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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Simply Elegant - Roasted Grapes

When it comes to food and entertaining, there is one mantra I live by: details matter, but the details should be simple. It's so true that with a tiny bit of extra care, you can elevate everyday items to be something special. I hope each and everyday that readers of Neurotic Kitchen can see how easy it is to turn out beautiful food with minimal effort - it just One way I like to elevate ordinary foods is by focusing on plating and pretty presentation. As is is oft repeated, you truly do eat with your eyes. 

The best hostess tricks not only enhance the beauty of a dish, but also the all-important taste of it.

The beautiful cheese board featuring Roasted Grapes -
 prepared by my friend Louise, Photo: NK 

And the little flourishes you add to your meal need not be complicated to add pizzazz or refinement (for whatever mood you're in).

I first learned about Roasted Grapes when my mom's good friend served them as part of a fantastic shower she catered in my honor. She used them to anchor the most beautiful cheese board. They also happened to taste great - they serve as a good example of how amazingly easy steps that make all the difference in flavor and presentation. 

Roasting Grapes concentrates their flavor and makes for a more interesting visual presentation. You can add them to Crostini or plate them as is with your Cheese Selection. They can't help but add elegance with almost no effort. 

Muscat Grapes Paired Perfectly with Baked Camembert, Photo: NK

Roasted Grapes

1 bunch of Seedless Grapes of your choosing - I like Red Globe or Muscat (pictured right) 

Olive Oil




Preheat the oven to 400.
On a baking sheet, toss small bunches of grapes in a Tablespoon or two of Olive Oil, and then sprinkle with salt and pepper. 

Bake for 17-20 minutes until slightly crisped and soft on the inside. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature - can be made a few hours in advance. 

Check out how my Roasted Grapes came out with baked Camembert and a toasty Baguette: 

Roasted Muscat Grapes and Baked Camembert with
Pear Jam & Thyme, Photo: NK 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Mad Men Farewell - New York Brunch Bites

It is only fitting that the show that has captured our imagination over the past eight years be sent off with a proper culinary bang. It's Mad Men Series Finale night, and we couldn't be sadder. Matthew Weiner's masterpiece has also inspired so many smashing menus here at Neurotic Kitchen. The ultimate New York T.V show pairs perfectly with New York's classic nosh, our twist on Lox on a Bagel. This bite-sized appetizer combines our classic Salmon Canape topping and turns it into a mini version of one of my MOST FAVORITE things in the world - Smoked salmon on an Everything Bagel with all the fixins. And, you guessed it, we'll be using our Everything Seasoning that I am, admittedly, obsessed with.

New York Brunch Bites, Photo: NK 

Enjoy, and goodbye Mad Men. Thanks for the memories. Sunday night won't be the same without you. 

New York Brunch Bites With Smoked Salmon, Creme Fraiche & Everything Topping
Makes about 16

Everything Topping Ingredients 
2 teaspoons Poppy Seeds
2 teaspoons Dried Onion Bits (We used Frontier Brand
2 teaspoons White Sesame Seed
2 teaspoons Dried Minced Garlic or Garlic Granules (not Garlic Powder)
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt

Canape Ingredients:
5 Ounces Organic Smoked Irish Salmon
1 small bunch of Fresh Dill
1 Lemon, zested with a microplane, and 7 or 8 long strips of zest cut in half (optional)
1/2 Cucumber, seeded and minced
1 Shallot, minced
3 Tablespoons Lemon Juice 
Black Pepper
5 Ounces Creme Fraiche
16 Bagel Chips without holes such as Stacy's     
Mix Everything Topping Ingredients.
Lay Bagel Chips on a work surface.

On a cutting surface, Stack Smoked Salmon Slices in layers and slice thin strips vertically. 
Turn your cutting surface ninety degrees, and slice the Salmon again vertically. This will create fine dice. Place diced Salmon in a medium bowl. 

Add grated Lemon Zest to Salmon mixture, and set the optional strips of Zest aside for garnishing later on.  
Combine Minced Cucumber, Minced Shallot, and Lemon Juice into Salmon Mixture. Add ample amount of Black Pepper to taste. Recipe can be prepared up to this point up to 6 hours before serving. Just cover mixture and place in the fridge if you choose. When ready to assemble, give the mixture a stir and add more Lemon Juice as desired.

To assemble, place a small dollop of Salmon Mixture atop the Bagel Chip. Top with a small drop of Creme Fraiche, and sprinkle with a liberal pinch of Everything Seasoning. Garnish with a sprig of Dill. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Salad As Art - Five Ingredient Grapefruit & Endive Salad

A thing of beauty is a joy forever. Or in the case of today's salad, for how ever long it takes you to eat it. Eye-catching salads are big in my book. Nothing is worse than a boring, or generally bland tasting salad (more about that HERE).  If your dish tastes as striking as it looks, all the better. Today's simple, brightly colored salad of Red Grapefruit and Endive is as pretty as they come. 

Grapefruit & Endive Salad, Photo: NK

This time, I served it alongside a hearty French style Hunter's Stew to lighten the mood a bit, but it would make a great addition to an elegant luncheon or as an extremely quick side for a delicate fish fillet. It's a stunner no matter how you present it. 

A quick prep with a big payoff, Photo: NK 

Ruby Red Grapefruit and Endive Salad
Serves 4 as a light side

1/2 Large Ruby Red Grapefruit, very ripe, peeled & cut into 1/2 inch sections + 1 Tablespoon Grapefruit Juice
2 Medium Belgian Endives, base cut off and leaves carefully separated
1 heaping Tablespoon Minced Italian Parsley
1 teaspoon Olive Oil
1/8 teaspoon Salt
Black Pepper
Flakey Salt to finish (French Grey Salt or other Coarse Sea Salt would be great choices)
Cutting the Endive, Photo: NK

1. In a bowl, toss Endive Leaves gently with the Grapefruit Sections. 

2. In another small bowl, mix the Olive Oil, 1/8 teaspoon Salt, Black Pepper and Grapefruit Juice. Mix.

3. Drizzle dressing over the Endive leads and toss again. 

4. To serve, arrange Endive leaves as pictured in a long rectangular or oval platter. Place Grapefruit sections as you see fit. 

5. Sprinkle with Parsley and one or two small pinches of Coarse Salt (optional). 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

French Kiss - Rose Mignonette for Oysters

Eight years ago to the day, my husband and I had our very first date. It was a warm but misty Thursday evening. I was going to be meeting him for the first time directly from work, and I worried that my hair would be a frizzy mess by the time I arrived. After sneaking away from my desk a bit early to carefully flat-iron it at my office (a girl can never have too many backup hair tools hidden away), I threw a scarf over my head and miraculously found a cab (no small feat at rush hour in midtown Manhattan) to take me to a bar at the Maritime Hotel in Chelsea. Fate was on the side of my hair that day, among other things!

My Beautiful Oyster Feast prepared by a special guy, Photo: NK

Upon entering the bar, I probably walked by him two or three times before finally calling his cell to see if he'd arrived. Turns out, my future husband was right there in front of me all along, I just hadn't recognized him because he was even cuter than his picture. One great date (filled with scintillating conversation and two **ok, I'm lying** glasses of very nice Nero d'Avola) and nearly a decade later, he's as lovable as ever. He shares my passion for food (teaching him to be a more confident cook and creating elaborate dinners together were major themes in our courtship) and he still makes me laugh on a daily basis. 

Six years ago in Greece where we got engaged! Photo: NK
Among the many qualities I admire about my hubby is his willingness to take on projects that require patience and precision. He's willing to practice things intently and takes pride in mastering new skills. 

That's why I knew he was just the person to tap when I decided that this summer was to be about my ever-growing obsession with Oysters! No sooner did I ask my main squeeze to buy the appropriate equipment (a special shucking knife and safety glove) and study up on how to shuck my favorite bivalve, than an expertly-prepared Oyster feast was before me. He definitely knows the way to my heart. 

Today, I am sharing my lovely twist on Classic Oyster Mignonette (a mixture of vinegar and shallots often seen as an accompaniment to Oysters on the Half Shell), which was my contribution to his aforementioned shellfish spread. Using a delicious Dry Rose (a classic Oyster pairing), I took traditional Mignonette and softened its acidic quality just a bit so that our Peconic Pearls could really shine. Making your own Mignonette takes minutes and it's the perfect, minimalist accoutrement to Oysters. I love cocktail sauce and horseradish as much as the next guy, but a little Mignonette really allows the Oysters to stand on their own. So here's to that special guy and the very special cocktail hour he made possible for me. 

Classic Mignonette with a splash of Dry Rose (Paumanok VIneyards, 2014) Photo: NK
Rose Mignonette for Oysters
Makes enough for about 2 dozen Oysters

1/4 Cup Red Wine Vinegar
1/4 Cup Dry Rose (we used Paumanok Vineyards, 2014)
2 heaping Tablespoons minced Shallot (from about 1 large Shallot)
1 generous pinch of Salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper

Combine all the ingredients and serve alongside freshly shucked Oysters on a bed of ice! 
The Mignonette can be made ahead.

Tip: If you're as into Oysters as I am, I recommend you check out In a Half Shell blog. It's the ultimate destination for Oyster lovers (including wonderful city guides on where to find the very best) written by a talented woman who eats, sleeps and breathes them. Enjoy!