When you smooch your future husband for the first time in Paris while studying abroad, it seems only fitting to return eight years later to celebrate your first wedding anniversary. My husband and I had the pleasure of a four night getaway to France this past Memorial Day weekend.
After three whirlwind days and nights immersing ourselves in the romantic and eclectic neighborhoods of Paris, we spent the most relaxing and beautiful day & night at a chateau in the Loire Valley. After a quick panic over being ‘sans voiture’ and unable to visit every cheese producer, vineyard and chateau in Chinon, my loving and patient husband reminded me that sometimes I need to be tethered just to sit back and simply enjoy the beautiful surroundings. A catnap by the pool, the pleasant melody of birds chirping (it could have been a soundtrack it was so dreamy), and a three hour lunch complete with wine pairings in the garden; I realized this was heaven. What can I say?… We balance each other, and we love France.
A magical weekend and the perfect way to celebrate an outstanding first year of marriage… here’s to a lifetime more!
- I’ve always had a thing for Easter. Maybe its because my birthday would fall on Easter when I was young. Maybe I just love bright colors, longer days, and the purple and white crocuses that spring up in random yards. When I recall a memorable meal at Alinea, it is, predictably, the hyacinth scented lobster course that still resonates to this day. Or perhaps it’s just not having seasonal allergies.
This year the excitement for me was to host our family gathering at our Chelsea apartment, the first hosted holiday of our marriage. Bring out the Bernadaud, the Waterford, and of course the colorful clothes.
I set to work weeks in advance planning the decor and menu. I ordered a smoked ham and suckling lamb from Dickson’s Farmstand and planned an english pea and mussel soup course. Yet the real novelty for me was getting carried away with the ‘arts and crafts box’. My living room is small, but with the antique table and accompanying leaves, boy was my table going to be grand. I started by hollowing a dozen eggs. This is most easily done by poking a hole with a nail at the base of a raw egg, and then taking a pin and making a tiny hole at the top. It’s quite easy if you blow through the pin hole to get the egg out of the shell, but if you’re not into making out with a raw egg, widen the large hole and use a flexi-straw. I boiled the hollow eggs briefly and then dyed each by filling glasses with 2T white vinegar each, boiling water and food coloring.The eggs sat in the dye for 2-5 min and then dried on a cooling rack overnight. After procuring a bag of gift basket ‘hay’, as Harper called it after seeing it scattered through the house, I separated it into long clusters about 2″ wide and lightly twisted each into birds nests. I then spray painted each with gold glitter spray paint, a necessity to every craft bin! The next day, with gold acrylic paint and a fine brush, I painted each guest’s name on an egg to be placed on the ‘nests’ for the seating arrangements. Harper laughed at my excitement, I giggled and ran out to buy various fresh tulips, hyacinths and daffodils before starting the cooking.
Its fun to put the time and effort into making a family gathering memorable and special. The best was thinking how whatever names I painted on for my parents, someday we’ll pull them out of their safe storage and help the kids repaint Nani, Poppy, Grammy, or Grandpa.
Though starting a business in a seemingly tame side of the cooking profession, I love the challenge of creating tasty, seasonal and varied menus for my clients while adhering to each households’ particular tastes and diets. I’m always developing new recipes based on specific requests… it’s what keeps me motivated and creative.
This past week I was called upon to cook meals for Passover that not only followed the Kosher for Passover, ‘kfp’ guidelines but were also vegan. I took this on with gusto (kale stuffed mushrooms, with matzo meal, anyone?) , but the real excitement came when I was welcomed back to stock the fridge with more ‘kfp’ meals for the rest of the week, mainly using up leftovers.
Enter charoset. I was told there was plenty left and that its a mixture of apples, dates, nuts and wine. Though only vaguely having heard of this, immediately I was inspired. Three years ago, while working the line at Frasca Food & Wine in Boulder, CO, we had Nate Appleman in as a guest chef. I watched him slow-cook radicchio, raisins and pinenuts down to an intense, sweet, rustic Italian compote. With this memory, I was ready to make the charoset sing the songs of sweet Moses.
Over medium heat I slowly carmelized the onions with a hit of salt and sliced garlic. I cooked the red cabbage until it was starting to wilt, then added cleaned and chopped escarole. Escarole is something that’s meant to be cooked for a while. Lachlan MacKinnon- Patterson once came up to me on the entremetier station and said “Chef, this escarole, this right now is like what a cow would eat… You need to cook it way, way more”. Alas, when the escarole had turned from roughage to haute-cuisine, I stirred in the charoset, and cooked it some more. Finished with some ‘kfp’ balsamic and lemon and it was ready to be served with the horseradish mashed potatoes, with a little fresh horseradish grated over the top.
Magic. Culinary magic.
Braised Greens with Charoset
- 2T olive oil,
- 1 yellow onion (sliced)
- 1/2 red onion (sliced)
- 2 garlic cloves (sliced)
- 1/2 head chopped red cabbage
- 1 head chopped escarole
- 1/2 c Charoset
- 1 T balsamic
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- salt and pepper