Sunday, December 6, 2009

San Francisco

I know it has been a while and wanted to update you on what I have been up to. First off, I did take a vacation the beginning of November. My husband and I met up with our friends Mary and Rick in California.

After meeting up at at the airport, getting our rental van--a Faurfeneugen, how California, we headed to Sausalito for the famous fish tacos that our friends had been bragging about. What else could we all do, but order fish tacos. They lived up to the description.

Our next destination was a small town in Sonoma, located in the Russian River Valley--Guernville, CA....of course on our way, as I had already prepared the menu for our stay, we hit a market and bought our food for the 3-night stay ahead of us.

It was a long day--leaving the east coast at 6 am and not arriving to our rented apartment until after 4 pm. Since we had a late lunch, we decided to eat some cheese, french bread, and dried sausage. Of course we opened a bottle of red wine--being in wine country, how could we resist.

Since my body was still on east coast time, I woke up at 4 am.....stepped outside and it saw the most amazing sky....the sky was filled stars....I had never seen so many stars in the was definitely an ahh haa moment.

We grabbed breakfast and went for a hike in the Armstrong Redwood Forest--beautiful and amazing.

Off to do some wine tasting.....we visited mostly small family-run wineries. One of the wineries we visited had a bocci ball court and the winners got a free bottle of wine. Of course the ladies took the prize, but I think either way we would have left with a bottle. We took a picnic lunch and had lunch at the wineries we visited. the weather was beautiful and the views, amazing.

Dinner the second night was paella. back east, my neighbor Sonsoles, from Almeria, Spain, shared her mothers paella recipe with me. I winged it and used the following ingredients:

chicken wings
chorizo sausage

I did use canned fish stock, although the fish monger did tell me that he would give me some fish heads so I could make my own. Being on vacation and not having a lot of time, I opted for the canned fish stock, which was more than adequate.

The kitchen was tiny, but had all the items needed to cook.....good pans, knives and a small stove top.

I decided to make dinner for the next night at the same time--something that we could heat up easily. Unfortunately, I, Rick, Mike, or was it Mary that forgot to put it in the refrigerator before going to bed. We didn't want to risk getting sick on vacation so we voted and decided to toss it. We would have had chicken with lots of garlic and white wine sauce--I had recently made it for Rick and Mary a few months back when they came for a visit. That being said, we had to come up with a new plan.

I decided to make a quick and easy coconut curry fish--we did stop at a small, local store for our supplies and in no time, we were sitting down eating dinner.

We had the honor and please during our stay to attend a fundraiser--what an amazing once in a lifetime moment, when concert violinist Christopher Collins Lee played, it seemed, to me. After the song was over I met and thanked him for his warmth and kindness I felt as he played. It really showed me how an artists love for what he does makes love and happiness.

On our way back to San Fransisco we drove to the coast and down highway one. We made a stop at Blind Beach and walked down the cliff to the sandy beach. Another beautiful day--the natural coastline was incredible.

I had been to San Fransisco about 10 years ago, and this was my first time back. We walked through Chinatown, to the pier, to Haight and Ashbury. For a special treat we went out to dinner to celebrate my friend Mary's birthday at the Zuni Cafe....the atmosphere was incredible and the food was great. We also made a pit stop at Magnolia Pub and Brewery had a couple home brewed beverages, including their very own soda. The food is fresh and delicious.

On our way back to the east coast. It was a much needed vacation and we had a great time.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

French Feast--October 16, 2009 at crisp

What a lovely evening with lovely people. Another small intimate group of folks for the fourth Crisp event. It never amazes me what can happen when you gather people around a table and serve them a home-cooked meal. After the soup was served I noticed that everyone stopped talking....a sign that what was just served was a hit.

The menu:

french onion soup--I prepared homemade beef stock the week before. Sauteed thinly sliced onions, salt and pepper, and fresh thyme, which simmered for a few hours. Topped off with toasted bread and Gruyere cheese. My husband told me, this was the best french onion soup he had tasted. Not too salty (which seems to be what you get when you order at a restaurant).

mixed green and arugula salad with toasted pecans, Anjou pears and chevre. Topped with a light vinaigrette dressing.

chicken with lots of garlic--the sauce on this dish is what makes it so special. The chicken is cooked in wine, broth, all the yummy garlic and thyme. The sauce is made at the end by reducing the liquid and adding flour and a splash of cream. The garlic is so soft and tender that is becomes part of the sauce.
delicata squash with wild rice stuffing--Here is were I did a bit of experimenting. I decided against adding any sweet fruit to the stuffing since the squash is already really sweet and buttery. I wanted the squash really cooked so that when it was being eaten all of the flesh of the squash would come away from the skin. The end result was a wild rice stuffing with onions, mushrooms, sage and pomegranate. The result was compliments around the table.

The last and most important course....

profiteroles--I hadn't made this in a while and it seems that my first attempt each time I remake them is a flop and then I remember--I need to cook the batter longer. The second attempt--perfect; stuffed with pastry cream and drizzled with dark chocolate.

After dessert and coffee/tea was served, I then got to sit at the table and boy did we all giggle. It was probably my favorite night so far!! As you can see from the picture of one of the guests......

Thanks to all of you to help me make my dream come true.
photos: Mike Watson

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Mediterranean Magic--September 24, 2009

I am excited to post about my third Crisp event. Since I cancelled this event in August due to personal reasons, I decided to keep the menu for September the same.

It seemed to be the easiest of the menus that I have prepared. The guests included close friends and was more casual than previous dinners.

I created a menu based on Greek food. I ran across a great Greek cookbook, that I ended up purchasing called Vefa's Kitchen--the peppers, rice, and baklava were inspired from this cookbook. It is full of great recipes and beautiful pictures.

The menu for the evening included:

Stuffed cubanello peppers (some of the peppers came from my garden!)--with feta cheese, herbs, and olive oil.

Traditional Greek salad with a olive oil-lemon dressing (including fresh mint, oregano, and parsley from my kitchen herb garden).

Lamb marinated in yogurt, garlic and fresh herbs and grilled.
Tomato rice with cumin and coriander.
Sauteed spinach with herbed feta cheese.

Crisp does it up RIGHT!!!
--Laura Didyk, South Lee, MA

Baklava served with fresh figs.

These dinners always inspire me and excite me to do more. October 16, 2009 is the next event. If you are not on the guest list, and would like to be please let me know.

photos: Mike Watson

Friday, August 28, 2009

My Garden

When I was a kid I helped my father in the garden every year--this is something I always looked forward to. It seemed like we were on a small farm. Getting excited about spreading manure now seems a little strange, but yes I was, and couldn't wait to put on my boots, and trudge through making sure all of the garden plot was covered.

I once grew peach trees from pits that my neighbor threw into his garden. Every year, waiting for the first fruit to ripen--almost 7 years. I never liked peaches prior to growing my own--I savored every bite from that first peach of the year.
My first business experience was selling vegetables from the end or our was a great way to earn some cash at 12. Convenience was always good too--if I ran out of a product, I could run back to the garden and pick fresh.

As the years have passed, and the I think back to all the houses I have lived in, I have always tried to have a small garden. Herbs being the most prevalent. This year I grew some pole beans, tomatoes (my tomatoes did survive), and peppers.
The herbs that I grow are: basil, thai basil, cilantro, chives, french tarragon, thyme, lemon thyme, rosemary, lavender, parsley, sage, mint (if anyone wants any let me know), bee balm, oregano, and woodruff.

Natasha Came to Town

Although I did cancel my dinner this August, my friend Maggie--aka Natasha the naughty Russian waitress, we did some experimenting. Remember that it has been rescheduled for September 25 @ 6:30

I received a recipe for Gouvarlakia from a friend whose mom was visiting from Greece and I asked if he would share her recipe with me. The recipe below is what I received:

Gouvarlakia is a Greek/ Turkish food ....
Meatball with rice :
Beef ground meat with rice: Make small round meatballs about 3/4 of an inch and boil them with water just covering them. 60% meat-40 % rice, add a little parsley, salt and pepper. ( some people also add a little cumin (that makes it more Constantinople style)
When the meatballs (rice) are ready then take two or three eggs and beet them with 2-4 lemons.( Avgo lemono : egg-lemon sauce) Take a few spoonfuls of water from you meat balls and add to your egglemon sauce so it warms gradually and then start puring the egglemon into the pot with the meatballs.

The result--I will need some tips on the sauce and will be trying this recipe again. We all liked the meatballs, but thought there was a secret that was being kept about the recipe.

Monday, July 27, 2009

A Night of Food From the Old Country

July 24--second event
This was my second dinner event. I decided to cook all of the foods that I either ate as a child or ate while on my trip back to the village my grandfather came from. The cooking that we ate was very simple, but delicious. Made with care and, I think the best part of it was that most, if not all, came from the village itself.
Most of the ingredients that I used were locally grown and produced. I am finding that I am maybe serving so much food that folks can't finish what I give them....or maybe I need to be clear that they should come with empty stomachs.
The menu:

Zucchini flowers--these were battered and fried. my mother used to go out to our huge garden in the morning and pick the flowers, making sure to pick the males, as they do not produce zucchinis. she would make them and me and my three sisters would gobble them up.

Caprisi salad--i used heirloom tomatoes and fresh mozzarella with huge pieces of basil. One of the guests was allergic to basil so i substituted fresh oregano. I drizzled the salad with olive oil, salt, and pepper

Homemade pasta--with a fresh roma tomato sauce

Chicken--marinated with lemon, rosemary, garlic and olive oil. Frank the waiter did the honor of grilling the chicken.

Broccolini--steamed and dressed with a black olive dressing

Cannoli--i did purchase the shells, but made the filling with fresh sheep's milk ricotta.

Me with my helper.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

An Unforgettable Four Course Meal from Crisp

June 24, 2009--the inaugural event.

As I love to cook food for folks and have been doing this for many years, I decided to invite friends to share in a restaurant-style experience. I being the chef, and with the help of my husband Mike (aka Frank the waiter) invited a handful of people to come and sit at my table while I cooked and served them, as if they were at a restaurant.

My first event was exciting and full of flavor. In preparation, I tested 4 different fishes, marinated and seasoned 8 different ways. Since I decided I would cook fish in banana leaves for my first event, and never had done it before, I did a little testing to come up with the perfect combination. With my husband and two friends (one visiting from Kansas), we tested and tasted all of the different combinations.

Here is what the final menu consisted of. If anyone is interested in any of the recipes you can email me.

Summer Rolls--veggie summer rolls with rice noodles and a reduced peanut sauce
Spinach Salad--with orange wedges and avocado served with a ginger dressing
Grouper Grilled in Banana Leaves--grouper, marinated in a coconut curry sauce served w/ a pineapple-mango-orange relish
Coconut Rice
Long Beans--sauteed in sesame oil and garlic
Lemon Pudding Cake--with fresh whipped cream and local strawberries and blueberries
Piave cheese and fresh fruit
Coffee & Tea

Folks were a bit confused, as they thought I would be joining them to eat. But, being the chef of the evening it is impossible to cook and serve the food as fresh as possible and sit and relax. It is more important for me to make sure the food is top quality. I do make many visits to the table to talk with everyone to ensure the food is good and ask if anyone has any questions.

My ingredients are the best quality I can find--and I do try to purchase as much locally produced food available.

A good time was you can see below.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

snowy saturday eve

moroccan it was.....not sure what the inspiration for this complex seasoned food was... a bit sweet and savory. you will find cumin and cinnamon combinations. the evenings menu was:

since mike and i went for a drive to saratoga for the day, i stopped at putnam market and picked up some pate champagne, raw milk manchego, and bucheron to start with.

roasted moroccan spiced root veggies with quinoa
lentils with pan seared scallops

and for dessert, a lime curd tart, recipe compliments of ina garten