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Monday, August 31, 2015

Birthday For Two - End of Summer Party Menu

Party Perfect Specialty Cocktail - The Seabreeze 
This weekend was all about two very special people in my life (one big and one little), and the joint birthday we threw to celebrate them. Because we would be holding the event at my mom's weekend house on Long Island, a barbecue made perfect sense. 

Menu
For the main course, the general consensus was, resoundingly, Filet Mignon - who am I to argue? To make it extra special, I decided to prepare some make-ahead  Bearnaise Butter to melt over the Steaks as we served them.

For the Appetizers, I opted to keep it simple, reverting to a few of my old standbys - a great Shrimp Ceviche Dip that's always a big hit plus a few Cheese & Meat Plates and my favorite summer Caprese-style salad of rich Burrata Cheese, Tomato and Stone Fruit (this time using Heirloom Tomatoes, Plums and Peaches + a garnish of Micro Arugula). 

Dessert was easy (and store-bought, just as I like it) - a stupendous Vanilla Buttercream Birthday Cake from Southampton's Famous Tate's Bakeshop

Favors & Decor
Of course, it's not a party without favors. This was a fun challenge because our guests were to be adults and kids. I also had the urge to give out healthier treats (could I be growing up?), yet I needed to make sure they weren't disappointing (remember the lady that would give out raisins back when you trick-or-treated?).  


Favor Bags With Whale Bath Squirt Toys, Photo: NK

That''s why I was thrilled when I found these AMAZING Yummy Earth Organics Lollipops on Amazon (seriously, so good). The pops were perfect wrapped up along with my favorite Fruit Leather, in cute yellow and blue themed bags from Outside The Box Papers. I sealed the favor pouches with anchor stickers (we had a nautical theme) found on Minted.com. In fact, much of our coordinated party decor came from Minted. I also really loved the easy-to-assemble and affordable paper lanterns from Oriental Trading, which is a another great place for all your party needs (thanks to my sister-in-law for the tip). Oriental Trading was also the source of these cute Whale Bathtub Squirt Toys for the kiddies.  

LAST BUT NOT LEAST - Adult beverages!

I don't have to tell you that this is a must. The easiest way to serve a festive, seasonal cocktail is to serve just one kind - in our case, it was my husband's expertly mixed Seabreeze (as delicious as it is easy). And it's on-theme too! With the drinks mixed, I needed only to put out my and my Caprese Salad, Cheese Plate and Salumi Board, it was officially party time. Scroll down for the How To on our Cheese & Meat Plates and here is hoping your end of summer parties are filled with fun, family and great food too!  


The Appetizer Spread: Burrata, Tomato & Stone Fruit Salad, Salumi (Saucisson Sec + Prosciutto + Figs)
alongside a simple Cheese Plate, Photo: NK
French Inspired Cheese Plate, the How-To is below, Photo: NK 

How-To: French Inspired Cheese Plate 
Firm and Soft Cheeses - Cantal (firm) and St. Andre (soft, brie-like cheese)
Tiger Figs
Castelvetrano Olives (Ok- not French but Sicilian, and they're so amazingly good)
Sweet Surrender Black Grapes, or similar  
Carr's Water Crackers 
Italian Parsley Garnish


How-To: Simple Salumi Board
Sauccison Sec, dry French Sausage
Imported Aged Prosciutto Slices, cut into thirds
Tiger Figs

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Meatless Monday - Pappardelle With Summer Squash & Arugula

Hot on the heels of a fun-filled summer weekend, Monday can be a cruel mistress indeed. The good news is that you can always lift your spirits by serving up a delicious and easy meal in minutes. As you know, we try to make *many* of our Monday dinners meatless, and yesterday was no different. We tossed together a very tasty farmers market-sourced veggie pasta using a recipe from my latest Food & Wine Magazine as inspiration.

It combines thinly sliced Summer Squash and Zucchini with Arugula Pesto. Finish with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and you have yourself a much better Monday.


Pappardelle With Summer Squash & Arugula, Photo: NK





I lightly adapted the original dish both for ease (I had no desire to take out and later have to clean my food processor to create the Arugula Pesto component) and to make it nut free. Can you have a nut free pesto? Sure. In most cases, cooks will substitute seeds (Sunflower being a popular choice). I didn't even bother to add a nut-stand-in and, happily, the taste was just lovely anyway. If you want to be technical, you could call this dish a crudaiola, as all the vegetable ingredients that top the pasta are uncooked. 

Before we start, here's why I love this recipe and the adaptation I created:



IT'S FAST- Pappardelle is an egg-based pasta (though the shape is sometimes seen in egg-free format). If you've ever added Egg Noodles to a stew, you know that they cook in 3 or 4 minutes. It's the same idea here, making an already fast recipe (neither the Zucchini or Squash are cooked) even speedier. Note: If you can't find Pappardelle and opt for a more ubiquitous pasta, Fettucine (another wide and long noodle), would be a perfectly fine choice. 

IT'S A ONE POT MEAL- After you drain the pasta, use the same pot to toss all the ingredients together. 

IT'S MEATLESS MONDAY APPROVED

and finally, NO ELECTRICAL APPLIANCES NEEDED. I make hand cut pestos (with or without nuts) all the time because they are a great, rustic way to get the Pesto experience without having to clean yet another kitchen appliance (not that it's such a big deal, but you know, sometimes you just aren't in the mood). 

NOTE: If you happen to own a mandoline you'll be able to make very thin, uniform slices quite easily, but if you prefer to cut by hand, that would be just fine too ( I recommend cutting the long ribbons of Squash and Zucchini into halves or thirds if they do not end up as thin as you would like). This basic slicer or "handheld mandoline" is a useful and very economical tool to have in your kitchen. Another option would be to use a vegetable peeler to shave off thin slices.

Ok - here we go. 

Pappardelle With Summer Squash & Arugula
Lightly Adapted from Food & Wine 
Serves 4

Ingredients:
4 Cups Packed Baby or Regular Arugula Leaves

1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil + more for drizzling

1 teaspoon finely minced Garlic (or passed through a garlic press) approx. 2 large Cloves

1/2 Cup Freshly Grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese + a few shavings for garnish

Coarse Sea Salt

Black Pepper

1 medium Zucchini and 1-2 medium Yellow Squash, very thinly sliced lengthwise on a Mandoline or by hand. Alternately you can use a large vegetable peeler to create thin ribbons (point away from your hand).

3 Tablespoons Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice 

Zest of 1 Lemon 


Method:
1.This comes together quickly, have you prepped all your ingredients as above?  
Slice all vegetables, mince the Arugula as small as you can and crush or finely mince the Garlic. Zest and juice the Lemon and grate the Parmigiano Cheese.

2. In a large pot of well-salted boiling water, cook the Pappardelle according to package directions until just al dente. Turn the flame off and drain the pasta, reserving a few Tablespoons of the pasta water, and return drained pasta to the pot. 

3. Add the minced Garlic to the Oil and stir. Sprinkle the Minced Arugula all over the pasta, tossing as you go. Add the Squash and Zucchini Ribbons and toss again. Drizzle the Oil and Garlic over it all and continue to toss. Add the Lemon Juice and Lemon Zest. Toss. Finally, incorporate the Parmigiano, folding into the Pasta as you go. Use the reserved Pasta Water if you'd like a looser. Taste and then season to your liking with Coarse Sea Salt (I like to use French Grey Salt) and ample Black Pepper. Serve immediately with an extra sprinkle of Parmigiano. Enjoy!!!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Back To Basics - NK's Original Israeli Couscous Salad

Our Green Market Bounty + Heirloom Cherry Tomtoes, Photo: NK
It's that time again - time for our annual Couscous recipe.
This year, we're kickin' it old school with the Couscous that started it all - our original and perfectly simple Israeli Couscous with Tomatoes and Onions. Israeli Couscous is one of our go-to summer sides because it's super versatile, great for barbecues, can be made ahead (it tastes better the longer it sits) and served chilled or at room temperature. Finally, I like that it's just slightly less ubiquitous than regular old Pasta Salad (not that there's anything wrong with that).

Like any good basic, you can dress it up or down. Today's version is probably our most stripped down because it uses just a few widely available, everyday ingredients that are great in summer. (We're all about the tomato, as you can clearly see here). Do check out our past years' Couscous recipes HERE, HERE and DO get creative with this great little pearl shape Pasta on your own. You cannot go wrong and the possibilities are endless. 

What can I say? We love the stuff - whether you are looking to shake up your pasta salad or create the simplest side ever for your next barbecue, Israeli Couscous is a great choice. 

NOTE - For this recipe we used Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes because they were available at our green market and I always find that they lend a little something special (plus lots of color!) to recipes. If you can't find them, you can absolutely use any small tomato variety like Grape, Cherry, Sungold (the orangey-yellow kind) or even larger Tomatoes that have been chopped up.  

So here it is, the original and still best Israeli Couscous Salad With Tomatoes & Onions. Did someone say barbecue? 

Classic Israeli Couscous with Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes, Photo: NK


Classic Israeli Cous Cous & Tomato Salad

Serves 4 (double for larger groups)

Ingredients:  
1/2 cup dry Israeli couscous (we prefer Osem Brand) prepared in water according to package instructions. (Don't add salt) *see below for how to 'toast the couscous first
 

2 heaping tablespoons minced Italian parsley 
1 Cup Assorted Heirloom or Regular Grape or Cherry Tomatoes (cut in halves or quarters depending on their size)
1/2 Cup Red Onion, cut in a small dice. (About half a small red onion)

Dressing: 

2 teaspoons Olive Oil 

1 teaspoon Red Wine Vinegar (plus more to taste)

1/4 Teaspoon Sea Salt + more

Black Pepper


Method: 


1.*Optionally "toast" the Couscous to enhance flavor and color - To do this: Pour the Couscous into a dry pan and toast over medium heat shaking the pan and stirring occasionally until the Couscous begins to take on a bit of color on some, not all, of the pasta pearls. Keep an eye on it. It gets toasted quickly and can burn if you aren't watching. Turn off heat and proceed with the recipe. 


2. Prepare the Couscous in water according to package directions. (For more flavor, you can use an equal amount of low sodium Chicken Broth, but I would taste before adding the extra salt later). 


3. Let Couscous cool and then toss in the Tomatoes, Parsley and Onion.


4. Dress with 2 teaspoons or more good-quality Olive Oil and then add Red Wine Vinegar to taste (we use about 1 teaspoon). Stir. Finish with 1/4 teaspoon Sea Salt. Allow to sit in fridge before serving and bring to room temperature or serve chilled. Taste before serving and adjust seasonings if needed. 

**This dish is best served slightly chilled or at room temperature and tastes better the longer you let the flavor develop.You can make it a day in advance and the Couscous component as many as three days in advance.