Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Dinner Party 101: A guide to serving a elegant yet easy meal.

      Dinner Parties are a great way to get to know or to catch up with a group of people. The host prepares a meal and the food serves as a bonding experience. However they can be stressful and constricting to the host whom has to stay in the kitchen during cocktail hour while the guest are intermingling. The trick to overcoming this are easy simple make ahead meals that will impress. 

     A good dinner party starts with a light finger food appetizer, proceed to a salad, a hearty main dish, at least two sides, and end with a refreshing dessert. I have hosted several dinner parties with my family and they have all been a huge success. 

   The main points you need to focus on are the texture of the food, presentation, and the taste of course. Playing with sweet, sour, salty and bitter flavors along with soft, crisp textures will keep the guests wondering whats next.  Textures and flavors paring together are key! Here is a sample menu for a dinner party.


A great appetizer would be Cheese-Pepper Palmier. These French pastries are flaky, savory, with that bite of pepper that leaves the guest wanting more.

You will need:
1 1/4 cup finely grated sharp Cheddar
1/4 of a cup of good quality Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper 
1/2 teaspoon of salt 
2 sheets of thawed puff pastry dough 

Toss the cheeses and the salt in pepper in a bowl together.
  • "Spread 1/4 cup  of the cheese mixture on your work one of the sheets of puff pastry over the cheese. Using a rolling pin, flatten the dough into a 10-inch square, then sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese mixture all over top of pastry, and press lightly .Fold  the sides of 2 ends and meet them in the center then fold once more into center and press ends together. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill until firm, about 1 hour (or freeze for 15 to 30 minutes). Repeat with remaining cheese and second sheet of pastry.

  • While dough chills, preheat oven to 400 F with racks in upper and lower parts of oven. Line 2 large baking  sheets with parchment paper.

  • Working with 1 piece at a time (keep remaining chilled until ready to use), unwrap pastry and cut, seam side up, into 1/4-inch-thick slices, arranging them 1 inch apart on baking sheets. Bake, turning palmiers over and switching position of pans halfway through, until golden and pastry is cooked through, 18 to 22 minutes total. Transfer palmiers to rack to cool. Repeat cutting and baking remaining pastry on cooled sheets.

  • Make ahead: Dough can be assembled up to 3 days ahead. Palmiers can be baked 1 day ahead and kept in an airtight container at room temperature." 
  • This recipe can be found at 
 A good refreshing choice of a chicken will keep the crowds pleased. The acidic note of the lemon refreshed while the chicken is savory and yet still refreshing which will make your guests feel not too full.Make this recipe ahead in the day and keep it in the oven turned off until serving covered in aluminum foil

You will need:

"Two 3 1/2- to 4-pound chicken, cut into 16 pieces, patted dry

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Flour for dredging

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 large onion, thinly sliced

Peel of a lemon, only the yellow not the white pith. cut into very thin strips

4 large garlic cloves, minced

3 teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves

2 tablespoon honey or agave nectar

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 cups chicken broth, homemade or canned low-sodium

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge in the flour and pat off the excess. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the chicken skin-side down and saute until golden brown, about 5 minutes per side. Remove the chicken from the skillet and reserve.

Discard the oil and wipe the pan out with a paper towel. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and heat over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook until golden, about 10 to 12 minutes. Add the lemon zest, garlic, and rosemary, and cook for 2 minutes more. Add the honey, lemon juice, and broth, increase the heat and bring to a simmer.

Use a slotted spoon to transfer the onions to a 9- by 13-inch ovenproof casserole, and spread them out. Arrange the chicken, skin-side up in a single layer on the onions. Pour the cooking liquid over the chicken. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bake in the oven, basting every 15 minutes, until cooked through, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve."

This recipe was doubled and can be found at
Include as a side dish your favorite salad, some pre-roasted asparagus that are in the fridge, and some boxed pine nut couscous.

To end the night make a quick and easy lemon sobet. This is a light and refreshing sweet note that is quick and easy and can be made ahead 3 days before. Serve this sorbet with a mint leaf on the top and serve in a empty lemon.
You can find the recipe here:

Lemon Sorbet in Lemon Cups
Good Luck and Have fun!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Toppings for Pizza!

The main base for pizza toppings is a sauce of any kind, either a marinara or a white sauce, and some sort of cheese and pretty much whatever the maker wants! You are the boss of your pizza! 

My favorite sauce, is either the tomato Ragu pizza sauce or my homemade blend. 

Either I buy petite diced tomatoes (canned) or tomato sauce. Use the diced tomatoes if you like a more chunkier sauce or the tomato sauce for a more creamy one. I prefer a chunkier sauce.

Dice garlic (as much as you like I normally use about 2 cloves ) In a small saucepan over medium high heat bring about 2 tablespoons of olive oil to temperature. Add the garlic but do NOT cook until browned. You do not want to brown your garlic just saute until it is fragrant. When the garlic is fragrant, add the can of diced tomatoes and stir. Bring the tomatoes up to temperature.

Next lower the heat to medium low and put a lid on the pot.

Gather some dried herbs and flavors to your taste. I recommend a good tablespoon of sugar, salt and pepper to taste, a pinch of oregano, parsley (fresh or dried) as much as you like ( I add normally at least 3 teaspoons), a pinch of basil, and a teaspoon of garlic powder. 

Add these ingredients to the tomato mix and let simmer stirring occasionally for 5 minutes. 

After the 5 minutes are up (skip this step if you are using tomato sauce) pour the sauce into a blender or food processor (be careful its hot) and pulse until your desired consistency and then simmer for another 5-10 minutes until thickened.

Spread on the uncooked dough and top with your favorite pizza toppings. 

Choose a mozzarella cheese for a base and then top with a stronger cheese if desired like a Parmesan, or a Gruyere

Top with your favorite combinations and bake until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is melted  

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

How about some Pizza?

One of the more intimidating foods is homemade pizza. The pizza one makes at home is so much healthier, better , and more delicious than the take-out or the take and bake. This recipe can be made simple and easy, and ready on your plate in a matter of a hour.

Pizza Dough:

You will need:
3 1/2 to 4 cups of All Purpose Flour (plus more for handling the dough)
1 teaspoon of granulated sugar
1 envelope of instant dried yeast or 2 1/4 teaspoon of active dried yeast
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 cups of warm water (110 degrees F)
2 tablespoons of olive oil ( You'll need 2 teaspoons also for later)

What to do:

This recipe can be made by a stand mixer or if you're feeling courageous by hand.

Combine the flour, sugar, salt, and the yeast in the bowl of the stand mixer.  (in a bowl if by hand)

While the mixer is running add in the warm water and the oil until the dough forms a ball. ( Add the water and the oil and mix thoroughly until all of the liquid is incorporated and the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl)

SIMPLE TIP: If the dough is too wet add additional flour to the mix 1 teaspoon at a time until it comes together in a smooth ball. If the dough is too dry at 1 teaspoon until the dough is coming together in a smooth ball.

Scrape the dough out onto a floured surface and start kneading the dough until it comes together in a smooth elastic not too sticky ball. 

SIMPLE TIP: If you push your finger gently into the dough ball it should feel smooth not tough 

Grease the bowl with the remaining 2 teaspoons of olive oil and place the dough in the greased bowl and roll it around to cover the surface with olive oil.

Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and stick it in a warm place to double in size about a hour. 

After the dough has risen for a hour cut in in half and let rest for another 10 minutes.

Stretch it and roll it out into the desired shape, top and bake at whatever recipe you are using for the toppings requires or until the dough is golden brown 

(Toppings recipe coming soon!)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Controversy Over Foie Gras: California loopholes?

Foie Gras is a luxury dish that is served all over, but there is much controversy to this dish. Foie Gras is the liver of a duck or a goose that has been force fed  with a technique called gavage. This dish has a rich flavor and a smooth texture which can be served in pâtés or in hot main entrees. 

Foie Gras has been banned in California since July 1, 2012 making it illegal to serve or produce this dish in the state of California. However, some businesses are finding the loopholes and still serving this dish. From clever wordplay to customers providing their own product for chefs to prepare the foie gras, this ban can not completely get rid of the product.

Places such as the Presido Social Club in San Francisco are still serving their foie gras being that the "law doesn't apply to them because the restaurant is on land administered by a federal agency". Experts in the legal field state that this club is safe from any lawsuits being that this ban doesn't effect federal property. 

No matter what this dish is loved by many people from California to France and will not be banned completely anywhere. Even though this is banned in California, foie gras is not banned from places such as Europe or Canada.

For more information go to:

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Haiku to Cooking

Steaming, Sizzling Rice
The bubbling, hot, rich soup
What is next to come?

My Passion for Cooking

My love of cooking was enforced by both of my grandmothers. My maternal grandmother is a amazing cook and has made our Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter dinners ever since I can first remember. We bake together and she teaches me her techniques. Her cooking influences come from upstate New York. She has a classical outlook on food but she loves to mix it up and produce new and exciting treats. She has traveled to China, Egypt, England, Scotland, Ireland, France and Italy. Her cooking is heavily influenced by the foods she tried overseas. Our family is mostly Irish and Scottish, so almost every meal we have with her has some sort of potato dish in it.  

My paternal grandmother is also a amazing cook. However this side of the family is mostly influenced by Southern and Cajun cuisine. I have heard stories about my great grandmothers "Southern Potatoes" and how you had to tilt the pan to only be able to get the potatoes and not the butter that pooled at the bottom of the pan. We have deep fried turkey and traditional mashed potatoes and milk gravy every year at my aunts Thanksgiving feast. 

This is my favorite part of cooking, the bond that is formed when you learn new recipes from your elders. It is a blessing to be able to cook with my grandparents and to learn from their mistakes. I'm passionate about cooking and this has come from my opportunity to cook with my family.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Risotto with Parmesan Cheese

One of my favorite recipes that I have made and one of my go to comfort foods is Risotto. Risotto can be made in many different forms and can have various different flavor profiles (lobster, mushroom, etc), all you need to know is the basic white risotto. The dish originates from Milan, Italy where rice was a essential diet staple. Even now to this day the base have the same core ingredients Arborio rice, white wine, and a stock of any kind.

What you need:
1 medium onion diced.
2 cups Arborio Rice
3/4 cup of Good Quality Parmesan Cheese
1/2 cup of White Wine
5 Cups of Chicken Stock
4 Tablespoons of Butter
Salt and Pepper to Taste

1. Heat a large deep bottomed skillet on medium high heat with the pat of butter. Add in the diced onion and sauté until translucent (Do not let the onion caramelize or brown). Warm the broth on a back burner and keep the broth at a low simmer ( The key is to keep the broth warm)

2. Add the Arborio rice and mix with the butter and onions until the rice has a nutty fragrance or the rice starts to look a little translucent among the edges with solid white in the center. 

3. Add the white wine constantly stirring until most of the liquid has been absorbed into the rice.  DO NOT LET ALL OF THE LIQUID ABSORB.

4. Add a ladle full of the broth into the rice/wine/onion mixture and let that absorb also. Its a process that requires a ladle full, absorb while stirring, and repeat until the rice is soft and no longer crunchy.

The method behind the each ladle full getting absorbed at a time will lead to the end product being a creamy dish however there was no cream used in the dish.

5. Once the rice is softened and done add a good amount of parmesan cheese to your taste. Garnish with a sprig of fresh Italian parsley and your done. Easy and Simple!