Category Archives: Menus

New Year’s Eve Dinner, a New Blog Feature and a Resolution

With this post, I’ll be starting a new TBTAM feature – menus for entertaining. I realized that I often find myself asking MR TBTAM “What was that such-and-such we served that time when so-and-so came over for dinner?” I decided I needed a record of menus we’ve served, and where else would I keep it but here on the blog? I’ll put a widget on the sidebar so you can access menus when you’re looking for inspiration.

Goat Cheese, Caviar and Dill Flatbread

What better way is there to welcome the New Year than dinner with good friends? The kids being home from college for the holidays gave the gathering an even more than usual specialness.

We started dinner late (about 8:30 pm), and served in formal courses so the meal stretched out till almost midnight. Will Shortz’s fabulous new game Tribond provided entertainment between dinner and dessert. (My kids love Tribond so much they even play it with their friends when we grownups aren’t around.) Then it was up to the roof to join the joyful city noise and bask in the distant reflected glow from the fireworks in Central Park.

This year’s meal was truly a group effort. Friends Paula, Linda and Andy supplied appetizers and dessert, and in a family first, my daughter Emily made both the soup and the salad, and she did a fabulous job. I have to admit, though, sharing the kitchen with her in the afternoon pre-party really threw off my timing – I hadn’t realized how much of a cooking rhythm Mr TBTAM and I have developed in all these years of throwing dinner parties.

It may have been because she pretty much took over the stovetop and counters. Or that I can’t order her around the way I can my husband. Whatever it was, at a certain point I found myself almost paralyzed and unable to continue until I had the kitchen back again. (Irene, now I understand how you feel when we kids storm your kitchen.) So I spent some time focusing on setting a gorgeous table, a task I usually leave to the kids at the last minute. It was really fun to play around with the place settings, new tablecloth and placemats, and see how pretty it turned out!

As a result of all my futzing, however, Mr TBTAM and I hadn’t even started the chicken by the time the guests arrived, leaving me feeling almost explosively stressed. Believe me, there was no cause for stress other than my own perfectionism – these were dear friends, and the only person I was impressing was myself. Why I couldn’t just relax and see it as a joyful experience is a topic my readers can feel free to weight in on, but I’m sure there is something Freud could say about it.

Fortunately, Andy and Paula helped us in the kitchen, and soon enough everyone was happily downing wine and appetizers, the chicken was simmering and I was able to relax and enjoy the wonderful company of my friends and family.

New Year’s Resolution #1 – Learn to chill. Happy New Year to all!

A New Years Eve Dinner Party for 12

Two Flatbreads made using this dough recipe – one recipe makes two sheet pan-sized flatbreads
– Goat cheese, dill and caviar (Serve with a dollop of sour cream or creme fraiche – I forgot to)
– Shredded Fontina, Parmesan and Pesto
Homemade Bulgarian grapeleaves, olives and Greek cheese (thanks, Paula!)

First Course
Mixed greens with choice of balsamic-honey vinaigrette (recipe will follow) or lemon vinaigrette

Butternut Squash Soup with Fried Sage Leaves

Second Course
Butternut Squash Soup with Fried Sage Leaves – a TBTAM favorite.

Main Course
Tarragon Chicken Fricassee – (Double recipe) Fabulously easy and delicious. From Epicurious.
Thyme-Roasted Carrots – (Double recipe) My new favorite carrot recipe. I’ll do a blog post soon with photos on this one.
Lightly Buttered Egg Noodles (One large bag)

Tarragon Chicken Fricassee

Brownies and Chocolate Ruggelah with Vanilla Ice Cream (Thanks, Linda!)
Turkish Delight (Thanks, Paula!)
Grapes (Thanks Andy!)

White Wine
Sparkling Cider
Iced Tap Water for the table

Farmers’Market Foray – Or What to do with Ramps and Fennel

I find the challenge for us as a busy family is incorporating local foods into a busy lifestyle. Our neighborhood Farmer’s market is only open on Saturdays, and we don’t live near enough to Union Square to go there on a regular basis during the week.

And then, of course, there is the fact that Mr TBTAM likes to go to Fairway on the way home from work to see what’s there to inspire tonight’s dinner. So it was a bit of a tussle between us on Saturday as I convinced him to change it up a bit – see what’s at the Farmer’s Market on Saturday when we have time to go together, and plan the week’s menus around that.

We decided to start small. Really small. With a bunch of lovely garlic ramps and some baby anise from the Union Square market.

Our first dinner tonight with Victor, who is with us for two weeks from Barcelona on an exchange student visit, provided the perfect opportunity to use these ingredients in a meal that would show him some traditional American cuisine – Chicken and potatoes. “Ramped up” a bit, of course.

Ramps n’ Taters

Ramps, or wild leeks, are quintessentially American. Appalachian to be more specific. Native to North America and growing wild in the woods, they provide spring sustenance for early Native Americans and mountain folk for generations. Ramps with potatoes and bacon is a traditional Appalachian dish. We cut back significantly on the bacon, but traditional recipes will use up to a pound of it. Add eggs at the end to make it a complete meal.

3 slices Bacon
1 bunch of garlic ramps, thoroughly washed
6 potatoes, washed and cut into bit sized pieces
Salt, pepper and paprika to taste

Wash the ramps well. Cut off the tip of the root and slice into 1/4 inch pieces. Spin or towel dry

Fry the bacon in a skillet till crisp and remove to a paper towel to drain.

Add the potatoes to the bacon fat and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the ramps and fry till done. Crumble and toss in the previously fried bacon and serve.

Sauteed Chicken with Fennel and Rosemary

This is a modification of a recipe from Food and Wine. I know it is probably a bit more Mediterranean than American in flavor, but we used the Farmer’s Market fennel and that made me proud. This dish has a very light and delicious sauce.

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 bunches baby fennel, cut into 1/2-inch slices
2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chicken broth
4 organic chicken legs, split into thighs and drumsticks
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil is a large saute pan over moderately high heat. Add the fennel, 1 tbsp rosemary, and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the fennel is golden brown and almost done. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer until the fennel is tender. Remove the fennel and the cooking liquid from the pan.

Wipe out the pan and heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over moderate heat. Season the chicken with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon of the pepper. Add the chicken to the pan with the remaining 1 tbsp of rosemary and cook until brown, about 5 minutes. Turn and cook until almost done, about 3 minutes longer. Add the garlic; cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the fennel and its cooking liquid and the remaining 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a simmer. Cover the pan and remove from the heat. Let steam 5 minutes. Serve, scattering parsley atop the plate.

London 5 – New Year’s Eve Dinner

We celebrated with a dinner and terrace firework watching at our apartment in London (Thanks again, Val – Don’t forget to come to our place soon!). We picked up provisions earlier that day at the Borough Market. The fact that we were going straight from the market to the theater limited our purchases to non-perishables, so we chose to make a mushroom risotto the main course, with assorted cheeses and dried meats for appetizers. I think we did pretty well under the circumstances.

Appetizers from Borough Market

The cheeses are Spenwood, a goats mild cheese made by Anne and Andy Wigmore in Eisely, and  a Gorwydd Caerphilly made by the Trethowan Family in Wales, both purchased at Neal’s Yard Dairy. (Click the cheese names for more info about the cheese makers.) The wonderful Balsamic Fig Sauce comes from Apulia Blend. I don’t know the name of the stall where I bought the salamis, but they were delicious.

And how about those cheesticks? They’re called “Red Leicester Cheese Straws” and they’re from the Flour Power City Bakery stall at the Borough Market. Like air they are. Look how light – What I’d give for that recipe…

Mushroom Risotto with Thyme

For this entree, I used mushrooms and herbs bought at the Wild Mushroom Company in Borough Market. The recipe is a basic risotto, with a few additions such as thyme and mushroom stock.

4 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 lb assorted mushrooms, sliced thin (I used chantarelles, cepes from South Africa and button mushrooms from France)
1 medium onion, diced small
2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
2 tbsp chopped fresh tyhme
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups risotto rice
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup mushroom broth (I used a dried mushroom stock cube, but you can make your own from dried porcinis, straining the stock before using and chopping the porcinis to add to the mushrooms)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaved parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the broths and heat to boiling, then turn down to a low heat to keep warm.

In a large heavy pot (I use a le Cruset French Oven), melt 1 tbsp butter with the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the chopped onion and saute till soft and translucent. Add the mushrooms, garlic and thyme and saute, stirring frequently, till the mushrooms give off their water and just start to brown. (About 10 minutes).Add the rice and stir, cooking for 2-3 minutes till it is opaque. Add the wine and stir till evaporated (about a minute).

Now turn down the heat a tad and begin adding the hot stock to the rice, a laedful or two, and stir. Continue stirring and adding the stock a ladleful at a time, waiting until the liquid is absorbed each time before adding more, until the rice is tender and creamy yet still a little al dente.

Remove from heat. Stir in the remaining butter, then the parsley and parmesan cheese. Season with lots of fresh ground pepper and a little salt. Serve with a side green salad and sauteed root veggies (recipe follows).

Sauteed Root Vegetables with Salsify

I discovered Black Salsify at the Wild Mushroom Company at Borough Market. The propietor suggested I treat it like a root vegetable, so that’s what I did, combining it with a few gorgeous carrots, leeks and fennel I found at the same place.

Salsify is sometimes called “Goat’s Beard”, which I suppose describes what the small roots look like coming off the end of the stalk. (This is black salsify – there are other types as well.) Salsify is also called  Oyster Plant because of it’s flavor when cooked. In this dish, that flavor did not come through, probably because of the stronger flavors of the carrots and fennel that accompany it. I’ve seen recipes for sauteed salsify with apple, and if I ever find salsify again,  that’s the recipe I will try.

You need to peel salsify before cooking it, after which you keep it in water with a little lemon juice to prevent it from turning color before cooking it.

1/2 lemon
Large bowl of cold water
3 salsify roots, peeled and julieened
2 large carrots, peeled and julienned
1 large leek, halved lengthwise, rinsed, sliced again lenghtwise and the into 2-3 inch strips
1 medium fennel bulb, sliced into thin strips 2-3 inches long

Squeeze the lemon into the cold water. Peel the salsify, then julienne. Keep in cold water till ready to cook, then drain and blot dry before cooking .

Slice the leek lengthwise and rinse well in cold water. Drain. Cut across the length, and then again lengthwise. so you have strips about 2-3 inches long.

Melt butter in heavy skillet. Add carrots, fennel and salsify, and saute over medium high heat till just softened. Add leeks and continue to saute till soft and veggies start to brown. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Birthday Party for a 12-Year Old Girl

“And to think we’re having another party in just 3 days!”

These were my daughter’s words to me as we were cleaning up after our New Year’s Day Open House Party. I almost died, because she was right. I had promised her she could have a belated birthday party in January, since her birthday had fallen on the weekend before Christmas when all her friends’ families were heading out of town for the holidays.

The good news was that she had planned this whole party herself, and it was minimal work for the adults in her life.

Birthday Party for a 12 Year Old Girl

The menu uses homemade chicken, but the rest can be store bought, and the kids will love it all. I must say I felt a bit guilty using bought cupcakes for this party, but it made things so easy….

Kids walk home from school Friday afternoon together to your apartment, where they drop off backpacks and such, make popcorn, then head to movie theater to see “PS I Love You“, or some other perfect chick flick. Bring along popcorn from home and supplement with drinks from the theater. One adult leaves halfway through to go to the store for food for dinner and then home to prepare it.

Walk home to our apartment for snacks and Improv games while adults finish preparing dinner.

Improv Games


  • Cheese, grapes and crackers
  • Clementines
  • Gertie’s Artichoke Dip with crackers
  • Dried cranberries
  • Martinelli’s apple cider


  • Baked Chicken Winglets with Paul’s Barbecue Sauce – Cut chicken wings in half into winglets, then bake as described in this recipe and serve with barbecue sauce.
  • French Fries (Ore Ida frozen fries cook up deliciously, and kids love them)
  • Caesar Salad (We used Dole bagged salad mix. Again, easy and the kids love it.

Open Gifts

Spit Tournament

Every kid gets a pack of cards. (Buy a big box of playing cards at Costco) Line up in two lines of face to face on the floor. Winner of each game plays winner of game next to you, losers play each other. And so on, until there is one winner of the winners. Everyone keeps on playing – the one with the most wins is the winner, the most losses the loser, and all the rest in between. There are no prizes, just the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.


Snaps is the name of the game. The name of the game is Snaps.” This is the game they played in PS I Love you.

Birthday Cupcakes
From Crumbs. Make Cupcake Sandwiches. Here, I’ll let Natalie show you how –

Main Party over.

Sleepover for the inner circle (4 kids + Birthday girl). Watch The Breakfast Club and stay up till 3 am talking. Sleep till 11 am, then get up, have bagels and cream cheese and orange juice. Then all go home.

Except of course, the birthday girl, who declares this was the best birthday party. Ever.

A New Year’s Day Open House

This year will mark our 15th year living in New York City. That meant it was time for a party -a BIG party for all the wonderful friends we’ve made over the past 15 years. And what better day than New Year’s Day?

Now, any normal person planning such a thing would make a guest list and send out invitations with RSVP’s, plan the menu at least two weeks ahead, and start cooking a week ahead and freeze the make-ahead stuff…You know, the right way to have a big party.

Let’s just say we didn’t do it that way.

Two days before Christmas, when I still hadn’t sent out invitations, Mr TBTAM just started e-mailing his tennis buddies that we were having a party. That meant I’d better get a move or none of my friends would be there. So two days after Christmas, while we were driving back from Philly, I went through the contact list on my phone and began calling my friends. I had no idea who was in or out of town, but no one was home so I just left messages everywhere. The connection was probably terrible, because one friends called me back saying “I think you are inviting me to something, but I couldn’t understand a word you were saying”.

Then I got sick. Really sick for the rest of the week. On New Year’s Eve morning, I awoke with a whopping headache, but we finalized the menu and headed out to shop. Somewhere between Costco and Fairway, I realized I was feeling better. Really good, actually. Either the Imitrex had kicked in or the cold had run its course. Praising Big Pharma, I headed into the kitchen where we spent the remainder of the day, only stopping briefly at midnight to run up to the roof with the kids to scream Happy New Year and have some sparkling cider. By 1 am, we were all in bed, only to rise at 9 to start cooking again.

The party was to start at 12 pm. My friend Mark arrived shortly thereafter, having just come off the morning shift at his deli. He helped my glaze the ham and arranged the salmon tartare and egg salad platters as only a real foodie can, then left. By 1 pm, when no one else had arrived and the girls were sure our party would like the one Michael threw at the Convention in “The Ofiice”.

But they were wrong – by 1:30pm, we were in full swing.

Overall about 60 folks came, and from the post party calls and emails, I think they all had a good time. I know we did. So many wonderful people, such dear friends. What was so great was seeing folks from the disparate parts of our lives talking and getting to know one another. I can’t think of any better way to start the New Year.

Of course, not everyone could make it with such short notice, and I had accidentally missed inviting a few wonderful people since their numbers were out of date in my phone. That’s the price I paid for not doing this thing so last minute.

Next year I’ll do it right.

Menu for a New Year’s Day Open House (Feeds 60 guests)

This menu will work for a mixed vegetarian-carnivore crowd, and has some healthy choices for folks trying to keep New Year’s Resolutions. Unfortunately, it has nothing for the Jewish meat eaters, as noted my friend Andy with the comment that “Grammie Hall would have loved the ham”. So next year I’m doing a beef tenderloin instead of a ham.

Guests will need to supplement this menu with desserts, as did ours, and thank goodness – most everything went!

You’ll need to do some cooking, reheating and restocking during the party to keep the food supplies fresh, but making the streudel and quiches ahead makes this easy, and you get some nice time in the kitchen with good friends who offer to help.

I’ll be posting the recipes for some of these things in the days to come, and will insert the links then.

  • 1 glazed Spiral-Cut Ham served with rolls, mustard and mayo. We got the ham at Costco. Heat and serve the day of party
  • 8 Mushroom Strudels – Double the recipe that will follow this post – Can be made ahead and frozen, then baked as needed for the party
  • 3 leek-red pepper quiches – Omit the sausages. Make and freeze unbaked crusts ahead, prepare filling the night before and refrigerate, then prebake crusts, fill and bake the morning of the party. Can be refigerated after baking and reheated as needed during the party.
  • Marinated Asparagus -This is incredibly delicious! Double the recipe. Make a day ahead and serve at room temp.
  • Salmon tartare with dill sour cream and baked pumpernickel toast points – Tartare and sour cream can be made ahead and refrigerated. Recipe will follow
  • Egg Mold with crackers -Make a day ahead. Recipe will follow. Toast points is more proper, this was easier.
  • Veggie Crudites with Spinach Dip – We got the dip at Costco. I prefer homemade.
  • Vegetable Pate -From Fairway, but next year I’m going to try to make my own pates.
  • Cheese Platter with grapes and a fig cake.
  • Gerties’ Artichoke Dip with Milton’s Multi-Grain Crackers -Thanks, again, Costco!
  • A bowl of Clementimes for peeling and eating
  • Dates stuffed with cream cheese and an almond – That’s the recipe
  • Spiced Pecans (any recipe you like for this will do) and Dried Apricots
  • Apricot Squares – Thanks, Martha & Mary!
  • Lemon Tart – Recipe will follow
  • Pineapple and Strawberries
  • Apple Torte
  • Assorted desserts brought by friends
  • Drinks – Champagne, Wine, Beer, non-alcohol grape bubbly and Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider, sodas and Pellegrino

    Happy New Year!

  • A Vegetarian Dinner Party

    It’s always a challenge serving dinner to mixed company – by which I mean Vegetarians and Carnivores. Given that we frequently have dinner with our Riverdale friends, and each of us has a Veggie daughter, I’ve gotten pretty good at mixed menus. Usually it’s a meatless standard such as mushroom risotto or some sort of fish (which they’ll eat) or pasta.

    But I have to admit, I often plan my meal forgetting about the Vegetarians, only to realize halfway through that I need to make something they can eat. So I whip up a pasta side or adjust the recipe, somehow feeling a tad bit of resentment as I do so. And, truth be told, I don’t worry too much whether or not the Vegetarians are happy at meal’s end (though they generally are). My heart lies with the Carnivores, and it is them (and myself) that I seek first to please.

    I realized today that what I’ve been doing is accommodating the vegetarians, not celebrating them. And that’s not fair. After all, vegetarian cuisine is as much a food style as Italian or Mexican. My menus often revolve around a country’s cuisine. Why not a vegetarian menu?

    So last night we celebrated our Vegetarian daughters with a menu designed with them in mind. And, just as I’ve accommodated the Vegetarians in my other dinners, I’m adding a little side of meat just for the Carnivores. Was that so wrong?

    A Vegetarian Dinner Party with a Carnivore Side

    Appetizers (all store-bought)
    Vegetable Terrine
    Rice crackers
    Mixed olives
    Manchego Cheese
    Wheat toasts
    Baby Carrots

    Scheherazade Casserole with Tomato Coulis (Recipe follows)
    Mixed green leaf lettuce and mesclun greens with lemon vinaigrette (Recipe follows)
    Tsatziki with Mint (Recipe coming in another post.)

    Carnivore side dish
    Grilled organic chicken sausages with basil and sun dried tomato (from Gourmet Garage)

    Fruit tartlets made with fig paste, nectarines and plums , served with vanilla ice cream (Modified from this recipe) _____________________________________________________________

    Scheherazade Casserole

    For the main course, I went to the source – The Moosewood Cookbook, from the restaurant in Ithaca, NY that was a cornerstone of the natural foods movement in the 70’s. It’s still there today, and retains its cooperative, local feel. (We had a nice meal there a few years ago.)

    This recipe is from the out-of-print 1992 edition of the Moosewood, and it was my first time making it. I added some mushrooms and a tomato coulis for interest, but I think it still needs tweaking – perhaps carrots and maybe red instead of green bell pepper. I’d like to try it with some lemon and mint flavors rather than the cumin and basil, and scallions rather than onions. It’s a hearty dish, and that would lighten up it’s impact. I also recommend using a good vegetable broth instead of water.

    As I was writing this, I checked and saw that this recipe is not in the 2000 edition of the Moosewood. Perhaps Molly had similar feelings to mine, and didn’t want to spend the time updating the recipe. That said, our group all but finished the pan, and my daughter wants me to make it again. Since I have plenty of soybeans and bulgur left, I guess I will…

    1 cup raw bulgur
    1 cup boiling water
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    2 cups minced onions
    3 garlic cloves, minced
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    2 teaspoons cumin
    1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
    black pepper and cayenne to taste
    1 large bell pepper, diced
    4 oz mushrooms, sliced
    3/4 cup dried soybeans
    1 (14 ounce) can tomatoes
    3 tablespoons tomato paste (1/2 of a small can)
    1/2 cup packed finely minced fresh parsley
    1 1/2-2 cups crumbled feta cheese
    Tomato coulis (recipe follows)

    Soak the soybeans overnight, or do as I did and make a fast soak by covering them with cold water + 1 inch, bring to a boil, then take off heat, cover and soak for 1 hour.

    Preheat oven to 375 F. Lightly oil a 9×13 inch baking pan.

    Place the bulgur in a small bowl. Add boiling water (or better yet, veggie broth), cover with a plate, and let stand at least 15 minutes.

    Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add onion, garlic, salt and seasonings. Stir occasionally as you saute over medium heat for 5 to 8 minutes. Add mushrooms and green pepper and saute till the mushrooms give off their water but nothing browns.

    Drain the soybeans and place them in a blender or food processor with 1 cup fresh water (or better yet,veggie broth). Grind until the soybeans resemble a coarse batter. Transfer to a large bowl. Add the soaked bulgur and sauteed vegetables to the soybeans.

    Pour the tomatoes into a bowl, and using your hands, break the tomatoes up into bit size pieces. Drain. Stir into the large bowl of beans and veggies. Add tomato paste, parsley and 1 cup of the feta. Mix well.

    Spread into the baking pan and sprinkle the remaining feta on top. Cover and bake for 30 minutes at 375 F., then uncover and bake 15 minutes more with the oven turned down to 350 F. Serve hot with warm tomato coulis on top or on the side.

    Tomato Coulis

    A coulis is slightly thicker than a sauce, is often pureed, and can be served cold as a side dish or warm as a sauce. I would think this would taste even better made with fresh tomatoes – I used canned because that was all I had. This recipe is from Food Network.

    2 tbsp olive oil
    1 onion, chopped fine
    3 cloves garlic, finely minced
    1 large can tomatoes
    salt and pepper to taste

    Heat the olive oil in a medium saute pan. Add onion and saute onion until softened, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute longer before adding the tomatoes. Stir well to combine, season with salt and pepper, and continue to cook until tomatoes have softened and most of the released liquid has evaporated. Serve warm.

    Lemon Vinaigrette

    Juice of 1 lemon
    1 clove garlic, finely minced
    1 tsp dried mustard
    3/4 tsp kosher salt
    1/4 cup olive oil

    Combine all but the olive oil in a small bowl. whisk. Continue whisking while adding the olive oil in a steady stream. Serve over fresh greens.

    A Brazilian Thanksgiving Eve : Moqueca de camarão, Mango & Avocado Salad and Pudim de leite

    I know, I know. It’s ridiculous. But every year, on the night before Thanksgiving, we have a dinner party.

    You see, my friend Andy and his daughter are clowns in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. So their family stays with us the night before in order to be able to get to the parade on time (5:30 am for the clowns), and we all have a nice dinner together. For the past two years, our friends in from Maine have also joined us. It’s a wonderful, low-key evening, and I look forward to it every year. I try (usually unsuccessfully) to keep the fare light, and we all try to end the evening early so the clowns can get to bed.

    Of course, part of the reason I can enjoy Thanksgiving Eve is that I do not have to cook dinner the next day. We head to Philly on Thursday morning, and tag team two family back-to-back dinners. (Don’t ask… ) I usually bake a pie and bring some sides, but that’s the limit of my responsibility.

    This year’s Thanksgiving Eve dinner was a challenge. Isabelle cannot have anything fermented or with cow’s milk, and one of the kids is now a vegetarian. It took awhile, but I finally hit on the perfect menu – Brazilian fish stew (most of which is made ahead), and mango and avocado salad with a lime vinaigrette. Dessert was flan with fruit. (Oops, Isabelle. I got so caught up with the Brazilian theme I forgot about the milk. Did you even have dessert?) We served a white pinot, but I don’t know if this was the best choice of wine. Suggestions are welcome…

    The kids set the table with the fancy dishes, and we put up votive candles all around the apartment. Emily S. Arrived early and helped us set up the appetizers (Thanks, E.S.!), which were crostini topped with chopped liver or white bean and sage puree, olives, baby carrots, apple slices, roasted peppers in oil and a wonderful sheep’s milk cheese from Fairway.

    I had a great time. This year, the clowns were in bed by 10:30 – not too bad – and the rest of us hit the sack by 11:30. Thanks, Linda for doing the dishes. We missed you Sam, but hope to see you at Christmas. Happy Thanksgiving!

    Moqueca de camarao (Brazilian Fish Stew) (See original recipe at

    This goes down in culinary history as one of the best dishes I have ever had. It’s a great dish to make to amaze your friends, and so easy.

    The original recipe calls for pureeing the diced tomatoes, but I chose to keep them whole. I’ve also re-written the recipe to reflect how I prepared it ahead. If you are making it just for yourself, and not ahead of time, use the Epicurious version. I was not able to find dende oil (red palm oil) at my usual sources (Fairway and Gourmet Garage), but am determined to get it before I make this again. I cannot imagine this stew could taste any better than it already does, but from what I have read, that oil puts the flavors over the top.

    1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
    1 medium onion, finely chopped
    1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
    1/2 teaspoon cayenne
    1 tsp salt
    1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
    1 (14- to 15-oz) can diced tomatoes including juice

    1 cup well-stirred canned unsweetened coconut milk (to be added just before adding shrimp)

    Shrimp marinade
    1 1/4 lb large shrimp in shell (21 to 25 per lb), peeled and deveined
    1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    1/2 teaspoons salt
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

    Last-Minute Additions
    1 tablespoon dende (palm) oil
    4 tbsp coarsely chopped cilantro

    Cooked white rice (I used Basmati)

    Cook onion and bell pepper in olive oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add cayenne, 1 tablespoon cilantro, and 1 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add tomatoes and simmer briskly, stirring, until mixture is very thick, about 15-30 minutes.

    Make marinade and keep, covered, in the fridge till you are ready to use it.

    About 40 minutes before serving, start your rice cooking. Then toss shrimp with marinade in a large bowl, and let sit in fridge, covered, for about 20 minutes. (Not any longer, or you will have ceviche).

    5-10 minutes before serving, stir coconut milk into sauce and bring to a boil. Add shrimp mixture and cook, stirring, until shrimp are just cooked through, about 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in dende oil and remaining 4 tablespoons cilantro and season with salt and pepper.

    Plate individually, first putting rice into a small bowl, then inverting it onto the plate. Spoon the stew over the rice. Keep bowls of stew and rice on the table, though – everyone will want seconds!

    Mango and avocado Salad with Lime and Honey Vinaigrette

    salad greens (We mixed red lettuce with mesclun)
    large ripe mango, halved, pitted, peeled, sliced
    2 small avocados, halved, pitted, peeled, sliced
    Juice of 1/2 lime
    3 tbsp honey (Depends on how tart or sweet you like it.)
    1 tbsp hot water
    ½ cup olive oil

    Whisk the honey and lime together with the hot water. Gradually whisk in the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss greens with ¾ of the dressing. Arrange mango and avocado on top of greens and drizzle remaining dressing over them.

    Pudim de Leite (Brazilian Flan)

    There are many ways to make flan. Some recipes use eggs, others add corn starch or use cream instead of milk. All start with caramelized sugar, which forms the base (and later, the top) of the dish. This is the Brazilian version, from Maria Brazil web site, with a few modifications on my part. You can use a ring mold if you are being traditional. I used a Pyrex glass dish.

    1 cup sugar (for the caramel)
    1 12-oz cans sweetened condensed milk
    Equal volume of regular milk (use the can to measure)
    3 eggs
    1 quart strawberries, washed and drained
    Lovely cookies

    Place 1 to 2 inches of water in a large roasting pan. Place the pan in the oven and preheat to 325°.

    Put the sugar into a heavy saucepan. Heat over medium high heat, stirring almost constantly, until the sugar melts into a golden brown caramel. (Watch carefully, it goes slowly, then turns color quickly.)

    Pour carefully into pyrex dish or mold. (Listen for cracking noises as the sugar cools and cracks!) and spoon it a bit up the sides of the dish. Be careful not to burn the sugar and yourself. Let it cool.

    Whisk together the condensed milk, regular milk and eggs. Pour this mixture through a fine sieve into your prepared dish. (This gets any little egg lumps out).

    Place the dish carefully into the center of the roasting pan with water. Bake for about 1 hour. (You will know it is done when you can insert a knife inserted into the center without the custard pooling into the defect you made.) Carefully remove the dish, Let it cool to room temperature and then place in refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight.

    Just before serving, run the tip of a knife around the inside of the mold. Place a deep platter over the mold and invert: the flan should slide out easily. If not, give the mold a firm but careful shake. Cut into squares. Plate with a spoon of caramel sauce on top, two strawberries and a little cookie.

    Serves about 10.

    Category: Food