The Night I became a Food Terrorist

Tonight I tried a new tactic: I played with a fish recipe, knowing that Tad and I, and likely Julia, would love it. But, knowing my audience, I also cooked a steak for Harrison. Then, I did what any “Tiger Mom” with a picky eater would do; I held that steak hostage. You see, to get the perfectly cooked steak, as well as the luscious homemade French Fries that were also part of dinner tonight, Harrison and Julia each HAD to eat two bites of the fish.

Sounds like no big deal, right. Wrong! Once that dictate was issued, you would have thought that the world had reversed course and started turning the other way. Both children completely revolted. Julia, my normally foodie daughter, wanted nothing to do with the fish, though she did eat it all in two seconds. And, Harrison, my consistently picky, but never emotional eater, put on a show (complete with gags and coughs) worthy of an Oscar nomination. In fact, based on his protest and face during the required two bites, I am amazed that The Academy did not just slot him in as a last minute addition to the Best Actor category. I can just see it, Harrison hanging with Colin Firth and Jeff Bridges on the red carpet….but, I digress.

Anyway, the long and the short of it is that the kids said they hated the fish. I am not sure, particularly in the case of Julia, that that is true. I think they hated having the steak (and more importantly, French Fries) held hostage. I think I made a tactical error. I took mealtime, and, under the guise of getting them to try something new, turned it into a terrorist act- I held their beloved food hostage.

Take it from me, the fish was to die for- and not too spicy, or too anything. (Adults will love it!) And, because the fish was to die for, not to mentions super easy to whip up, I would repeat the entire evening (and I probably will!) I think that to grow my children’s palate, they have to experience new flavors. Perhaps they will have to do it again and again. Eventually, something will stick and they will like it. Or, I will die trying. In the meantime, as far as Harrison and Julia are concerned, I’m right up there with Osama Bin Laden and Amy Chua….

Baked Cod with Mustard Crumbs
Adapted from Sarah Leah Chase
Serves 4

6 T butter, melted
2 shallots, minced
½ c dry white wine
2 lbs cod fillets, cut into individual serving pieces
juice of one lemon
sea salt/pepper
1 cup panko, or other breadcrumbs
1 T Dijon mustard
3 T fresh parsley, minced
1. Preheat the oven to 400.
2. Pour 3 tablespoons of the melted butter into a baking dish large enough to hold the fish filets in a single layer. Sprinkle the shallots over the butter and pour in ¼ cup of the wine. Arrange the fish fillets on top, squeeze the lemon over each fillet and season with salt and pepper.
3. In a small bowl toss the panko with the remaining melted butter. Mix in the mustard and parsley. Pat the panko mixture evenly on top of the fish fillets. Drizzle the remaining ¼ cup of wine over the fish.
4. Bake until the fish flakes easily when tested with a fork, about 20 minutes. Serve at once.

The Return of the Edgy Veggie

The other day our amazing babysitter Miquele went to our green grocer with instructions to stock up the fridge with fabulous fruits and veggies. When she returned and all the loot was unpacked, I noticed that butternut squash was part of the bounty. “Huh…” I thought to myself, “that’s interesting.” And, then I did not really think about it again. Tad and I were not going to be home for dinner that night, and so Miquele was in charge of feeding the kids.

I came down ready to go out just as Miquele called the children to the dinner table. Though she had not plated their dinner yet, the food was cooked and ready to go: chicken, peas and the most delicious looking squash I had ever seen. I knew that I was headed out to a fabulous meal, but the squash just looked and smelled too enticing. I just had to take a bite. I did and it was heaven…loaded with flavors and zing. I had to exhibit serious self-control to prevent myself from eating the entire batch then and there! Luckily for the kids, there was plenty; and luckily for me, there were leftovers. Three guesses what I had for lunch the next day? Yep, it was all mine and there was nothing left after I got my hands on it!

Brazilian Butternut Squash
Miquele Pizzol
Serves 6
1 ½ lbs peeled and cubed butternut squash
3 T olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
½-1 t crushed red pepper
1 t salt
½ red bell pepper, finely chopped
¼ c water
1 T parsley, chopped
1 T scallions, finely chopped
Pepper, to taste

1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan set over medium high heat. Sauté the garlic, onion and crushed red pepper for 2-3 minutes or until onion is soft and translucent.
2. Add the red pepper, butternut squash and salt and continue to sauté the mixture for another 3 minutes or so.
3. Add the water and stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook, stirring frequently. If the mixture begins to dry out, add an additional ¼ cup of water and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the squash is soft and cooked through- about 15-20 minutes.
4. Remove from heat and let stand for 3-4 minutes. Add parsley, scallions and season with pepper to taste. Serve warm.

Go Green!

As those of you who read me regularly know, Harrison played 6th grade football this fall. Two things happened as a result: 1) He learned to love the game. 2) We all got into the act. And, the Jets, one of our local teams, (people, this is New York, why have just one of ANYTHING!!!) have continued the momentum long after Harrison’s season wrapped. The Jets have made it all the way to the League Finals. Just don’t ask me which League, I know there are two, but beyond that- you got me.

Anyway, in honor of the Jets extraordinary achievement, I decided that I had to come up with some pretty fabulous “green” food for the game on Sunday night. Green Eggs and Ham was a non-starter…so was a salad…who eats salad watching a football game…but Salsa Verde…hmmm, I could work with the Mexican thing. I mean what is better than football and Mexican food? Seriously. There is nothing better in my book.

So for Gang Green- here’s hoping you go all the way. We will be cheering you on Sunday night, and eating this in your honor. I’d say stop by for a bite after the game- but this is so good, there won’t be anything left.

*** Postscript: My husband has just informed me that there is only one League- there are two conferences…oops! Apologies! Oh well, you learn something new everyday!

Go Green Chicken Enchiladas
Serves 6-8

3 T olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 t cumin
meat from 1 store bought rotisserie chicken, shredded
¼ c fresh cilantro, chopped
2 ½ c chicken stock, preferably homemade, divided
¼ c flour
8 oz sour cream
sea salt/pepper
2- 4 oz cans of chopped green chilies
16 oz jar of your favorite brand of Salsa Verde
10-12 large flour tortillas
3 c extra-sharp cheddar cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 350.
2. In a large pot or deep-sided sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cumin, stir to combine and continue cooking for another 2-3 minutes, or until onions are soft. Add the chicken, stir to combine and cook for another minute or two. Add cilantro, stir and remove chicken mixture from heat and set aside.
3. In a medium saucepan, bring 2 c of chicken stock to a simmer.
4. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring the remaining ½ c of stock to a boil and immediately whisk in ¼ c flour. Turn of heat and continue whisking until smooth and thick.
5. Add the chicken and flour mixture to the pan with the simmering stock. Continue to whisk and simmer until the flour mixture is fully incorporated and the chicken stock thickens. Turn off heat and whisk in the sour cream and the cans of green chilies. Season with salt and pepper.
6. Add the chicken mixture to the sauce and stir to combine.
7. Using a large casserole, cover the bottom with about ¼ cup of Salsa Verde.
8. Take a tortilla, place it in the casserole with one side supported by the casserole short side- so that the tortilla forms a u shape. Add several tablespoons of shredded cheese to the inside. Next, add several spoonfuls of the chicken mixture. Repeat, using the tortilla you just filled as support for the one you are building. (this sounds more complicated than it is!)
9. When all the tortillas are filled and there is no room left in the casserole, cover the tortillas with the rest of the Salsa Verde and shredded cheddar.
10. Cover the casserole with tinfoil and bake for 35 minutes. Uncover the casserole and bake for 10 minutes more. Let enchiladas rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Of lemons, lemonade and such…

This afternoon I walked my dogs. No big deal, I walk them at least twice a day-some times even three times, three miles a walk, every day, no exceptions- not even blizzards. But, today was different. Today was exciting. Today for the first time in weeks, the temperature was solidly in the mid-40’s and I did not have to worry about black ice. WAHOO!

I am a New England girl, and proud of it; but, this New York winter is killing me. It’s not because I mind the snow and cold- I don’t. It’s the hassle of everyday living in these conditions that gets old: the black ice everywhere, the slush and cold icy puddles in parking lots, the lack of parking spaces because the snow piles have taken them over. This is the stuff that makes me cranky.

I could blame my attitude on the six years I spent living in sunny So Cal- I must have turned soft with all that balmy beach air. I could, except, I know plenty of other hearty souls that share my lack of fondness with this winter. Unfortunately for all of us, it’s only January 19th. Party on.

But, I am an optimist. And so, yesterday, as the sleet fell on me (and my pups) during our morning jaunt, the adage: “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” rolled through my brain. The thought of lemons immediately made me think of other citrus, which in turn took me directly to grapefruit. I just love a good grapefruit. And, all of a sudden it dawned on me, I had found my own private small-albeit, very small- glass of lemonade: bad weather or not, winter is the season for great grapefruit. I might not love all the stuff that comes with winter, but I love a good grapefruit.

All this lemon and grapefruit imagery coursing through my brain put a bee in my bonnet (or, more appropriately, my ski hat!) and an idea started to form. Could I take a basic Sole Meuniere recipe and adapt it-losing the lemons, but using my lemonade, grapefruit? Well, I made it and tried it for lunch today. It was divine-almost as great as the walk with no black ice!

Winter Sole
Serves 2

½ c flour
sea salt/pepper
4 fresh sole filets, about 6 oz each
6 T unsalted butter
2 t grated grapefruit zest
6 T freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
1 grapefruit, peeled, pith removed and sectioned
2 T parsley, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 200.

Combine the flour, 2 teaspoons salt and 2 teaspoons pepper in a large shallow baking dish (I like to use a pie plate.) Pat the fish dry with paper towels and sprinkle with a bit of salt. Dredge two filets on both sides in the flour mixture.

Heat 3 tablespoons butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat until it starts to brown. Add the fish to the pan with the hot butter. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook for 2 minutes. Carefully flip the fish with a spatula and cook for 2 minutes more. While the other side cooks, and 1 teaspoon grapefruit zest, 3 tablespoons grapefruit juice and half the grapefruit sections to the pan. Carefully put the fish on an ovenproof plate and pour the sauce over the fish.

Keep the fish warm in the oven while you repeat the process with the remaining fish. When the fish is finished, sprinkle both plates with parsley, salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Keeping everybody happy…

Hi there from the North Pole- oops, I mean, New York. We got more snow today. And, then just to mix it up a bit, the snow turned to sleet, and finally settled into a cold, dreary rain. It was miserable, but at least the temperature rose mid-day to a balmy 40 degrees. But before you go and dust off your bathing suit, more snow is expected Thursday night into Friday and they are predicting ANOTHER snow storm early next week as well. Lord have mercy!

So, with the weather this miserable and constant, I am all about cozy and versatile in my cooking and eating. Over the weekend I made a delicious and uber-easy tomato sauce that is the perfect dish for keeping all my kitchen constituents happy. The kids always want a yummy pasta, check; Tad wants something healthy and different, check; and, I usually want to watch my waist-line- but always want not make two (or even three!) completely different meals, check and check!

I made this sauce in under 30 minutes, the kids loved it on top of pasta and I broiled some filet of sole and topped it with the sauce for the adults. Easy as pie for me and delicious for all! Love that!

Note: This ages very well, so make in advance or get two meals out of it! It’s delish on chicken cutlets as well!

Easy and Delicious Tomato Sauce

1/3 c olive oil
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 small onions, chopped
1 t red pepper flakes (optional, but oh so good if you want more zing)
2 pints of grape tomatoes, halved
¼ c basil, chopped

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Add the garlic and saute for one to two minutes. Add the onions and red pepper flakes if using and continue sautéing, stirring often, for 8-10 minutes more or until onions are golden. Add the tomatoes, stir to combine and let simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the tomatoes cook down a bit. Add the basil, stir to combine.

Staring down a childhood demon…

It is January and in the Northeast, where we live, the cold has settled in and the snow is here to stay for a while. Weather like this always makes me think of cozy, hearty food and few things are as cozy and hearty as a good beef stew. I love the thought of beef stew… bits of beef and vegetables in a warm, rich sauce. It’s just the reality I have a problem with.

You see, when I was a child, my mother adored making, serving, and eating Boeuf Bourguignon. We had it all the time. In case you’re not a Francophile, or don’t eat like one, “Boeuf Bourguignon” is a French beef stew made with wine, mushrooms and pearl onions. Adults love it. Kids, well, let’s just say that they haven’t learned to fully appreciate beef bits cooked in a bottle of red wine with a bunch of mushrooms and pearl onions thrown in. Good Boeuf Bourguignon has a very sophisticated and elegant taste- something lost on most little palates.

Certainly that was true for my family. Egged on by my older brother, my siblings and I protested the meal by referring to it only as “Beef Boogies.” My mother was unyielding however. Though her four kids complained bitterly, “Beef Boogies” would return again and again to our dinner table during the winter months.

Well, now I am grown up. And, I have to confess, I have not had Boeuf Bourguignon in more than thirty years. But, the huge amount of snow and the bitter cold outside has had me yearning for a good stew recipe. As I searched cookbooks and the Internet alike, Boeuf Bourguignon recipes kept coming up again and again. I thought back to my childhood and realized it was now or never: I had to wrestle this dinnertime memory, conquer it and remake it as my own.

I continued my research, and mentioned to my sister that I was tackling remaking the Boeuf Bourguignon from our youth. She was aghast- but also intrigued. Could I remake “Beef Boogies” and like it? Could she make my remake and serve it to her family? She could not wait to hear!

I fine tuned my search, chose my finalists, combined the best parts and made the dish. Then, I let the stew sit for 48 hours before serving. I served it last night to dear friends, with mashed potatoes and a salad, in my kitchen. We dug in. The warmth of the stew, coupled with the warmth of the evening, was a perfect foil to the cold wind that blew outside. We loved every bite and every minute of the night. I had done it- the demon was excised. “Boeuf Boogies” lives no more.

Note: My daughter Julia, who is quite a foodie, tried this and declared it “not [her] thing.” Based on my childhood experience and Julia’s reaction, I believe that there is something to this dish that demands an adult palate- maybe it’s that bottle of wine! Therefore, I recommend this for an adult evening. You will not be disappointed.

Demon Free Beef Bourguignon
Serves 6- can be doubled

½ lbs pancetta, diced
3 lbs beef chuck cut into 1” cubes
1 veal shank
½ c salt
1 T sea salt
1 T ground pepper
2 medium carrots, finely diced in a food processor
2 stalks celery, finely diced in a food processor
1 small onion, finely diced in a food processor
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 T tomato paste
½ c cognac
1 bay leaf
1 T fresh thyme leaves
1 (750 ml) bottle of good red wine
2 c beef stock
1 lbs of carrots, peeled and sliced into 1” chunks
1 ½ medium to large onions, sliced
10 oz pearl onions, skins removed
2 T unsalted butter
1 lbs fresh mushrooms, preferably wild, stems discarded, and caps sliced
sea salt and pepper to taste
canola oil- if needed

1. Preheat the oven 275 degrees.

2. In a large dutch oven, sauté the pancetta over medium heat until browned and crisp- about 10 minutes. Remove the pancetta with a slotted spoon and let drain on a paper towel.
3. In a large flat bottom bowl, mix the flour, 1 T of sea salt and 1 T of pepper. Dry the beef cubes and veal shank with paper towels and dredge them in the flour mixture.
4. In batches, in a single layer, sear the beef and veal shank in pancetta oil for 3 to 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove the seared beef to a plate and continue searing until all the beef is browned and set aside. If needed, add canola oil to the pan to sauté the beef.
5. Sauté the finely diced carrots, celery, onion and garlic in the dutch oven until soft. If needed add a bit of canola oil to the dutch oven. Add the tomato paste and sauté for another 2 minutes. Remove and set aside.
6. Add canola oil to the dutch oven and sauté the carrot chunks and onion slices for 5 minutes, or until the onions are soft.
7. Return the diced carrots, celery, onion, garlic and tomato paste mixture to the dutch oven and toss with the onions and carrots. Continue to sauté for 1-2 minutes until mixture is blended.
8. Add the cognac to the dutch oven, stand back, and ignite with a match to burn off the alcohol.
9. Put the meat and the bacon, with all their juices, back into the pot with the vegetables. Add the bottle of wine and beef stock. Add the thyme and the bay leaf. Bring to a simmer, cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and place in the oven. Bake for 1¼ hours.
10. Melt the butter in a large sauté pan and sauté the mushrooms for 10 minutes, or until browned and their liquid is reduced.
11. Add the mushrooms and the pearl onions to the dutch oven and cook for an additional 30 minutes.

****Serve 24 to 48 hours later. Store in refrigerator. To reheat, warm in a 350 oven for one hour.

Leftovers from heaven…

On Tuesday, with an overnight blizzard almost a certainty, I decided that I would cook a dinner that would provide leftovers for our snowy Wednesday. Roast chicken felt like the right warm and cozy meal for such a stormy night. Plus, at lunchtime the next day, there is nothing like chicken leftovers in your fridge!

I must have gone to bed thinking about the leftover chicken and its’ many possibilities, because the notion of chicken salad entered my conscience overnight and coursed through my brain for what felt like hours. By 7 am, when I got out of bed, I was absolutely desperate for chicken salad and lunchtime. There was only one question remaining to be answered: what kind of chicken salad?

A trip to the fridge proved fruitful: scallions, fresh tarragon, lemon, grapes, celery. I could work with this. I mixed a bit of mayonnaise with lemon juice and tarragon and added a hint of minced garlic. I added the cut up chicken, grapes, celery, and scallions. I seasoned the lot with salt and pepper. Then I waited until Noon. I would savor this sandwich- that much was sure.

High Noon found me toasting some yummy bread and topping it with the chicken mix, fresh arugula and tomato slices. I bit in. After a night spent dreaming of chicken salad, this open-faced gem was nirvana! I would savor every bite. Julia wandered in and asked for lunch. Bad mother that I am, I shooed her away and continued my reverie. Only after eating my entire sandwich did I get around to making one for everyone else in my family! They loved their lunch and not a morsel was left when all was said and done.

The moral of this story is that dreams, however simple, can come true.

Snow Day Chicken Salad– serves 4

2 c chicken, shredded or chopped
1/3 c mayonnaise
juice of 1 lemon
3 T fresh tarragon, chopped
1 garlic, minced
8 scallions, white and light green parts only, sliced thin
1 c grapes, halved
2 stalks celery, diced
sea salt/pepper to taste

Mix the mayonnaise, lemon juice, garlic and tarragon together. Pour over other ingredients. Mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Serve on thick, crunchy, toasted bread and top with arugula and tomato slices.

Snow Day!

In case you hadn’t heard, the East Coast got pounded with snow last night. The snow in New York began about 7 pm with 8”-12” forecast by morning for the area. At dinner last night, the kids were squirrelly and desperate for “the call” to come- the one that would free them from school today. And at 8:30 pm, as I was tucking Julia into bed, the call came in: there would be no school today. Julia’s tuck in became a “no school” dance party with everyone getting into the act.

Now, here we are in the morning- with a gorgeous blanket of snow covering the landscape and the sun up and shining. It looks like a perfect day for sledding and snowman building and I am reminded of my friend Annie’s Snow Day tradition. She is a firm believer that freedom from school due to a lot of snow requires a special homemade treat, one that captures the magic of a day of drudgery turned into fun.

And, nothing says fun quite like a Whoopie Pie. She sends her troops out to play and gets busy baking. And when they come in, cold, tired, and rosy cheeked, they are greeted with wonderful smells and, if they holler “WHOOPIE!” loud enough, a homemade Whoopie Pie as well.

So, on this snowy day in the North East and because snow is blanketing some part of 49 states, (crazy, but true!) I give you Annie’s Whoopie Pies. Annie just asks that your kids “Whoopie!” loud enough to be heard down the block.

Whoopie Pies– adapted from Bon Appetit
Makes 8
Active time: 30 minutes, start to finish: 1 hour

For the cakes:
2 c all purpose flour
2/3 c good quality cocoa powder
1 ¼ t baking soda
1 ½ t salt
1 c well-shaken buttermilk
1 t vanilla
1 c packed brown sugar
1 large egg

For the filling:
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 ¼ c confectioners sugar
2 c marshmallow cream such as Fluff
1 t vanilla

Make the cakes:
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a bowl until combined. Stir together buttermilk and vanilla in a small bowl.
3. Beat together butter and brown sugar in a large bowl with a mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes, then add egg, beating until well combined. Reduce speed to low and alternatively mix in flour mixture and buttermilk in batches, beginning and ending with flour, scraping down the side of the bowl occasionally and mixing until smooth.
4. Spoon ¼ c mounds of batter about 2 inches apart onto 2 large baking sheets covered with parchment paper. Bake in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, switching position of the sheets halfway through baking, until the tops are puffed and cakes spring back when touched, about 11-13 minutes. Transfer to rack to cool completely.
5. Beat together the butter, confectioners sugar, marshmallow and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes.
6. Spread a rounded tablespoon of filling on the flat sides of half the cakes and top with remaining cakes.

The Bears Have The Right Idea…

As I woke up this Monday morning in the dark-a gloomy start to a cold January day for sure- it hit me: bears have it right. They eat a lot in the fall, take a big nap and wake up in the spring. This strikes me as an incredibly reasonable way to exist right about now. We can just forget about all this snow, (12 inches more expected on Wednesday!) cold and gloom and just sleep. Perfect.

The only problem is, humans don’t hibernate. Drat! So, I guess we have to come up with another solution to the January blues. And. though my body is unable to fulfill my hibernation dream, I find I do crave the food that screams hibernation: beef stews, pastas with rich sauces, mashed potatoes-anything carb loaded and cozy!

One of my favorite “I really should be hibernating, but I can’t” foods is Fondue. It is easy as pie to make and everyone from two to eighty-two loves it. Plus, it has a high fun quotient, which definitely helps the January blues! You can make fondue and serve it with just bread cubes or you spice up your dipping by adding cut up fruit- like apple and pear wedges-sausages, prosciutto, nuts and vegetables like asparagus, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, steamed new potatoes. In short, whatever you like can become a vehicle for fabulous melted cheese.

So, dust off that fondue pot you got for your wedding- you know, the one that’s down in the basement buried in a storeroom somewhere- and go make some fondue. As you sit by the fireplace, eating fondue and laughing with your family and friends, you’ll be glad- at least for the evening- that you can’t hibernate.

Swiss Fondue
Serves 10-12
6 oz Emmentaler cheese, grated
6 oz Gruyere cheese, grated
6 oz Comte cheese, grated
1 T cornstartch
2 ½ c dry wine
4 cloves garlic, crushed
3 T Kirsch liqueur
¼ t nutmeg
sea salt/pepper

1. In a mixing bowl, toss the grated cheese with the cornstarch.
2. Place the wine and garlic in a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
3. Gradually whisk in the cheese, one handful at a time, stirring until each addition is completely melted and smooth.
4. After the cheese is al melted, add the Kirsch, nutmeg and season with salt and pepper.
5. Transfer to a warm fondue pot and serve immediately.

Suit on up and come play Bridge!

Today was a momentous day. Today I could feel the earth shifting. Today, over lunch (no less!), I started Bridge lessons. Anyone who does not understand the gravity of those words probably never had a mother in a Bridge group.

I can recall my mom’s 1970 era bridge group luncheons with crystal clarity. If I close my eyes, I can see the pair of folding tables- each outfitted with a corduroy tablecloth, a deck of cards, a score tablet and sharpened pencil- set up in our living room. The room is filled with my mom’s friends, their bouffant hair and their fabulous polyester- but very chic-pant suits. The smell of their stale cigarette smoke-it was the early 70’s after all-mingles with their perfume. And, I can taste the leftover Pepperidge Farm cookies- my mom always bought the Entertaining Mix-and the rare but fabulous candy that sometimes appeared.

I loved when mom hosted Bridge, though it only happened once a year. There was always something fabulous and very adult sounding for lunch- like Waldorf salad, quiche or soufflé. My mom’s friends were always very solicitous of me and always made me feel so adult. And then, after some pleasantries, a stolen cookie or two, I would get shooed away and mysterious words like “trump”, “trick”, and “bid” would echo through the laughter coming from the living room. I wasn’t sure what they were doing with those cards and those words- but everybody sure seemed to be having a great time!

After today’s lesson, though I barely know anything about Bridge, I can already tell you that it is a fabulous and very smart game. I get it! I get why Mom and her friends loved and looked forward to that once a month meeting. It wasn’t just about seeing each other- although that was great too- it was about a challenging, competitive and spirited game.

While I am certainly nowhere near Bridge Club worthy yet, I can dream- and plan a menu. I’m already sure that a Blue Cheese Soufflé with a green salad is a perfect lunch-with or without cards. So, I am planning ahead. Consider yourself warned, when I host Bridge Club girlfriends, we’ll be having Blue Cheese Soufflé and salad! Just watch your cards…’cause I am completely without scruples when it comes to that kind of thing!

Blue Cheese Soufflé
Adapted from Ina Garten
Serves 4

3 T unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the dish
¼ c finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus 2 T extra for sprinkling
3 T flour
1 cup scalded milk (preferably whole)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/8 t cayenne
1/8 t nutmeg
4 extra large egg yolks, at room temperature
4 oz St. Agur blue cheese, chopped
5 extra large egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 t cream of tartar

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter the inside of an 8-cup soufflé dish (7 ½” diameter x 3 ¼” deep) and sprinkle evenly with Parmesan.

Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat. With a whisk stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes. Off the heat, whisk in the hot milk, ½ t. of salt, pepper, cayenne, and nutmeg. Cook over low heat, whisking constantly, for 1 minute, until smooth.

Off the heat, while still hot, whisk in egg yolks one at a time. Stir in the blue cheese and ¼ c. of Parmesan and transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Putt the egg whites, cream of tartar and a pinch of salt in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until they form high, firm, glossy peaks.

Whisk one quarter of the egg whites into the cheese sauce to lighten and then fold in the rest. Pour into soufflé dish and smooth the top. Draw a large circle on top with a spatula to help the soufflé rise evenly and place in the middle of the oven. Turn the temperature down to 375. Bake for 30-35 minutes until puffed and brown- DON’T PEEK!!!! Serve immediately!

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