Saturday, June 30, 2012

Crisp, June 29, 2012

Inspired by my latest catering event, I decided to hold another Crisp dinner, address unknown. You know you can be invited, but it is by invitation only.

I quickly went back to look at past menus for inspiration. I knew that although I was repeating a menu, the results would be very different. As a chef, and someone who has no formal training, every time I make a dish, it's never the same dish twice: it's sometimes better, sometimes the same, but always fun to make. As many of you know, I don't like following structured recipes, and I always add new, unexpected ingredients---I'm like a mad scientist in her lab!

Ten people immediately signed up for this dinner. The group was interesting, with a touch of international flair. We had a couple, newly arriving in Albany, originally from Uruguay, and recently from Marseilles, France. They were delightful and I was excited to meet them. 

There was also Wayne, originally from Kenya, whom my husband fell in love with immediately, and a group of four friends whom I haven't caught up with in a while: Monica, Kim, Lisa P. and two of her friend, and Andrea.

I love it when an eclectic group comes to the table to enjoy a good meal and share lively stories. It was a lovely evening.

The menu was Moroccan-inspired. Here is what was served.

zitoun bil hamed
warm olives with lemon and herbs

burtuqal salatha
organic baby spinach topped with fresh and dried fruit, served with an orange blossom dressing  

Main course:
kseksou bidawi
Moroccan seven veggie with quinoa, seasoned with turmeric, paprika, saffron, cinnamon, and coriander. Served with harissa (hot chili paste). 

rozz bil hleebsweet rice pudding served with dried fruit pastries (figs, dates, and almonds rolled in filo).

Mamma Q's B-day, June 9, 2012

I was approached by my friend and famous dancer Kitty "Bang Bang" Halloway. Her parents were coming from Boston to celebrate Mamma Q's B-day. Kitty was looking to have an intimate day, with a group of 20, at the farm where she and her beau live. 

My first question for creating the menu was, "What is Mamma Q's favorite food?" The response: lobster. The task: How do I feed 20 people lobster without it costing an arm and a claw? Mission accomplished. Here is what the menu entailed:

Lobster Bruschetta: fresh tomatoes, corn, shallots, avocado, lemon juice, and steamed lobster chunks on toasted bread.

Arugula Salad: arugula, roasted fennel, carmelized shallots, tomatoes, and radishses with a light vinaigrette dresssing.

Ratatouille: eggplant, mushrooms, zucchini, tomatoes, fresh herbs served with polenta squares.

Dark Chocolate Ice Cream: made with agave and Green & Black organic dark chocolate served with fresh fruit.

I was honored to be among this great group of people. Happy birthday, Mamma Q!

Mamma Q and Jonathan

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Rothko-Inspired Evening

Mike Watson, gift to his wife

What an amazing evening. This was the unveiling of my husband, Mike Watson's paintings. He just completed eight new paintings that were inspired from Mark Rothko and we invited friends and family to celebrate his accomplishment. Here is a list of the paintings that were at the show:

Planning the food and the actual night was my job! I have been absent at writing about all of my food journeys as of late, but have made a commitment to continue to post my goings on. As many opportunities are appearing and I want to keep you updated as to what I am up to. I have definitely been keeping very busy.

My friend Zach O'Neil from came early to help me get everything ready for the evening. I knew I could count on him to plate the hors d'oeuvres and make the beautiful. I also go to show him how to roll sushi rolls--what a pro in minutes! 

The event started at 6:30 pm, so I decided to do heavy hor deroures so that people could have enough to eat as a meal. 

The menu:

hors d'oeuvres

Stuffed Grape Leaves


Veggie Sushi Rolls

Olive & Fig Tapenade

Stuffed Mushrooms

Artisanal Cheese Plate

Charcuterie Plate


The winner of the painting was Nicole Flisher! She had on just the right outfit to go with the painting.

Crisp Catering

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Holiday Gift 2010--Cosmic Dressing

During this past Thanksgiving, my sister Marisa, from California came for a visit. Together, we decided what the Thanksgiving menu would be, and she made a complete grocery list of all the items needed for all the delicious dishes that we would share on Thanksgiving. 

One of the recipes she brought with her was this amazing dressing that can be used for salad and many other dishes. You get to decide. A friend of mine proclaimed that he hated cilantro and would never eat it. Well, needless to say, he loved the dressing, even after I told him that there was a large amount of fresh cilantro in it.

If you aren't lucky enough to be on my list of folks that will receive a jar of this delicious dressing, you can give me a call and I can whip up a batch.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

September Crisp

After taking the summer off, I am back at it and it feels great. The summer was filled with friends, cooking, and travelling. My mind is always thinking about food and what recipes I can make that others will enjoy. The summer is always a fabulous time for using local fresh ingredients right out of the garden. I visited many different farmers markets and I wonder why I get such excitement out of seeing a purple carrot or a yellow beet. Thanks to all the farmers who keep the cycle going! 

The menu:


cream of tomato-fennel
made with local organic tomatoes 

arugula surprise
local organic baby arugula tossed with pistachios, blueberries, radishes, and beets...a sweet balsamic vinagrette dressing

Main course:
grilled shrimp
shell on shrimp marinated with lemon and fresh garden herbs served with cucumber-pinneaple salsa and homemade guacamole sides include jasmine rice and grilled seasonal vegetables
grilled vegetables
marinated with lemon and fresh garden herbs served with cucumber-pinneaple salsa and homemade guacamole sides include jasmine rice and grilled seasonal vegetables

homemade dark chocolate coconut milk ice cream sweetened with agave
homemade vanilla strawberrt coconut milk ice cream sweetened with agave

In addition to all the great food this month, my sister-in-law sang for my guests.

Save the date for October 23 for the next Crisp dinner. I am working on the menu, which I am sure will include all the delicious fall veggies that are upon us. If you aren't currently on the evite list, or know someone who you think would like to come, please let me know!  --Joyce Monaco (

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sruti Yoga Studio Opening

My friend Amy Web has just opened Sruti Yoga Center in Great Barrington, MA. She has a new, beautiful studio and she is continuing to hold Mysore classes along with workshops. Check out her web site for schedules and events at

Previously, Amy came to one of my dinners, she really liked the food and asked me to cater the opening of her studio for approximately 30 people. We decided on the following menu:


veggie sushi rolls
veggie summer rolls
beet and apple salsa
date bars
dried fruit rolls

I have become quite the expert in rolling....sushi, summer, and dried fruit rolls. It seemed like an underriding theme. I was also able to use fresh herbs from my herb garden, which always makes the food more special and fresh.

The evening was very special and it was exciting to be able to share this evening with Amy,her friends, and students.

Monday, May 10, 2010

About Crisp

Growing up in a family of Italian immigrants, I learned to cook at a very young age. Dinnertime was a time for our family—me, my three sisters, and my parents—to gather around the table, and the food. We grew a large garden and canned a bit of the harvest for the year, always enough tomatoes to last through the next season. Holidays were always about the food and, of course, the Italian dishes that dominated the table. I didn’t realize the importance of cooking until I left home and started a life of my own. After getting married and having a son, I began experimenting with cuisine from all over the world and inviting friends—sometimes 15 or more! —to help eat my prepared feasts. What memories are made around a table of friends and good food!

Now, I am creating a table for friends to meet and enjoy my cooking exactly where it is meant to be enjoyed: in the home. Any home will do! You can attend my monthly Crisp dinners, or I can come to your home and create a special dining experience for any occasion from start to finish. Whether it’s a birthday, anniversary, or just bringing friends together, Crisp services include helping to create the perfect menu, setting a beautiful table, cooking and serving the meal, and clean-up. As the host or hostess, you get to relax and enjoy yourself with your guests and Crisp does the rest. Please contact us at 518-956-0534 to discuss your special event.

This past weekend, I decided to open my house to friends to come and try out some of my treats. I served some of my past favorites along with a couple new dishes. The menu:

veggie sushi rolls

summer rolls
beet and fennel salad
spinach salad with orange wedges, dates, and a orange blossom vinaigrette
spicy chicken wings
date, fig, and almond pastries