Must be because it’s healthy, flavorful, not as tough as broccoli and, most importantly, absorbs the flavors of its accompanying sauce. Oh, and it takes about 15 minutes to make. What’s not to like?
We served Domenica Marchetti’s broccolini recipe from The Glorious Vegetables of Italy at our recent dinner party. It was a hit as a light side with all the other butter-laden -yet delicious- dishes our guests had on their plate that night.
Author: The Glorious Vegetables of Italy by Domenica Marchetti
Recipe type: Vegetable
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons coarse Dijon mustard
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and black pepper, to taste
2 pounds broccolini, heavy stems trimmed
In a small bowl, combine the garlic, lemon juice and mustard. Whisk in the oil and season with salt and pepper.
In a saucepan large enough to hold all the broccolini, bring about an inch of salted water to boil. Add the broccolini and cook for about 3 minutes. The broccolini should be bright green, but slightly tender when pierced with a fork.
Drain the broccolini, place in a serving dish and drizzle with the dressing. Toss and serve.
Our Around The World Cookbook Club tested this recipe last month. It was one of the most unexpected and delicious recipes we’ve served in a while. Why? Because even though it’s authentically Greek -from Lefkada in the Ionian Islands- it’s more crustless quiche than rice . And more creamy comfort food than garlic-charged lamb.
The Kees served this at a dinner party recently and it was an easy, delicious and low-key accompaniment to pecan crusted salmon and broccolini. It would also be a unique alternative any meal to cheese grits or potatoes.
In fact, the only thing better than serving this to friends in your own dining room would be enjoying it together in a seaside villa in Lefkada.
Put the rice in a sieve and rinse thoroughly until the water runs clear.
In a medium pot, combine the rice with 4 cups milk and salt. Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile whisk the eggs until foamy. Add ½ cup milk and the olive oil and stir. Grease a 9 inch by 13 inch baking dish.
After the rice mixture has cooled slightly, stir in the feta cheese, then the egg mixture and the fennel. Spread it into the baking pan. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes, then cover and bake for another 25 minutes until the casserole is set and golden. Serve warm.
Much as our group enjoyed Susan’s pre-dinner drinks, a girl’s gotta eat sometime. Mid-evening we headed into the dining room where the laughing continued. Somehow, though, we managed to get in a few bites of food: pecan crusted salmon, feta rice casserole, broccolini and caramel cake.
If you have a smoker, we suggest you make the salmon using the second method below. The smokiness of the fish complements the nut crust perfectly. Don’t have a smoker? Not a problem, it’ll be wonderful cooked in the oven. Oh, heck…You can’t go wrong either way.
3 tablespoons fresh dill or 1½ teaspoons dried dill
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Combine the pecans, garlic, salt, dill and melted butter in the bowl of a food processor and process until the pecans resemble tiny peas.
Salmon (Note alternative method using stove-top smoker below):
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Lightly season the salmon with salt and pepper. Spread the pecan mixture over the fillet. (It's okay if some falls off the salmon.) Place it on cookie sheet or in a large pan and bake for approximately 15-20 minutes or until the fish is done. (You can tell it's ready when the salmon turns a slightly lighter pink and easily flakes when pierced with a fork.)
Last night seven of us, friends from grade school who don’t see each other as often as we should, got together for dinner at the Kees’. Well, I say we got together for dinner, but the food hardly mattered. All I remember is the laughing. In fact, we shrieked, giggled and guffawed so long and hard, when we looked at the clock it was 12:22 a.m. Odd thing is, I can’t remember exactly what all we laughed about, although I do recall something about sexting. (Don’t ask!)
The evening started at 7 with Spiced Pear Martinis brought by Susan. Susan was in town visiting her parents who live in a retirement home. That afternoon she had lugged bottles of vodka, liqueur and Prosecco to the Treemont and made martinis in the home’s communal kitchen.
This drink starts with a simple syrup infused with cinnamon, allspice and star anise. Add vodka, top it off with Prosecco and you have a tasty pre-Thanksgiving or fall cocktail. The pear is just subtle and smooth enough to let the cold-weather spices shine through.
I don’t know if the martinis contributed to the hilarity of our dinner, but they certainly didn’t hurt. Oh, and if you heard complaints about assorted hi-jinks and late-night laughter at the Treemont Home Friday night, blame it on that delicious fruit juice the retirees found- and shared- from the second floor fridge.
1 bottle Prosecco, champagne or other sparkling wine
4 3-inch cinnamon sticks
3 small pieces fresh ginger (unpeeled is fine)
½ vanilla bean or ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
30 whole allspice berries
20-25 whole cloves
6 whole star anise pods
2 cups sugar
2¾ cup water
Mix all cocktail ingredients together in a pitcher and divide equally among 8 martini glasses. Top with the Prosecco or sparkling wine and garnish with cinnamon sticks or star anise before serving.
In a saucepan, simmer all ingredients* on low heat for 30 minutes stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. (If using vanilla extract in place of vanilla bean, add the extract at this point.) Let the mixture steep for a couple of hours, then strain it into a glass container and store in the fridge.
*Please note that if using vanilla extract, it is added after the syrup has simmered.
I wonder if the ginger gene is dominant? No, no, not the Prince Harry, Nicole Kidman, Ed Sheeran kind of ginger gene. The one that makes you love anything cooked with gingerroot. Whatever the science, the Kees definitely have the gustatory obsession on both sides of the family.
Every Christmas morning for 27 years we’ve made Gram’s gingerbread muffins. Don’t know where she got her subtly-spiced recipe, but because she was born in East Texas in 1901, I’m guessing it’s close to 100 years old. Through the years we’ve changed her instructions to suit the times. We’ve added more cinnamon and allspice. And substituted butter for Crisco. But the biggest change has been the amount of ginger we use. First, we doubled the amount of the dried ingredient. Then we added fresh. And last year we even included crystallized chunks. It’s been almost impossible to make the muffins as gingery as we’d like.
Then we found this intensely rich ginger cake. It’s so dense and moist it almost tastes like chocolate. The reason? It uses an abundance of fresh ginger, creating a spicy, almost piquant cake. We used a peppery pinot noir in place of water which was originally in the recipe. It adds a bit of depth to an already memorable dessert which would be a perfect show-stopper for a dinner party, particularly if topped with a caramel or lemon sauce.
Don’t know if we’ll serve this alcohol-infused version on Christmas morning. That might be a bit much (and what would Gram say?) But I bet Santa wants a piece off the plate when he comes down the chimney the night before.
You know how our “Around The World Cookbook Club” works, don’t you?
Each year we pick a cookbook from a different world cuisine. We meet monthly at a member’s home with the hostess choosing a main course recipe from the book. The rest of us fill in the gaps with appetizers, sides and desserts. The only rule is you must follow the recipe as closely as possible. So no extra cinnamon, more onions or dashes of sherry for flavor even if it’s killing you and you know in your cooking-instinct heart of hearts that you should. Since we started 4 years ago we’ve traveled the world: Brazil, France, Italy and even Spain with Mario Batali and Gwyneth Paltrow (I know, I know, but those were her pre-Goop days.)
This year we’ve chosen The Country Cooking of Greece by Diane Kochilas. It’s a beautiful, weighty, almost 400 page volume jammed with hundreds of recipes from Mount Olympus to Crete and all places in between. It features the expected (grape leaves, lamb and feta) but also the unexpected (pumpkin-sweet potato moussaka and potato salad with purslane). Purslane? Yes, the same spindly green plant that grows in my yard. Wikipedia has a whole section devoted to purslane’s culinary uses. Who knew?
The icing on the cake -or maybe the honey on the halva?- is that one of our members is Greek. Okay, Effie’s not technically Greek because she speaks with a southern accent (as in “y’all”, not Peloponnesian) and grew up in small-town Texas. But her parents’ Greek heritage lives strong. She can whip out a huge pan of baklava like it was apple pie and even grows grape leaves in her backyard. Yes, you can actually grow grape leaves for cooking in the suburbs. See…another newly-found fact and we haven’t even begun cooking yet.
But what are we waiting for? Let’s get started…
Fresh feta cubes with oregano
Cretan Beet Salad with Yogurt and Walnuts (Patzarosalata Kritis)– page 33
Halkidiki-Style Easter Lamb Baked over Herbed Rice (Psima)– page 283
Artichocke Moussaka with Caramelized Onions and Feta (Anginares Moussaka)– page 155
Sauteed Spinach with Orange and Garlic (Spanaki Sotarismeno Me Portokali Kai Skordo)– page 129
Serifos Zucchini Bread (Kolokythopsomo Apo Tinserfo)– page 213
Almond Shortbread Cookies (Kourambiedes)– page 337
(All recipes from The Country Cooking of Greece by Diane Kockilas)
What does Cookbook Club say?
Homemade dolmades and fresh feta cubes with oregano
Effie surprised us. These weren’t on the official menu. She made the dolmades from grape leaves grown on her side fence. And the feta? She shared with us her favorite brand, “Israeli Feta” store-made in Central Market. Like other artisan cheeses, it tasted so much better – creamy, rich and not too salty- than the packaged brand. Flash Feedback: We hope Effie teaches us to make dolmades sometime. The feta was really, really good.
Cretan Beet Salad with Yogurt and Walnuts (Patzarosalata Kritis).
This is a salad made with the simplest of ingredients: fresh beets, walnuts and a yogurt-balsamic dressing. It’s easy, delicious and gets extra points because the dressing would work on almost any salad. Flash Feedback: Everyone liked it, even if they aren’t a “beet person.”
Halkidiki-Style Easter Lamb Baked over Herbed Rice (Psima)
Our hostess, Effie, made the main course with tender lamb chunks, mint and sultanas. Flash Feedback: Delicious one pot meal which she put on the stove just a few hours before we arrived. A good, reliable dish.
Artichoke Moussaka with Caramelized Onions and Feta (Anginares Moussaka)
A meatless version of the classic moussaka, this version gets its flavor from artichokes, potatoes and layers of caramelized onions. Flash Feedback: Holly, who made the recipe, was frustrated that the potatoes never softened, despite an extended cooking time. Her biggest beef? The onions overwhelmed the more delicate artichokes. Everybody else liked this dish. Next time, maybe we’ll decrease the number of onions and increase the artichoke hearts.
Julie made this cheesy rice casserole which is almost a dense, rich pudding. The recipe calls for Carolina Greek rice. As a substitute, she says use risotto rice and rinse thoroughly until the water runs clear. Flash Feedback: For some cookbook clubbers, this was their favorite recipe of the month. It would be a delicious, unusual alternative to cheese grits. The recipe for this Baked Rice and Feta casserole is here.
Sauteed Spinach with Orange and Garlic (Spanaki Sotarismeno Me Portokali Kai Skordo)
The cookbook author, Diane Kochilas, says in the description for this very easy recipe that she has never seen this combination of orange zest, garlic and spinach in Greek cuisine before. Flash Feedback: When she tested the recipe at her house, Louise was afraid that the orange zest was too bitter and strong with the milder spinach. No one at lunch agreed with her, though. They thought it was an unusual and tasty dish.
Serifos Zucchini Bread (Kolokythopsomo Apo Tinserfo)
This is a quick bread, made with loads of zucchini and two kinds of cheeses. Flash Feedback: Betsy, who’s a long-term tester for Cooks Illustrated and knows her way around new recipes, was surprised when she took the cooked bread out of its pan. It completely fell apart into a messy blob on her countertop. She quickly scooped it back into the pan and hurried over to Effie’s house. Everybody thought it was delicious (probably because we weren’t faced with a messy blob in our kitchens.) A possible solution? Maybe it could be baked in a round casserole and served like spoon bread.
Almond Shortbread Cookies (Kourambiedes)
According to the cookbook, these are the most traditional and ubiquitous Christmas cookies in Greece. Flash Feedback: Ellen, who owns The Cooking School and is a good judge of recipes, made these crunchy, sand tart-like cookies. She was disappointed that they were a bit bland. Everyone else thought they were okay.
Despite a couple of unexpected results in the cooking process, everyone enjoyed the recipes chosen this month because of the flavors. The use of ingredients were interesting, i.e. zucchini in a light and savory, but not sweet, bread; orange zest-filled spinach and a very basic, but incredibly rich, feta-rice casserole So what do you think? Loves, hates or general comments? What tweaks would you make to the recipes?
We’re officially obsessed with Domenica Marchetti’sgranita recipe. First we made it with honeydew melon. Then we tried it with watermelon. We liked that so much, we decided to fiddle with perfection and create a summery cocktail. And now that winter is rolling around, well, what choice do we have? Here’s our holiday version of a granita cocktail, filled with the flavors of Christmas- cranberry, cinnamon and cloves. We named the summer version Drunken Nonno. In honor of the Italian Santa, we’re calling this one Buzzed Babbo. Hmmm… wonder if he would prefer this over milk and cookies.
Place a 9 by 13 inch metal pan in the freezer until chilled, at least one hour.
In a small saucepan, make a simple syrup by combining 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar. Heat and stir until the sugar is completed dissolved. Add the orange zest, cloves, allspice and stick cinnamon. Let the mixture cool until it reaches room temperature, then place in fridge until chilled.
Strain the syrup mixture into a large bowl. (You may discard the zest and spices.) Add the cranberry juice, vodka, orange juice and remaining 2¼ cups water to the bowl and stir well.
Pour the mixture into the chilled pan and place uncovered in the freezer. After 45 minutes, using a fork, scrape the ice crystals away from the side of the pan and stir the mixture thoroughly. Return the pan to the freezer.
Repeat the process every 30 minutes for 2-3 hours. until the drink is completely frozen in fluffy shards. (Note: At this point, the frozen drink can be placed in a plastic container and kept frozen until ready to use.)
Meanwhile for sugar rim, mix sugar and cinnamon and place in saucer. Wet the rims of 6 cocktail glasses with a paper towel soaked in water. Immediately place the rim-side into the sugar. Let sit until ready to serve.
Spoon the mixture into the sugar-rimmed glasses and allow it to slightly melt to a slushy consistency before serving.
Here it is…a new concept at Kees To The Kitchen: Complete parties in 3, 2 or 1 hours.
We all adore being with family and friends. And we love to cook and entertain. But let’s face it, time is a limiting factor. With our “complete parties,” we’ll try to streamline the process as much as possible by including complete menus, shopping lists and timelines, so all you have to do is run to the store*, cook and set the table. And no, you don’t have to sacrifice flavor, freshness or interesting dishes.
We DO assume you have cooking staples such as salt, pepper, cooking oil, etc. Also, we’ll make efficient use of your food processor and blender to make sure the chopping, dicing, saucing and general food preparation goes as quickly as possible.
The possibilities for parties are endless – cocktails, birthdays, holidays and more. So here we go in 3…2…1…
*Trips to the grocery store are not included in the countdown.
I’ll give you 100 pesos if you can name one person who doesn’t like a taco bar.
It’s the ultimate comfort food. It works for both super casual and semi-formal parties. You can serve it poolside in the summer or with the snow falling on New Year’s Eve. Nine year-olds crave tacos as much as ninety year-olds. Those watching calories can make a salad and vegetarians can… Okay, okay, you get the idea. It is, quite simply, a great party anytime of the year.
The only tricky part to this menu are the avocados. Fresh guacamole is crucial, so shop at least 3-4 days early to ensure the avocados are perfectly ripe. Know how to tell? They should be firm to the touch, with just a slight softness when pressed. Be sure to press near the base of the avocado to avoid bruising. (Bruising of the fruit, not you!) If they ripen early, just put them in the fridge till party day. In a pinch, you could use prepared guacamole, but definitely “not so bueno.”
Garnish of chopped lettuce, tomatoes, diced onions, diced jalepeño peppers, cilantro, diced avocados, shredded cheese, limes and sour cream
Ice Cream Sundaes
Good ice cream of choice, i.e. vanilla, coffee, chocolate and/or butter pecan
Dulce de leche, caramel, chocolate sauce and/or Kahlua sauce
That’s it! You should be able to complete the meal in 3 hours. If you want a bit more direction, though, feel free to keep reading.
Four Days Before Party
Check out the avocado supply at your grocery store. While you’re there, just go on and get that shopping behind you.
10- 12 avocados (10 for guacamole and 2 for diced garnish)
2 pounds tomatillos
3 large red tomatoes
1 bunch cilantro
1 small bunch basil or mint (for rice)
1 head iceberg lettuce
5 large onions
3 inch piece of ginger
5 bulbs garlic or 45 individual garlic cloves
6 jalepeño or serrano peppers
5 limes (additional if making margaritas*)
2 naval oranges, preferably organic
4 tablespoons medium hot ground chile pepper, i.e. Hatch or chipotle
30 tortillas, corn or flour (the freshest you can find) or prepared taco shells
1 stick butter
16 ounces sour cream
Half and half or milk for coffee
16 ounce bagged shredded cheese, i.e. cheddar or Mexican blend
3 cups white rice
1 can unsweetened coconut milk
64 ounces chicken broth, preferably low-sodium
1 pork shoulder roast, approximately 4 pounds
2 pounds ground beef
1 large bottle Mexican red salsa
3 large bags good tostado chips, preferably homestyle
2 cans lager beer
Other drinks of choice, i.e. soda, sparkling water, beer and/or wine
1 1/2 gallons ice cream of choice, i.e. vanilla, coffee, chocolate or butter pecan
16 ounces good ice cream sauce, i.e. dulce de leche or chocolate
Optional: Kahlua and 1 cup toasted pecan pieces for ice cream
olive oil for cooking
* If making 12 margaritas, an additional: 12 limes, 24 ounces Herradura Silver tequila and 12 ounces Cointreau
Day of the Party
We assume you’re making the food the afternoon of the party with about an hour afterwards to relax. Alternatively, except for the guacamole, you could prepare the dishes a day or two ahead, store in fridge, then reheat before the party.
Place sodas, water, white wine, etc. in fridge or ice chest to cool.
Make Carnitas and place in oven to cook for 2 1/2 hours.
Optional while cooking carnitas: Toast chopped pecans in hot oven for ice cream sundaes.
Get out remaining serving pieces (bowls and utensils for guacamole, chips, carnitas, beef tacos, rice, shredded cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, diced avocado) and dinnerware (plates, glasses, forks, napkins, bowls and spoons for ice cream.) Arrange on buffet or dining table.
Make Coconut Ginger Rice. When broth is absorbed, turn off heat and allow to sit on stove till reheated. (Up to 3 hours)
Chop garnishes of lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cilantro in food processor or by hand. Dice remaining avocados and sprinkle with a bit of lime juice. Cut remaining limes into eighths. Put all in small bowls or arrange on large serving platter and cover with plastic wrap, if needed.
Put chips in one or two serving bowls and place in entertaining area, along with salsas.
Clean kitchen and prep area.
Get dressed or put your feet up and relax until the doorbell rings.
When guests arrive, serve appetizers and drinks. For the main course, put carnitas, beef, rice, taco shells and tortillas at the buffet beside the garnishes. Warm tortillas, by wrapping several at a time in wet paper towel and heat them in microwave for a few seconds. Stack and enclose them in a tea towel or cloth napkin and place them on the buffet. Don’t forget to turn on the coffee! Bon appétit!
It’s not too late! For a Super Bowl party, that is.
Down here south of the Red River, watching the Super Bowl means digging into some Tex-Mex, say, guacamole, salsa verde or chile con queso. But nothing beats homemade chili con carne.
Here’s an easy, yet interesting recipe you can whip up in just a couple of hours (not including grocery store time). If you start now, it’ll be ready by half-time. Everyone can grab a big, thick steaming bowl, sit down and vote on their favorite commercials. Next time know it’s even better if you make it the day before, let the flavors meld and reheat it on game day
Chili is REALLY forgiving…If you put in a little more of an ingredient or a little less, it generally doesn’t matter.
Be careful with the level of spiciness in the chili powder, though. Because it varies so much between brands, err on the side of caution when making the base. You can always add more powder later, but you can’t take it out.
If you DO discover the chili’s eye-wateringly, insufferably piquant, then just serve it with lots of rice, sour cream and avocados. Everybody will think it’s wonderful.
I know, I know. It’s hard, but serve it with Fritos! They’re authentic (created in Texas), plus they belong with Super Bowl chili, like gin with tonic and peanut butter with jelly. If you absolutely insist on being fancy, serve it with tortillas chips. Humphh!
12 tablespoons chili powder (more or less according to taste and spiciness of chili powder)
3 12-ounce beers, preferably Shiner Bock or another dark amber beer
3 cups orange juice
3 cups rich chicken stock
¾ cup toasted unsalted peanuts
4 soft corn tortillas, shredded
For the chili:
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 pounds lean ground beef or beef sirloin, diced small
3 small yellow onions
chili base (recipe above)
Salt to taste
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
3 limes, juiced
Fritos Corn Chips (preferably) or tortilla chips
Grated cheddar cheese, for garnish
Onions (preferably red or green), minced, for garnish
Avocados, chopped, for garnish
For the chili base:
In a medium pan over medium high heat, add the oil, onions, carrots, garlic and celery. Sauté vegetables until they begin to caramelize, about 10-15 minutes. Stir in cumin and chili powder. Stir in 1 bottle of beer and mix well so that chili powder is smooth and not clumping. Add the rest of beer, orange juice and stock. Stir well, then cook for an additional 5 minutes over medium high heat. Turn down to a simmer and add peanuts and shredded tortillas. Cook until the liquid has been reduced by half, about 30 minutes. (Tortillas will dissolve and thicken the base.) Purée in a blender until very smooth.
For the chili:
In a medium pan over high heat, add the olive oil, meat, and onions and cook until onions turn translucent, about 5-8 minutes. Add the chili base and continue to cook over medium heat until meat is tender, about 1 hour. Season with salt, black pepper, cumin, and lime juice.
Serve over rice, if desired. Pass around bowls of grated cheddar, onions, avocados and sour cream for garnish.