty dish (a white bowl makes the cranberries super pretty!) and let cool overnight. Take it out of fridge long enough to bring to room temperature before serving. Enjoy!
Happy, happy Thanksgiving!
This hearty, earthy soup is pure comfort food. Fresh ingredients always prevail when you want the best end product possible. Fresh dill, chicken, lemons all come together in this traditional Greek dish. I start by seasoning a chicken breast with salt, pepper and a little EVOO and baking it in oven until cooked (about 20 minutes depending on the size of the chicken breast). Remove from oven and let cool. Next I make a rich chicken broth, you can do this using a store bought broth or homemade – make a large pot of broth so that there’s plenty of soup. I then scramble 1 egg in a mug and add the juice from 3 freshly squeezed lemons and set aside. Add 1 box of orzo to chicken broth and cook until slightly al dente (about 9-11 minutes). Dice up cooked chicken. Remove pot from heat after orzo is cooked. Slowly add one ladle of broth from orzo to the scrambled egg/lemon juice mixture Make sure you are mixing constantly so you don’t end up with scrambled eggs. Add chicken to the pot, then add the egg/lemon/broth mixture to the pot of soup stirring well to incorporate. Season generously with dill and fresh pepper. Of course garnishing with grated cheese is an awesome idea!
- Chicken breast (or even leftover cooked skinless chicken)
- Salt, pepper
- Chicken broth
- 1 box of orzo
- 1 egg
- 3 fresh lemons
- 1 bunch of fresh dill
Being over quarantine is a great excuse for a best friend brunch. My finicky friend required me to do some menu tweaking. What I came up with was a simple, healthy brunch that we both enjoyed. Mini-crustless spinach and feta quiche with a side greek salad.
Ingredients for quiche:
- 6 whole eggs
- 1 Tablespoon of butter
- 3 cups fresh chopped spinach
- 1 Tablespoons of EVOO
- 3/4 cup of feta cheese
Scramble eggs well (I use my Kitchen Aid on high to incorporate air, making eggs light and fluffy). In saute pan melt butter and add spinach, saute for about 4 minutes. Using a paper towel grease cupcake pan with EVOO. Add equal amounts of spinach to each tin, followed by adding equal amounts of egg to each tin and then top off with equal amounts of feta. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes (you can check doneness by sticking quiches with a toothpick, which should come out clean when removed).
Lemon chicken! There are so many versions of this dish, and they’re all good. I mean, how yummy does this look?
Here’s all you need to do:
I butterflied the cutlets so they were not too thick. Season with salt & pepper. Dredge cutlets in flour. Heat 1 cup of canola oil in sauté pan. Add cutlets to pan cook about 5 minutes per side (check to make sure cutlets are cooked through). Remove cutlets from pan and place on wire rack. Take the juice from 4 or 5 lemons and add to pan (if there’s more than 1/4 cup of oil left in pan remove excess before adding lemon juice). Add 2 tablespoons of butter, season with salt and pepper and add 1/4 cup of capers to pan. Heat through and return cutlets to pan. Spoon lemon sauce over cutlets to make sure they’re all covered.
I served this last night with Israeli couscous and sauteed broccoli rabe. But rice and a salad would work well too.
Here’s what you need to have on hand:
- Chicken Cutlets
- Canola Oil
- 4-5 fresh lemons, squeezed
- 2 tablespoons of butter
- Salt, Pepper
- 1/4 cup of drained capers
After a busy Saturday we wanted something easy but yummy for dinner, signal the falafel! Super easy, tweakable recipe with a nice side of tzatziki to pull it all together. I’ll start with the tzatziki, which I could literally eat a bowl of just by itself! I have found with this sauce it’s best to strain the yogurt for a few hours or overnight. This allows for the yogurt to really thicken up and have a creamy consistency when mixed with other ingredients. It’s not necessary, but I do think it improves the final product.
I use Fage 0% yogurt (17.6 oz. container). I like the taste and consistency (and it’s closest to the yogurt we ate in Greece!) If you have time, strain overnight (just plop yogurt in a sieve over a bowl and let it rest in the fridge). Mix in the following ingredients:
1. Handful of minced fresh dill
2. 1/2 teaspoon of finely minced fresh garlic
3. (Optional: 1 chopped scallion)
4. Salt & pepper to taste
That’s it! Mix it all together and you’ve got a yummy traditional Greek side. Now for the falafel.
1 Large can of chickpeas (28 oz. – I like the Goya brand)
2 scallions chopped
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1/4 teaspoon of each: Cumin, turmeric, salt, pepper
2 whole eggs
1 tablespoon baking powder
A few tablespoons of flour to bind up mixture
First mash up the chick peas (I don’t like them too mushy-you don’t want hummus! I leave a few chick peas just slightly broken to give it a rustic texture). You can do this by using a fork or a immersion blender. Once this is done, add all ingredients but the flour and mix very well. After mixing sprinkle in a bit of flour – just enough so that you can form a ball or patty from a tablespoon of the mixture. Once you have the right consistency you can form the mixture. I make patties not balls because I pan fry them rather than deep fry. I feel like the patties cook more consistently.
In a sauté pan, heat about 1/2 inch of EVOO, add patties (don’t overcrowd the pan). Once in oil leave them alone for about 3 minutes. Flip when golden brown. When second side is cooked, remove from pan and place on plate lined with paper towels.
Serve with a side of the tzatziki and a salad and you have a great Mediterranean dinner!
We have a good friend that is a boat captain. A few times a year he is hired as the captain of a fishing boat in Alaska (chartered by the rich and famous LOL). He has great adventures there, and always brings us back fresh fish that he’s caught during these trips. There is no comparison to what he brings us, the halibut, the salmon…it’s just amazing. The colors are bright and the flavors super fresh. I try to prepare whatever he’s brought us simply so that the true flavors shine through. Here’s how we made the halibut a few nights ago.
Halibut in a light beer batter:
- Mix 1/2 cup of flour with 3/4 bottle of beer (dark lager works well, but whatever you have on hand will work) whisk well until blended (mixture should be thinner than pancake batter, adjust mixture as necessary). Season with salt & pepper. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes.
- Cut fish (in this case halibut) into thick strips (see pic below).
- In heavy saucepan heat about 1/2 inch of EVOO.
- Remove batter from fridge, whisk a bit to make sure everything is blended together. Then dredge each fish strip into batter.
- Carefully drop each coated fish strip into hot oil. Do not move for about 2 minutes (otherwise you’ll tear off the batter and probably tear the fish). After about 2 minutes (bottom should be lightly browned) flip fish over and finish cooking other side. When fully cooked remove fish from oil and place on paper towel lined plate, season with pepper and lemon. Voila!
This evening we served this with lemon infused fingerling potatoes and fried mini eggplants that we found at the farmer’s market.
An easy midweek dinner for us is seafood pasta. I’m all about fresh ingredients, prepared simply and this is definitely one of those dishes. I’m always tweaking recipes so, particularly for this dish, there are no rules. For the seafood, I’m lucky to have a good seafood monger near me in both NY and Clearwater. So far as what seafood to buy? I get maybe 3 or 4 small portions of whatever seafood looks freshest when shopping.
Let’s get this dish going. For today, let’s say I just bought 1/2 dozen clams, 1 pound of shrimp and a small piece of cod (my favorite). This is how you pull it together:
- Bring large pot of decently salted water to boil.
- In large saucepan sauté 2 cloves of minced garlic and 1/4 cup of diced sweet onion. Add 2 cups of water with 2 bullion cubes to saucepan and bring to a boil. Drop in clams and lower flame. When all clams are open (discard any that do not, or you’ll get bad clam belly LOL), drop in shrimp (I clean, devein and remove tails, but I know folks also like to keep the tail on). When shrimp turn pink, drop in cubed pieces of cod and continue to cook on low flame until cod is cooked through (about 4 minutes). Cod will fall apart, this is perfectly fine as it will thicken up the sauce.
Pro-tip: I sometimes use lobster tail, flounder, grouper – buy what looks freshest and prepare in the same way.
- Put your pasta in rapidly boiling water (we like a Barilla Bucatini – it’s a thick spaghetti with a hole in the center – but fettuccini, spaghetti or whatever you like will work). Cook until al dente (about 9 minutes – do a taste test – you can always cook it more, you can’t cook it less…) Using a spaghetti scoop put pasta in saucepan with seafood mixture adding water from the pasta pot as necessary to create the thickness of sauce that you want (we like about 2-3 scoops of pasta water).
- You can add cooked broccoli rabe or sautéed spinach for a fancy touch. Garnish with chopped parsley, grated cheese, salt & pepper and that’s it!
The prep time for this meal is under 30 minutes so it’s a great weeknight go-to. Enjoy!
No one delivers better than mom…
Growing up in Queens there were strong pizza affiliations – Carlos’, Sal’s, Ben’s, Newpark, dare I mention Big Bow Wow…yes, I’m that old (barely). In any case, it’s fun sometimes to try to create a masterpiece pizza. Who doesn’t like playing with the dough, and creating their own pizza? Truthful moment – my homemade pizza comes out excellent about 40% of the time…true I cook in two very different environments (NYC gas oven, Clearwater convection electric) but I just can’t quite figure it out. I have tossed many a pizza whose crust is half baked and cheese either burnt or not cooked, or both. So I’ll spare you a disingenuous sharing of a recipe here and leave you with one of my pizza success story pictures. I wish you luck and invite you to share (please) any pointers here that I can build on. I know someone has this figured out!