Archive for the ‘lunch’ Category

The holidays may be over, but, as singer/songwriter Robert Earl Keen observed some years ago, the party never ends. And you always need appetizers. Guests drop in, and it’s nice to have something special to serve with a glass of wine. I’m partial to palmiers, especially because I can make them when I have a free half-hour and stick them in the freezer. They’ll keep for a month, well wrapped.

I almost always have a package of puff pastry dough in my freezer (it’s a thin box and only sucks up a very small portion of that precious freezer real estate)

Choose Your Own Filling Palmiers
Roll out one square of the two in the package. If you wet your work surface with a damp sponge and cover with plastic wrap, this job is achieved with very little mess.

Rolling toward the center

I always layer my dough between two pieces of plastic wrap and roll it out so it becomes about two inches longer than it was when I started. Try to roll so the dough becomes more rectangular in shape.

Take off the top piece of plastic wrap and brush the entire flat piece of pastry with olive oil. Now here’s the fun part. Sprinkle with finely grated parmesan cheese and – you choose! I’ve used caramelized onions, olive tapenade, crumbled bacon, my honey’s smoked tomatoes minced fine, minced garlic – the variations are as big as your imagination. The only caveat: use only a couple ingredients.

Now, starting at the left edge, start to roll your pastry toward the center. Use your plastic wrap to help in this process. Once you have reached just to the center, do the same on the right side of your pastry. Your pastry should look like two small rolls lying next to each other, and they will be about an inch tall. Wrap it with the same plastic wrap that you just used for your counter covering. Put in the refrigerator for an hour and then stash in the freezer somewhere where it will be able to keep its shape. If it’s cold from the refrigerator, it won’t form ice crystals after it hits your freezer.

When you’re ready, pull the dough out and let thaw for only 10 minutes (make sure to keep it firm) and then slice to about 1/3 inch thick pieces. Lay the slices flat on an ungreased baking sheet about a half-inch apart. If you have time, you can let them rise for about half an hour at room temp. Pop them in a 400 degree oven till golden brown and serve hot. They’re crisp, delicious and easy!



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By Mel
I’ve written before about my mother’s cooking — and will again, I’d wager — but this time I want to talk about my own cooking. Laurie is such a confident and wonderful cook that these days I rarely have the nerve or the need to do my own cooking. But when I was a kid, I enjoyed cooking for myself, generally making weekend breakfasts and lunches. Mom was there to encourage and guide me if I needed encouragement and guidance, but mostly I just put together what sounded good.

If I’ve given you the idea that I was some sort of child genius, a Mozart of the kitchen, I have badly misled you. Most of my ingredients were canned or frozen. And it never entered my mind that I would feed the resulting dishes to anybody else.

Some Saturdays I would start by scrambling a few eggs and then add whatever meat and vegetables I could find in the fridge. Meat ran to bacon, cold cuts and leftover hamburger; when I say vegetables, I mean onions — green, white, red, whatever.

But the really good part of this nutritious breakfast was the Van de Kamp’s enchilada. Your first response might well be to ask what a company called Van de Kamp knew about Mexican food and you would be right to ask. The enchiladas that company made were nowhere near authentic, but they were full of cheese and

These days Van de Kamp's makes frozen fish sticks. Bah! They just don't know what's good!

onions and black olives and I loved them for themselves, not because they reminded me of actual food from Mexico. Each came frozen in an aluminum tray — this was before microwave ovens — and after about 20 minutes in the oven, it was swimming in a delicious sauce that was also really good on the scrambled eggs.

Lunch was generally something called chip steak. I don’t know what it really was, but it looked like very thinly sliced bits of meat (beef? Who knows?) that I would fry up and slap on a piece of toast along with more catsup than a human should eat at one sitting. The sandwich was always cut from corner to corner, so that I had four triangles. Serve with olives of any color and/or pickles.

Both of these gourmet dishes were delish. Or they were when I was in high school. I haven’t actually eaten anything like chip steak or Van de Kamp’s enchiladas in many years. I think about it sometimes, but the salt and fat content slows me down. Plus the fact that I haven’t been able to find either one of these prepared foods in my local supermarkets despite desperate searching.

So I guess I’m just stuck with the food that Laurie prepares. Sigh. Some guys have it tough.

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Happily, I got 95 percent of my lights working last night and they now adorn my tree. Laurie, Dee and Mary are all coming over for lunch to help finish the decorating today. I’ve decided to make them a simple meal of crab cakes with a chipotle mayo sauce and a salad. For starters, I’ve made a smoked salmon mousse spread – my sister-in-law Vicki’s recipe.

Crab cakes - a festive lunch

Costco is carrying really cute miniature romaine heads right now. I trim them, slice them in half long ways (wash them carefully!) and sprinkle with some toasted pecans and my favorite salad cheese, Blue Castello (available at Trader Joe’s). My vinaigrette will be a simple one with macadamia nut oil, white balsamic vinegar and a bit of the Hop Kiln Zinfandel Orange mustard to emulsify it all together.

My crab cake recipe is a good one; it started out as part of the recipe on a plastic tub of crab but I’ve added to it a bit.
Crab Cakes
1-pound tub of lump crab meat (please, do yourself a favor and use real crab)
1/2 sweet onion, minced
1-2 tablespoons red bell peppers, coarsely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 egg, lightly whisked
1/4 cup mayo
1 egg

Toss all of the ingredients except the panko and one egg together.
Heat your favorite cast iron skillet with a thin layer of olive oil (about 1/16 inch) until it shimmers.
Scoop spoonfuls of the crab mixture into the whisked egg and then into a dish of panko crumbs. Toss the panko over the crab balls and then place them in the hot oil. Pat them slightly flat and cook till golden. Turn and cook till golden on the other side. Remove, place on a paper-towel covered plate and continue cooking until you’ve made enough crab cakes for your party. If your recipe is too big for your group, assemble the crab cakes as far as the panko crumbs and place the crab balls on a plastic wrap- covered dish that will fit in your freezer. Squish them slightly, as if they were in the pan, cover with another layer of plastic wrap and place in the freezer. Once they’re frozen, place them all in a baggie and they’ll be ready to sauté up the next time you have an impromptu party.

Chipotle Mayonnaise
1 1/2 cups Best Foods mayonnaise
Chipotle puree to taste (only about 1 tbls)
Juice of half a lime

The chipotle mayo is so simple, I’m kind of embarrassed to describe it. I buy a can of chipotles in adobo and puree it in the food processor, pour it into a jar and store it in the fridge. Then just mix as much of it as you want into as much mayo as you want. Keep in mind, the spice of the chipotle gets stronger as it rests. Your choice.

Serve your crab cakes with a nice chardonnay. (Toasted Head goes fabulously with this meal!)

I didn’t really get enough of last week’s trifle, so I’m making it again with a couple changes, and I’ve got some of TJ’s Christmas truffles for those who must have chocolate.

Quick, easy, festive and delish. That’s our specialty at Party Know-It-Alls.


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