appetizers and first courses

Thanksgiving 2010 Holiday recipe round-up

Barefoot Contessa's Roasted Shrimp Cocktail We're moving the week before Thanksgiving, so I anticipate the first meals in our new home to be served on paper plates atop cardboard boxes.

I could care less!

We're moving into a great little house with a spacious backyard, an adorable side porch, and a fireplace! As long as the fireplace is crackling, I'm good. 

But, I realize the rest of the world is scrambling for menu ideas. 

Me too, even if I'm not going to go crazy trying to have everything in place day of.

Still, a woman can dream about the next big meal, the one where she's made that fab recycled wood table from ReadyMade, and everyone is gathered together to count their blessings.   And on the table a beautiful glistening browned bird. 

Oh, the sumptuous sides. Oh, the delicious desserts. Oh the stories we'll tell. 

Heres'a holiday recipe round-up for making your own nostalgic moments.

Photo courtesy of The Food Network

Winter Squash recipe from Lidia's Italy new website

I'm always wondering what to do with all that winter squash. 

It's delicious and nutritious, but I find it a difficult vegetable to get excited about - as an ingredient any way.

There's only so much Roasted Winter Squash Soup you can eat.  And I can only do so much stuffed winter squash. 

So when I jumped over to check out Lidia's newly launched website, I was delighted to see a recipe for Zucca Gialla Marinata or Marinated Winter Squash.

I'm pretty sure it'll be a go-to for fast and fabulous side dishes or appetizers.

Check what Lidia has to say about this Northern Italian standby.

Squash is not one of the most popular vegetables but I love squash and I love cooking with it. It is nutritious, versatile, and delicious. Northern Italy consumes more zucca-winter squash-than Southern Italy, especially in the areas near Modena in Emiglia Romagna and Padova in the Veneto.

This is a great side dish or appetizer. (via Lidia's

Bring on the figs with homemade ricotta!

This recipe combines three of my favorite tastes treats - figs, honey and cheese.  Ah!

Ricotta with honey roasted figs recipe - photo courtesy of Zabar's Zabar's recipe blogs present food fans opportunities to cook with some of the best recipes around, featuring chefs Lidia Bastianich and Edward Brown as well as food experts Ina Garten and Mark Bittman.

Today's featured recipe comes from Timeless Entertaining: Four Generations of Creative Kosher Cuisine.

Not everyone is fortunate enough to live near the fantastic food emporium, Zabar's, but thanks to technology, you can bring a bit of Zabar's into your home kitchen every day.

Hail Caesar - salad recipe Cardini dressing maker's original


Of course an Italian dreamed up the Caesar salad.  That he was an Italian living in Mexico makes the story more interesting.

If you've ever seen Cardini salad dressings on the shelves while browsing the supermarket, then you've seen the by-product of Cesare Cardini's original invention, the Caesar salad. It's said that Cardini's original recipe had no anchovies but relied on Worcestershire sauce for its distinctive slightly salty and savory flavor.

Since its creation in the 20s, the Caesar salad has seen numerous transformations with endless recipes available to try and to tweak. It's hard, if not impossible, to find Caesar salad made table side. Too many restrictions are placed on the use of raw egg due to the fear of salmonella.

Some have substituted coddled eggs, but I remain a purist and live dangerously, I suppose. When making Caesar dressing, I use the freshest eggs I can find and wash the shells thoroughly.  Since hens lay their eggs through a "vent" or passageway shared by their intestines and salmonella bacteria is transmitted through fecal matter, this is a pretty important consideration.

Toss a head of romaine and you'll hit a recipe for Caesar salad.

There are updated versions with grilled chicken or grilled shrimp, and some like the one I made last night feature my favorite fruit, the avocado.

You may be hard-pressed to find a Caesar with egg or anchovies in restaurants, which I find depressing - almost as sad as the limp, overdressed salads topped with a few nondescript croutons that are passing as the famed Caesar.

Below is an eggless recipe, which is tasty, but really would benefit from the creamy emulsification created by the addition of a raw egg.  But, in my house, we have one person is afraid of raw egg consumption, so we made this version to suit her palate.

Eggless Caesar Dressing

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

juice of one lemon, about a quarter cup

1clove garlic, mashed

6 anchovy fillets

1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano

salt and pepper to taste

In a blender or food processor, combine all ingredients and pulse until smooth.  May be kept in the refrigerator for two to three days.

Asparagus fresh spring roll with spicy sweet chili dipping sauce

Asparagus Spring Rolls -photo California Asparagus Commission It's asparagus season!  The tender and luscious green stalks are in the markets - or if you're lucky - in your gardens. 

I love eating asparagus steamed, sprinkled with sea salt and spritzed with a bit of lemon.  But I always enjoy trying something new.  When I saw this recipe for spring rolls made with fresh asparagus, I thought, wonderful, my favorite spring veggie in my favorite Asian wrapping.! 

The spring rolls, actually summer rolls since they aren't fried, are a version of the traditional Vietnamese roll, Gỏi cuốn, made with rice vermicelli, fresh herbs, shrimp and pork. Most often summer rolls are served with a peanut dipping sauce, but also are served with Nuoc Mam Cham, a fish sauce based sweet and sour sauce,

Asparagus fresh spring roll with spicy sweet chili dipping sauce

Makes 18 to 24 slices.

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes


  • 1 pound asparagus
  • 3/4 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 3/4 cilantro leaves
  • 1 mango or papaya
  • Fresh ginger, 2-inch piece
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry roasted, salted peanuts, chopped
  • 2 cups fresh bean sprouts
  • 8-inch dried rice paper spring roll wrappers, 6 to 8 sheets
  • 1/4 cup store-bought Asian Sweet Chili sauce
  • Juice of 1 lime


Prepare filling:

Blanche asparagus in boiling salted water until tender to the bite, 3 to 5 minutes. Peel and julienne mango or papaya and ginger. Julienne bell pepper. Set aside with remaining filling ingredients.

To assemble:

Fill a large bowl with hot water. Working with one wrapper at a time, slip rice paper wrapper into water until pliable, about 1 minute.

Place wrapper on cutting board. In the center, put 3 to 4 asparagus spears with the tips coming off the end of the wrapper slightly, 3 to 4 mango or papaya slices, 3-4 pepper slices, 3 tablespoons sprouts, 2 tablespoons herbs, sprinkling of ginger and peanuts.

Roll the wrapper from the bottom up, tightly. Leaving the ends open. Set aside and cover with a damp towel. Finish with remaining wrappers.

When ready to serve, slice wrappers into 3 segments each and stand upright on a serving platter.

Mix chili sauce and lime juice together. Serve along side the rolls as a dipping sauce.

Makes 18 to 24 slices.

Simple and savory recipe: mussels with linguine

Mussels make a savory meal in minutes 


Mussels are one of my favorite mollusks. They're delicious, nutritious, and inexpensive as well as readily available fresh or frozen in most seafood markets.

These tender and versatile mollusks were long considered the poor relative to better known and pricier shellfish – scallops, clams and oysters.  But anyone who’s ever eaten Moule Frites (the hearty French bistro fare Mussels and Fries) knows there is, thankfully, more than one shellfish in the sea.

Since mussels, like their more celebrated cousins, oysters, feed indiscriminately, most mussels found in markets are farm raised. Selecting fresh mussels is not difficult if you follow two simple rules – look for tightly closed shellfish and avoid broken or damaged shells.  While you might keep your mussels on ice overnight in the refrigerator, they are highly perishable and should be used promptly after purchase.

Most live mussels bought in the seafood markets are pretty thoroughly cleaned. However, should they be “bearded,” you simply will need to remove that unsightly stubble of hairs with a sharp tug toward the hinge of the mussel. To ensure they are thoroughly clean, it’s recommended to place the mussels in cold water with a tablespoon or two of corn meal. The mollusks eat the corn meal, then expel any grit or sand, making your mussels much tastier.  They should be well-rinsed before preparation. 

Despite what may seem like a high maintenance ritual, I prefer fresh mussels - alive, alive oh - for obvious reasons.

However, I recently tried green mussels frozen (and already cooked). I was a little leery of frozen mussels, thinking they'd be rubbery perhaps.  I bought a New Zealand brand, Talley's, found at Whole Foods, which were on the half shell, and retail for about $7.99.

The results were pleasantly surprising, tender meat and good flavor.  I made a quick broth with dried Italian herbs, sherry, garlic, sweet onion and diced tomatoes, added the mussels, and then put on a pot of water to boil the linguine. Don’t forget to reserve pasta water to add to the sauce as it helps the sauce adhere to the pasta.

Dinner was ready in less than half an hour. This quick and easy recipe for mussels is great for last minute meals.

Mussels with Linguine

serves four

8 ounces linguine

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon butter, salted

1/4 cup Vidalia onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup tomatoes, diced

1/2 tablespoon Italian herbs, dry

1/4 cup sherry

1 cup chicken stock (or clam juice)

1. Add butter and olive oil to a small stock pot. Stir in onion, garlic, tomatoes, and Italian herbs. Saute for about five minutes or until onions are soft.

2. Add sherry to the stockpot and reduce by half before adding the chicken stock or clam juice and the mussels.

3. Simmer for about 5-10 minutes, allowing the flavors to marry.

4. Put pot of water on to boil for linguine. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water to add to your sauce.

5. Add pasta water to your stockpot, then add linguine to mussel and broth mixture. Gently mix, then serve in pasta bowls.  Sprinkle with grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano as desired. Garnish with chopped flatleaf parsley.

Serve with fresh Italian bread.


Bacon-wrapped dove breasts

Bacon-wrapped dove breasts  

In our family, the start of dove hunting season kicks off the Labor Day Weekend.  All the licensed hunters head to the fields at noon, hoping to bag a bunch of doves. 

Usually kids join the hunt at about age 11. Their first job: picking up the kill and wringing the necks of birds still alive.

My son wanted to join the dove hunt, so I sent him with my brothers and father. I expected that he would be back at the house in less than an hour, especially since he hates the heat and detests bugs.  Surprisingly, he stayed for the entire day, bounded into the house with his catch and declared the day a blast.

After cleaning the birds, they are bagged and everyone gets to take dove breasts home.  We cooked ours right away using a simple Southern recipe that enhances the meaty game flavor of the bird and keeps it tender and succulent. 

We ate our dove breasts as an entree, but they are so small and delicate, they would make a great appetizer too.

Wrapped and ready for the oven

Bacon Wrapped Dove Breasts


12-oz thin sliced bacon

18-20 dove breasts, rinsed and patted dry

salt & pepper to taste


Wrap each dove breast with a slice of bacon.  Place on a lined baking sheet and broil  (500 degrees F) in the oven for between 10-15 minutes - until bacon is browned and crisp.

Broiled to perfection As an appetizer, serves 9-10.  As an entree, serves 5.

Serve with wild rice or saffron rice.  Pair with a robust red like a Chianti.

Pho Viet Huong takes the beef

NY Mag dishes about Pho Viet Huong (photo by Yung Cee Ng)
Beef Satay is Beef Satay, right?

Not when it's crispy charred on the outside,  smoky, sweet and tender on the inside. 

The Beef Satay or  Bo Nuong Lui ($5.50) we ate yesterday at Pho Viet Huong (73 Mulberry Street, 212.233.8988) was melt in your mouth tender.

While the dipping sauce was unremarkable, we didn't care because the meat - and it's all about the meat here - was just short of divine intervention.

We only had snacks - Gol Cuon (shrimp summer rolls) $4.50 and Cha Gio (fried spring rolls) $4.50. but we noticed other diners slurping up the restaurants signature noodle soups and made a note to try them on our next visit. 

I've had far better Gol Cuon and the Cha Gio was nothing to get excited about, but the beef, the beef, was so good I didn't mind the other less than stellar snacks.

Yes, if you must know. They have Banh Mi, too.

Maybe you can't get to C-town today or even next week, so I'm giving you the DIYer experience with a recipe from Emeril Lagasse for Beef Satay with Peanut Dipping Sauce.

Cool Spring days are perfect for soups


While some may argue that soup as a meal is best served during the colder months, I find soups to be a food for all seasons.

My favorite season for soups is winter, but spring is ideal for soup too. And this spring, with its wet and chilly days, has provided plenty of inspiration. 

On weekends, I like to make stock so that I can quickly and easily prepare different soups during the week - from broccoli to roasted corn to pumpkin.

This week I made both cream of broccoli soup and cream of roasted corn soup using pre-prepared stock. You can use a good store-bought stock if you're pressed for time, but nothing is quite as flavorful or satisfying as a homemade chicken, beef or vegetable stock.

Cream of Broccoli Soup

3 cups of warm chicken stock

1 large head of broccoli, steamed until tender

1/4 stick of butter

1/2 cup half and half 

salt and pepper to taste


In a large blender, puree broccoli with chicken stock until smooth. Then add butter, pulsing until thoroughly blended. Blend in the half and half, then serve warm, reheating as necessary. 

Or, if desired, chill and serve.

Serves 4.