The sun was still out before Sunday’s torrential rains and nothing screams springtime, grilling and outdoors more than bagna càuda. The name of the dish literarly means “hot dip” and it is a great idea for serving as an appetizer to hold off hungry guests while you frantically finish preparing a delicious meal. I was inspired to make this while my parents were visiting this weekend so we could reminisce with them about our 2008 Côte d’Azur trip. Reminisce is all we’re planning on doing as something tells me international, intercontinental travel with an infant is more trouble than it is worth. Lastly, this is also a nod to my anchovies as big flavor creators post.

Flavors

At last, we have consistently warm temperatures around here. We even had to mow the lawn the other day and got most of our landscaping done. The yard still needs a lot of work, but at least we got rid of some 40 year old shrubs that were most definitely showing their age. And now… the big reveal of all the fauna we are enjoying thanks to living in the woods. We will pay back for these glorious bursts of color when mosquito season sets in.

Gardening Uncategorized

{this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Moments

There I was, looking at the extra large batch of baked sweet potato I had made for Sophia. I quickly realized that freezing it seemed like a hassle. Besides, who knows how well the sweet potato will fare the freezer. I decided that since we are making our own baby food and it is really just a slightly more pureed version of what we eat anyways, there is nothing wrong with making our meal out of Sophia’s. I decided to also use up some goat cheese we’d had in the refrigerator and the idea of making fried balls of goodness (like Arancini) was born. I took the mashed sweet potato, added an egg, salt, pepper and about a half a cup of flour. The dough that it became, was still very wet and sticky. I used two spoons to shape canelle-like balls inserting rolled up goat cheese inside. Once shaped, each one was rolled in Panko. The faux arancini were ready for a quick bath in the hot oil.They were divine served hot! But then again, what fried food isn’t?

Cookery Culinary Adventures Flavors Tiny Tastebuds

My sister, her husband and my adorable nephew came to visit us this past weekend. They planned to take in the museums and sights of D.C. and we provided the perfect lodging facility complete with a MAP dining plan. Their plan was to arrive late Thursday, wake up Friday and take the Spy Museum by force. Saturday, they visited the National Museum of American History and the brand spankin’ new National Air and Space Museum Udvar Hazy Center was on tap for Sunday. Although some may find the thought of entertaining guests with a 6 month old at home daunting, I was up for the challenge. I promised myself that not only that I will succeed, but I will do so with grace. And so I did. Hubby and I enjoyed my sister and her family immencely and feel refreshed coming back to work. I planned simple, easy to make breakfasts and dinners. For example, Saturday’s breakfast was an easy, make-ahead Berry Bread Pudding while we enjoyed Buttermilk Pancakes for breakfast on Friday. Friday’s dinner (grilled veggies and meats) was transformed into Sunday’s brunch with the addition of an omlette expertly made by the hubby. All in all, this just shows that you don’t have to be daunted at the thought of having to entertain guests. It is all possible and even very much enjoyable if you plan right. I look forward to more hosting and entertaining especially since spring has sprung and we can grill, relax and lounge the outdoors for the brief few months before the D.C. humidity and heat drive everyone back inside.

Cookery FriendsFamily Uncategorized

Some days are made for a lazy evening in the kitchen where conversation and drinks flow while delicious food is made and the kids play. That’s the vision anyways!

I ventured out to our local supermarket on my own WITH baby yesterday — a first for me. It was a daunting task at first due to the fact that I had to pack her diaper bag, take my purse, the car seat, the Bjorn carrier and well, the BABY. I made it out of the house fairly quickly and Sophia was on her best behavior. She rarely gets to go to the store so she was just busy taking it all in seated comfortably in front of me in the baby carrier. I meanwhile got a workout carrying her, loading and unloading the cart and unpacking all the groceries at home. I guess it still saves time over having to hit the gym. By the time I got home, however, all dreams of cooking an amazing meal had evaporated and I was ready to plant myself in front of the TV for an evening of relaxation.

I decided that I would see if the hubby would cook while caught up on our day and played with Sophia. Not surprisingly, he was up to the challenge and made Seared Scallops with Mango Salad which happens to be one of our 20 minute meals. It was fast, delicious and reasonably healthy.

Lovely time spent as a family on a chilly spring evening. I hear this weekend will be glorious and maybe we’ll plant in our garden — maybe!

Cookery Hubby Cooks

{this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

April 13th, 2012

General

My birthday was this past Saturday. I always look far, far in advance on what day of the week my birthday falls. I secretly hope that it magically falls on a Saturday every year and this year my wishes and dreams came true — except it also fell over Passover. This is a serious impediment to proper celebration as no birthday is complete without a luxurious cake with layers, frosting and the likes.

Before I tell you how I celebrated this year’s big day, I will share how I would spend the birthdays BS (Before Sophia). I would take the day off from work, get up early, walk from Olde City (where we lived in Philadelphia) all the way to Rittenhouse Square (one of my favorite places to go, see and be seen) and start my day right at La Colombe coffee with a latte and an almond croissant. I would sit facing the windows, and watch people come and go, rushing to go to work or to various appointments. I would then visit a few stores, galleries, walk around the city and return home to get ready to go out to celebrate. Sometimes, the hubby would take off from work and we’d get a little more adventurous like the one time we went to the Italian Market and visited an old-school cafe and picked up some [real] cannoli.

Now that we’re in the PS (Post Sophia) period of our lives, I’ve had to augment my celebration plan. Since we were also planning to visit our family for the holiday, we decided to leverage our little bundle of joy to get some free time to ourselves while the grandparents got some time to play with their bubbly granddaughter. We finally fed and put Sophia in the stroller for her long walk followed by a long (hopefully) nap in the afternoon. We looked at our watches and made a quick dash for the car. The time was 12:25 PM on Saturday. We made it to Philadelphia in 30 minutes, parked and joined the throngs of crowds around Rittenhouse Square. Our first stop was the Oyster House, an establishment I have not been able to visit for well over 18 months as raw foods present a significant risk to pregnant women. Overjoyed to finally try some sweet, briny oysters, the hubby and I chatted away in our own world like old times. Not to waste too much time, we stopped by a few stores, picked up a bauble for me on my parents’ behalf and moved on to Tria, our old favorite. We know our beer and wine and find that an establishment such as Tria provides a great opportunity to try something without having to committ to a full bottle. I also like Tria because they have a huge array of pinchos and I can get great flavor combination ideas there. They for example have a pistachio, lavender ricotta with honey on a baguette slice drizzled with honey or stewed figs stuffed with gorgonzola picante served with prosciutto and potato chips with truffled mayo. There are all things that I can now (and sometimes do) make at home. A dash into Capogiro comepleted our all-too brief visit to Philadelphia, perfect one-on-one date, and a spectacular birthday celebration sans-baby.

Culinary Adventures

Lazy, weekend mornings in the late Fall or early Spring are most memorable and relaxing when started the same way my family has done for as long as I can remember: with a baked potato and pickled herring breakfast.

Picked Herring and Baked Potato

Now I realize that some of my readers may find the idea, the combination and frankly, even the individual ingredients (herring) unappealing. You can’t knock it until you try it. Russians aren’t the only culture that enjoys picked everything including fish. Hubby and I quickly found that out when we visited Sweden on our honeymoon. Either way, I can’t quite decide if I like it because it is so delicious or if it is so delicious because with it, I associate Sunday mornings growing up. Regardless, my craving for pickled fish and/or family togetherness was dearly satisfied over the weekend.

FriendsFamily Mom's Cooking

Religion was very much in the background when I was growing up in the former Soviet Union. However, tradition was always at the forefront. I have great memories of delicious foods in the early Spring (which I now realize was for Passover) and getting money in the early Winter (which was for Hannukah). My parents and grandparents did not really elaborate on why we have certain traditions, but that we just do. So getting back to the food… my early Spring memories always center around chicken soup with matzo balls and gefilte fish. There were of course many other delicious dishes, but to me, Passover is not celebrated unless we feast on gefilte fish and chicken soup with matzo balls.

Traditions must be kept and passed on and this year we were treated to an amazing meal in lovely settings. My sister hosted our Seder dinner and cooked many delicious dishes including the mandatory chicken soup with picture perfect matzo balls.

Chicken Soup with Matzo Balls

My mom made her famous gefilte fish which by the way, is not bland, run of the mill, supermarket purchased, pale and unattractive.

Gefilte Fish

It is flavorful, handmade, and very, very, very delicious. Now that I sit back, read over the beginning of this post and reminisce about all the delicious foods we had on Friday, I only hope that I can too one day have enough courage to host such a beautiful Seder.

Finally, a big shout-out to my sister who is an amazing chef thanks to or perhaps despite being a working mom of a rambunctious eight year old. Ingredients turn into gold in her hands and she manages to host so effortlessly.

Mom's Cooking