Tag Archives: diy

supper club: a seasonal spring dinner

Photos by Lauren DeFilippo

While summer may be the pinnacle of fresh produce, spring is the season I love the most. It’s the season of bitter vegetables, detox from our hearty winter stews, casseroles and soups. From artichokes to asparagus, fiddleheads to ramps, this is the season of green—and I’m just eating it up.

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To share my enthusiasm for the budding flavors of this season, I invited a dozen of my nearest and dearest, including my favorite Brooklyn baker: Molly Marzalek-Kelly. I met Molly through my very first supper club, as she was a good friend of the dinner’s host (I was freshly moved into my BK apartment, and had barely unpacked). When I luke-warmly accepted his invitation to have someone else bake, I had no idea that I would be meeting such an incredible talent. Molly is even sweeter than her baked treats (which I love, because I prefer my desserts on the less-than-tooth-decaying end of the spectrum). Her attention to detail and instinct for fresh flavors is admirable, and I can’t recommend enough that you all take a trip to visit her at BAKED in Red Hook.

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Anyway, back to the menu:

Sourdough Miche and Sunflower-Rye Loaves from Bien Cuit Bakery

Flaky Ramp Tart

Mixed Baby Green Salad with Candied Walnuts and Broccoli Raab Flowers

Roasted Tarragon and Preserved Lemon Chicken 

Thyme and Garlic Roasted Carrots

Grilled Vegetables: Radicchio, Asparagus, Favas, Baby Garlic

Dessert: Lemon Curd Meringues, Rhubarb Pie and Rich Chocolate Tart
(paired with Grapefruit-Champagne Sorbet, Fresh Mint Ice Cream & Orange Cardamom Sorbet)

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supper club: springtime italian

Photos by Lauren DeFilippo

After spicing things up in February with a Mexican supper club, March seemed a time for returning to the familiar. For me, that means Italian food and, in this case, an opportunity to put an innovative spin on the flavors of my youth.

For this back-to-basics occasion, it seemed fitting to invite the “family”, a rambunctious group of New York friends who have grown closer than most blood relatives. Silly, selfless and as indiscreet as they come, I knew we were in for a delicious and rowdy evening.

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Greeting friends with friselles.

First came the friselles, little pepper biscuits that have become one of my signature dishes. I often give these savory, crumbly cookies as housewarming gifts, so they seemed the perfect greeting for my guests.

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Homemade ricotta, oven dried tomatoes and DIY crostini

Next came crostini, sesame toasts layered with homemade ricotta and oven dried tomatoes. The tomatoes, simple as they come, were instant hits, which guests used to garnish everything from salad to savory dishes.

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My grandmother’s famous walnut and anchovy pasta

Then came a simple escarole salad, dressed with garlic, oil and anchovy dressing. My favorite briny fish served double duty, tying the salad to my grandmother’s signature pasta dish: linguine with anchovy, walnuts and parsley.

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Curiosity got the best of us in between courses.

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Sicilian meat balls with pine nuts, currants and parsley

After pasta came the main course, Sicilian meatballs (ground pork with pine nuts, parsley and currants) baked over a bed of radicchio. Alongside it, I served spicy broccoli rabe with bread crumbs and thinly sliced, roasted-going-on-blackened winter white vegetables (cauliflower, celery root, fennel).

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Broccoli rabe and winter white vegetables

Relaxing on the couch before dessert.

Relaxing on the couch before dessert

Then came dessert, a blood orange olive oil cake topped with blood orange/honey compote and home-whipped cream. It was the perfect, bittersweet end to this especially nostalgic supper club.

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Blood orange cake/compote, with home-whipped cream

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Laughter and love on our notoriously comfy couch.

A last round of drinks, and it was nearly midnight. That didn’t stop the stragglers however, who challenged me to highly competitive game of Connect-4, the most intense (I’m sure) that my local dive bar has ever seen.

Thanks again to all who made this such a special night. You truly all are family to me, and I look forward to hosting you again and again.

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supper club: february

After a few months of hibernation, the supper club is back! And, according to attendees, better than ever. Inspired by a recent encounter with Chef Rick Bayless, I decided to throw a proper Mexican fiesta, complete with piñata.

For the first course, I served ceviche. After much research, I hesitantly chose to use frozen fish: shrimp, calamari and scallops. While fresh fish would have been even better, the secret to my ceviche’s success was slowly defrosting and “cooking” each type of fish for a different amount of time. The calamari (which was the toughest/most resilient) cooked for 2 1/2 hours in lime juice with thinly sliced red onion. I added the shrimp one hour and the delicate scallops thirty minutes before serving. In the Ecuadorian style, a sprinkle of corn nuts provided contrast in texture.

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For the main course, I threw a 9 lb pork shoulder in a slow cooker the night before the party. Rubbed with cocoa powder, chipotle chile powder, oregano, paprika, cumin, dark brown sugar, salt and olive oil, it roasted for 18 hours until pull-apart tender. I served it with corn tortillas toasted in a cast iron pan, Mexican crema, guacamole and roasted tomatillo salsa.

Mole dry-rubbed pulled pork, 8 hours into cooking.

The pork was accompanied by a few vegetarian sides. For the black bean pomegranate salad, I soaked black beans overnight and cooked them until tender (but not mushy). To that I added pomegranite seeds, cilantro, lime juice, olive oil and a splash of red wine vinegar.

My roommates help prepare the black bean salad.

My roommates help prepare the black bean salad.

The Mexican corn crema was everyone’s favorite dish. A simpler version of on-the-cob street corn, it was a mix of frozen summer corn (roasted on a sheet pan until blackened), cotija cheese, crema, chile powder and lime.

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For dessert, I dreamed up “mexican hot chocolate” pudding. Essentially, I doctored jello chocolate pudding with some spices. For liquid, I used a combination of organic whole milk and freshly-brewed espresso (about 4-parts milk to 1-part espresso). To intensify the flavor further, I added smoked cinnamon, chile powder and cocoa powder. When it came time to serve the pudding, I topped it with shaved dark chocolate, fleur de sel and candied orange rind.

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But of all the dishes, the one I had the most fun making were the buñuelo wonton strips. I have little experience with deep frying, so was a bit intimidated by the process. The secret was not to overcrowd the pan, so that the oil remained hot, which makes for a less greasy end product. A quick dusting of cinnamon, sugar and chile powder made these simple treats extra-addictive.

After dessert came the climax of the evening: the breaking of the piñata. We swang at it a few times with a broom handle, but it was my friend David’s move to opt for a copper pot that led to a (literal) break through.

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Thanks to all who came to the supper club! Such a pleasure cooking for you.

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recipe: gluten- and nut-free granola

If you’re a vegetarian, gluten-sensitive, have food allergies or are simply seeking to follow a more health-focused diet, you’re a part of a major movement that is reshaping the way we eat. Working for a cooking school, I have witnessed an increased interest in health-conscious cooking and, more interestingly, have noticed that most of my colleagues are affected by at least one food allergy or intolerance. But rather than “suffer” from food sensitivity, home cooks can take this opportunity to become better informed, to learn about what goes into our food and – at best – to make most of what we eat from scratch.

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So that’s how I arrived at my DIY granola. I had been innocently enjoying a morning pistachio/mulberry mix, when my allergist informed me that I have a mild allergy to certain legumes and nuts – including pistachios. That’s when I realized that the pistachios were the most recognizable item in my granola, and I had no idea what else might be in there.

This granola gets its crunch from seeds, rather than nuts, and coconut chips. The signature (but absolutely optional) ingredient is a spice blend by Lior Lev Sercarz, the master spice blender at La Boîte á Epice. I met Lior at the Institute of Culinary Education, where he was teaching a class inspired by his new cookbook, The Art of Blending. When the class was over, there were a few half-full containers of his spice blends left over, which he encouraged me to take home.

Over the past few weeks, I have sprinkled Lior’s spicy “Shabazi” blend over freekeh with eggs and roasted vegetables with his “Marrakesh”, but spent more time nostalgically sniffing than actually cooking with his French gingerbread-inspired blend, “Reims”. Mixing it into my granola added a savory complexity that goes far beyond cinnamon. In truth, it’s an excellent example of how spice can empower health-focused cooks – a flavorful mission that I think Lior, himself, would fully back.

Gluten- and Nut-Free Granola

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups gluten-free oats*
  • 5 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup coconut chips
  • 3/4 cup golden raisins/craisins
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1-2 pinches of high quality sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp “Reims” spice blend (in lieu of this, you can pass on spice, or add fall/winter baking spices, like cinnamon or “pumpkin pie spice”)

Instructions:

  1. Mix together all dry ingredients.
  2. Add coconut oil, and mix.
  3. Beat egg whites, and add to mixture. Dry ingredients should be lightly coated by oil/egg whites, to the point of just beginning to stick together. You can add more oil/egg white if necessary.
  4. Shape granola into a “donut” on large greased baking pan. Bake for 20-30 minutes on 350 degrees, stirring occasionally to ensure even cooking. (The “donut” ensures that you don’t end up with an uncooked middle.)

*Oats are naturally gluten-free, but if you have gluten sensitivities, it is important that they are verified as being produced in a gluten-free environment.

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supper club: september

One of my goals in moving to Brooklyn was to start a supper club. So mere days after moving into my new place, I kicked things off with a dinner party for friends old and new.

Co-hosting was my graphic designer/photographer sister Lauren, whose eye for detail (and grocery lugging skills) helped make this party not only tasty, but beautiful. Check out her shots of the dinner below, and stay tuned for more supper club updates!

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Menu:

Gin, lillet blanc and basil cocktail

Homemade, spicy heirloom pickles – carrot, cauliflower, and radish

Arugula, orange and fennel salad with lemon-ginger vinaigrette

Grilled pineapple

Sweet and spicy grilled shrimp

Baked mole chicken

Butternut squash, black bean and coconut rice – Inspired by Tartelette

Asian slaw

Blackened hazelnut haricots verts and mangetout – Inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi

Passion fruit custard with red wine glaze and toasted nuts**

Coffee and chocolate ganache birthday cake**

**Both desserts were made by our incredible friend, pastry chef Molly Marzalek-Kelly, of Baked NYC

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