Fresh and Sweet: Tomatillo Salsa for Cinco de Mayo

Tomatillo sauce cinco de mayo

Tomatillos are a berry

I don’t love super spicy food. But, it’s Cinco de Mayo weekend – so spicy is the drill. To temper your spicy tacos, enchilada, burritos or whatever else you’re making, muchachas…Try this fresh and mild-ish tomatillo salsa.

Tomatillos are a berry. They come wrapped in a papery skin that needs to be removed and then they are sticky. Sounds gross. Isn’t. So just peel the skin off and wash them before using.

Fresh and Sweet Tomatillo Salsa (serves 6)

Tiny Apartment Tips:

  • Make ahead and chill in the fridge to save pre party counter space for margarita making
  • Wash your hands WELL after handling the jalapeno – the oils on your hands from the pepper will burn your eyes or any super sensitive areas…nuff said

Ingredients:

  • 8 medium Tomatillos – peeled, washed and quartered
  • 1 jalapeno – remove seeds and vein if you want to diminish heat – quartered
  • 2 Garlic cloves – smashed
  • 2 small onions – quartered
  • 1 ripe Avocado – peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
  • 2 TSP kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1 TSP lime juice – just to freshen it up even more!

1. Put the onion, jalapeno and garlic in a Cuisinart food processor and finely chop

tomatillo salsa recipe

Love my Cuisinart

2. Add the tomatillos, avocado, lime juice and salt and pulse until chopped – but not totally smooth

avocado tomatillo salsa recipe

Add the green things

3. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the cilantro

tomatillo salsa recipe

Stir in cilantro

Serve with the Skirt Steak from yesterday’s entry.

tomatillo avocado salsa recipe

Deliciously fresh salsa side

Adios! And, Happy Cinco de Mayo!

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Swimming in Mustard: Halibut with Mustard Sauce

mustard sauce for fish whole foods dinner pescatarian

Halibut Swimming in Mustard

A few years back – this is my old-lady saying for the day – I was on a fishing trip in Florida. We might have gone out the night before until really late (old-lady late, like 11 or something) and we may have had some wine. All of this is irrelevent. Regardless, the 6:30am departure from the dock for a day of off-shore, deep sea, dolphin-fish fishing was a bit rough.

But, I grew up on boats and don’t have a tendency toward seasickness. So, really, I was just very tired.

halibut dinner mustard sauce pescatarian vegetarian

We were not hunting Flipper!

We ventured out – way out – like a gillion miles offshore – to hunt down the coveted dolphin-fish – relax, not Flipper, the beloved Dolphin mammal.

The trip out to sea provided me with a much needed onboat nap.

I won’t tell a fisher-gal tale and lie about how many fish we caught. Cuz, we didn’t catch anything for a long, long time. Maybe we caught a handful (OK, two) fish that were too-small to keep…but no more than two.

heminway halibut mustard sauce pescatarian vegetarian fish

Read it

Until the very end of the trip. At hour 5 as we were getting set to pull in the lines and head back to the dock, I hooked a dolphin-fish. The fish was a lively one, indeed. OK, it didn’t give me an ‘Islands In the Stream’ (Hemingay reference, not Kenny Rogers/Dolly Parton, look it up) battle – But, it did give a bit of a fight. When I pulled the fish into the boat, both of us, the fish and I, were exhausted. The boat guys put the dolphin into the fish well and kept it alive as we motored back to the dock.

When we landed, the guys (they’re not called ‘gillies’ or ‘fish mongers’…not sure what they’re called) filleted the fish and put 3lbs of amazingly freshly caught dolphin fish into plastic bags. They directed us to a dock side restaurant where the chef would cook our catch to our specifications. Amazing concept – like living off the land, or the sea in this case.

One of our crew ordered her fish blackened and the other two of us ordered it meuniere. Within :30minutes of catching the fish, a chef was preparing it – just as we wanted it. Very cool…

Yeah, until I realized what had happened. I couldn’t eat it. Not a bite. This amazingly fresh, fish that I, myself, had caught.

And, neither could my Florida fishing pals.

One of them looked at me and said…’What’s wrong with us?’

And with great sadness for the fish I replied…’One minute you’re swimming in the ocean and the next minute, you’re swimming in butter.’

The timing was just too tight.

So, when planning a fish dinner, I highly recommend buying your fish at WholeFoods or a good fish place…Because catching and eating is just too sad.

Halibut With Mustard Sauce (serves 4)

Tiny Kitchen Tips:

  • Prepare the marinade ahead of time as you’ll need the counter space for the rest of your prep work AND it’s good for the flavors to meld together for a bit in the fridge
  • central park fireworks food recipe dinner halibut

    Dinner Entertainment

    If there’s an unexpected fireworks display out your window AND you’ve invited gays to dinner, be prepared to keep the meal warm while the boys marvel at the lights over Central Park

  • Get a tiny whisk – it’s like my fave new thing BECAUSE 1. it’s tiny and fits well in your limited drawer space 2. it’s incredibly useful for whisking together marinades in small bowls

Ingredients:

  • mustard halibut sauce dinner food pescatarian vegetarian

    Mise En Place

    1 1/2 – 1 1/3 lbs of Halibut (for the hell of it) Cut into 4 equally sized fillets. The halibut at WholeFoods was $22.50/lb yesterday, not bad for NYC

  • Sea salt and pepper – for the fish
  • 1 TSP salt for the sauce
  • 1/2 TSP pepper for the sauce
  • 8 ounces of Creme Fraiche – I bought some at WholeFoods or you can make your own
  • 3 TBSP Dijon Mustard
  • 1 TBSP Whole Grain Mustard
  • 2 TBSP Minced Shallots
  • 2 TSP Drained Capers

1. Whisk together with your tiny little baby whisk the two mustards, creme fraiche, shallots, capers and salt / pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least :30mins

mustard halibut marinade dinner vegetarian food

Use your tiny whisk here

mustard sauce for fish recipe food vegetarian pescatarian

MMMMustard Sauce

2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees

3. Line a baking dish with Reynold’s Wrap Pan Lining Paper – expensive, but I love it

pan lining paper spinach balls recipe

Shiny on the bottom, parchment on the top

4. Place the fillets skin side down on the paper and sprinkle with salt and pepper

halibut with mustard sauce pescatarian vegetarian dinner fish

See, my fillets weren’t all the same size. FAIL

5. Cover the fillets generously – more of a slather, really – with the mustardy sauce

halibut recipe dinner mustard sauce

Smothered in Sauce

6. Bake for :15 minutes…until the fish is flaky

7. Plate the fish – preferably on a sea-themed platter and spoon the sauce from the baking dish over the fish. The fish should be swimming in sauce

pescatarian recipe dinner food halibut sauce

Swimming in Mustard Sauce

8. Serve

I like fishing. I do. But, I really don’t need to catch anything and eat it. Maybe this is part of the evolution of man (woman)…We have WholeFoods. We don’t have to live off the land or the sea.

So, I’ll leave the fishing to the fisher-people. And, stick to what I know: I love a fish dish swimming in mustard as long as I didn’t find the fish first swimming in the ocean.

Care to Prepare For Those Who Don’t Share: Individual Potatoes Au Gratin

potatoes au gratin recipe melissa d'arabian

Farmer’s Market Russet Potatoes

A wise five year-old once told me that ‘sharing is caring.’ OK, maybe he heard that somewhere, but it was wise nonetheless. Seems like a pretty good and simple message.

When it comes to food, however, we’re not always great sharers. My loyal reader(s) know that I have an irrational fear of starving to death. No reason I should feel this way, but I get nervous when food is presented and meant to be shared that I won’t get enough…and that I will immediately starve and die.

Shun Lee West NYC

Shun Lee West Love

My friends and I were all out at Shun Lee a while ago – ok, it was in the ’90’s – and even though the old school waiters at Shun Lee plate each diner’s portion, two of our dinner group refused to share. Actually, and you know who you are, they announced what they would like from the menu followed by ‘and we’re not sharing‘. OK, good to know this up front. And, to be honest, I respected it.

Growing up, it wasn’t unusual to see someone else’s fork wander over to my plate and steal a piece of whatever it was that we were eating. Coming up with clever ways to distract a family member while grabbing food from his/her plate became yet another family competition. So…maybe my fear isn’t totally irrational.

So, as a matter of survival, I love to serve individual portions of traditionally casserole created meals. And, apparently, so does Melissa D’Arabian.

Individual Potatoes Au Gratin adapted from Melissa D’Arabian (Serves 6)

Tiny Apartment Tips:

  • If your space provides for either cupcake OR Texas tins…opt for cupcake tins. Popovers and these individual potatoes au gratin will be fine in the smaller tins
  • While slicing your potatoes on a Mandolin will, indeed, make each potato slice uniformly thick…you might not have room for this kitchen equipment…plus, having personally lost the tip of a finger, I can tell you that the mandolin is just too risky. Use a sharp knife, you’ll be fine.
  • MA’s recipe calls for heavy cream…but, really, you can use anywhere from 2% to whole milk and it’ll work out. This way you don’t need to overstock on dairy

Ingredients:

  • melissa d'arabian potatoes au gratin

    She knows not to share

    3 large Russet Potatoes, peeled and sliced thin

  • 1/2 cup of Shredded Cheddar Cheese
  • 1/2 Cup of Shredded Swiss Cheese
  • 12 TBSPs whole milk or 2% or cream
  • 2 TBSP chopped fresh Chives
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Tons of non-stick cooking spray

Preheat Oven to 375 Degrees

1. Wash and Peel the potatoes and slice as thinly as possible. Put the slices in a bowl of water with ice cubes to keep them from browning. You can do this hours ahead of time and store in the fridge to save counter space needed to prepare the rest of your feast.

potatoes au gratin individual

Immersing the slices in water to keep from browning

2. Spray your non-stick cupcake OR Texas tins with a ton, like a ton, of non-stick cooking spray. Yes, I’ve used butter…but, the spray works better here

3. Place a slice of potato (cut to fit if necessary) in the base of each pan well

4. Layer some cheddar cheese on top – about a tsp or so

5. Place another slice of potato on top of the cheddar

6. Layer on some Swiss cheese

7. Place another slice of potato on top of the Swiss

8. Repeat until each cupcake or muffin well is well-filled and end with a potato slice. Don’t be afraid to slightly overfill, the potatoes will shrink and the cheese will melt during cooking

individual potatoes au gratin melissa d'arabian

Oven Ready Sides for One

9. Drizzle about 1 TBSP of milk or cream over each potato-cheese-filled well

10. Throw some chives onto each

11. Add salt and pepper

12. Tent with tin foil and bake for :20mins

13. Remove tin foil and bake an additional :20mins

14. Remove from oven and use a spoon to flip the potatoes au gratin over and on to a serving tray. You’ll know the gratins are done when the edges are well browned.

au gratin potatoes in cupcake tins recipe

Not so Rotten Au Gratin

15. Don’t share

Sharing might be caring…But caring might be preparing for those who aren’t sharing.

Lifting the Curse of ‘Annie’: Sweet Potato Soup

Annie the musical Andrea McArdle

Annie The Musical

In 1978 for my something-something birthday (I was pretty young, so it was really more like my something birthday), my parents gave me tickets to see Annie. Are you serious!!! Amazing! I loved and still love a good broadway show. And, this particular one had my name. Brilliant.

andrea mcardle as annie daddy warbucks sweet potato soup

The Amazing Andrea McArdle

Kristy Mcnichol little darlings sweet potato soup

After ‘Family’ KM was in this teen flick

The show had debuted earlier that year and it’s tiny red-headed lead, Andrea McArdle, had rapidly become the toast of the great white way. I idolized her. She was really incredible. Eight shows a week, talk and morning show appearances. She was on Johnny Carson a bunch of times (too late for me to see) and sang a duet with my other hero, Kristy McNichol (who doesn’t love ‘Little Darlings’?), on The Mike Douglas Show.

So, you can imagine that when my parents told me we were going to see Annie on Broadway in the big city with Andrea McArdle, I was so so so excited….

The day of the show, I put on my best going to broadway frock and sat on the stairs waiting to get in the car and go. My mother drove into the city as my friend and I belted out the words to every song (except Easy Street, which I never really liked) in the back seat.

We enter the theatre and are ushered to our seats. I’m so excited at this point, I can barely contain myself. I open the program in hopes of learning everything I can about my broadway icon, Andrea McArdle…Then, it happened… An evil slip of white paper fell from the program….what? I read slowly as my dreams and hopes were shattered to pieces.

shelley bruce as annie sweet potato soup

NOT Andrea McArdle

In today’s performance‘ it read…

the role of Annie usually played by Andrea McArdle‘….

NO…

will be played by Shelley Bruce‘.

WHAT?!?!?!? Who the …is Shelley Bruce????

Shattered. And, I’ve been shattered ever since. Sure, I enjoyed the show (I mean, they sing a whole song about how great Annie is, duh) – but, certainly not as much.

You know I’m a little (read a lot) superstitious. So when a friend offered to give me tickets to Annie (now back on Broadway 35 years later), I wanted to do everything I could to send good ju-ju to the show. I mean, I couldn’t bear to experience the same disappointment again. So to honor Annie, Andrea McArdle, Lilla Crawford (current Annie) and red-headed orphans everywhere, I decided to eat only red, orange and orphan-affordable foods the entire day of the show.

Sweet Potato Soup (Serves 6)

Tiny Apartment Tip: Get a hand held immersion blender. It’s changed my life.

Ingredients:

  • 2 TBSP butter
  • 2 Carrots, peeled and diced small
  • 2 Celery Stalks, peeled and diced small
  • 1 large Sweet Potato, peeled and diced small
  • 1 Sweet Onion, diced smallish
  • 3/4 or so Cup Diced Cherry Tomatoes
  • 1 TBSP all purpose flour
  • 1/4 Cup Parsley chopped
  • 1 TSP freshly grated ginger – remember, you have some in the freezer
  • 1/4 TSP Ground Nutmeg
  • 4 Cups of Chicken Stock – I actually for the first time used 2 Knorr Chicken Bouillon cubes and it was AOK
  • 1/4 Cup of heavy cream (optional….)
  • Salt and Pepper

1. Bring 4 Cups of water to a boil and dissolve 2 Knorr’s Chicken Bouillon Cubes

sweet potato soup chicken bouillon cubes for stock

Just as good as stock in a box

2. In a separate pot, heat 2 TBSP of butter over med/low

3. Add the onions, carrots and celery and saute until very soft – about :15mins depending upon how small you diced

saute vegetables sweet potato soup

Saute Veggies

4. Add the tomatoes stir for about a minute

vegetarian soup dinner sweet potatoes annie musical

Add tomatoes, red like Annie’s Hair

5. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and cook :02 mins

sweet potato soup flour as thickener

Adding flour to help thicken soup

6. Sprinkle the Nutmeg and Ginger over the vegetables and stir

7. Add the diced sweet potatoes and stir just to combine

super food sweet potato soup

Super Sweet Potatoes – same color as Annie’s hair

8. Pour in the chicken stock and the parsley and BTB, RTS (bring to boil, reduce to simmer)

vegetarian sweet potato soup simmer

Soup A-Simmer

9. Simmer covered for :35 minutes – until the sweet potatoes are super soft

10. Remove from heat and using your brand new Cuisinart hand held immersion blender, blend the soup until very smooth….this takes a while because the tomatoes are pesky and escape the blades. Can’t blame ’em.

sweet potato soup puree hand held immersion blender

Pretty Pink Immersion Blender. Thank you Cuisinart!

11. Optional: Stir in the cream

sweet potato soup dinner recipe

Pureed and creamed and ready to serve

12. Serve with a garnish of parsley and a lovely dollop of sour cream

sweet potato soup vegetarian dinner recipe

Love a little dollop of sour cream…

Annie the musical sweet potato soup

The Exceptional Lilla Crawford

It may have been a silly and superstitious exercise, but I do think making the auburn colored soup helped.

Last night. 6:45pm.

I arrive at the theatre, wind my way through 45,000 or so 8-10 year old girls seeing their first show. I’m greeted by the first usher, she is holding the program, but doesn’t give us one. Instead, she directs us to a second usher….I’m anxious fearing the worst. I finally receive the program and in an attempt to delay the potential despair, hold onto it, clutched in my hand, closed until I reach my seat.

Then….I don’t open the program. Instead, I just flip it over and shake it, hoping no evil paper falls…..AND NONE DID!

The role of Annie would, indeed, be played by the exceptional Lilla Crawford!

OK, I can’t be sure that the soup had anything to do with it…but, 35 Years later….The sun DID come out and the curse of an understudy Annie is lifted!

Avoid the Party Pooper: Serve a Party Popper

bridseye frozen chopped spinach

Every Party Has a Pooper: That’s why we invited you…

Let’s just face it…every party has a pooper. Just the way it is. Sometimes she’s the low-talking dinner party guest seated next to you – You start with a lot of ‘Excuse me?’ and ‘I’m sorry, what did you say?’ and then at some point you give up and just start nodding and agreeing. You may be agreeing to a 5am yoga class or the absolute NYC No-No: a ride to the airport…But, at a certain point, you can’t hear, give up and resign yourself to the polite nod.

Evertyhing is just TERRIBLE

Bah-Humbug!

Sometimes he’s the bah-humbug type who monopolizes you during the cocktail hour. You know, ‘the city is so crowded with holiday revelers’, ‘the weather is terrible’, ‘I just don’t FEEL like Christmas’ etc.

She’s the food hater. The wine snob. The terrible gifter – the one who brings a clearly despised re-gift or a coffee mug filled with jelly beans – what?

There’s just always one.

One way to avoid being monopolized by the party pooper is to provide yourself with an escape route. Bring an appetizer that needs some care – escape to the kitchen. And, if you really need an out – even if there’s a waiter there – offer to serve the hors d’oeuvres.

One of my favorite passed hors d’oeuvres is the Spinach Party Popper –  much better than a pooper!

Spinach Parmesan Party Poppers (makes 20)

Ingredients:

  • bridseye frozen chopped spinach

    Mise en place…

    1 10 oz package of Birdseye frozen chopped spinach – defrosted and squeezed dry of excess water

  • 3 large eggs gently beaten
  • 1/2 medium onion grated or minced
  • 3 TBSP butter melted
  • 1/2 Cup Parmesan cheese – grated
  • 1 Cup Progresso Italian Style bread crumbs
Progresso italian style bread crumbs

Always in my freezer

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1. In a microwave safe bowl, defrost the spinach – about 6 minutes on high stirring halfway through the process

2. Using a dishtowel – squeeze out the excess water from the spinach

Allow the spinach to cool a bit…

3. In a bowl, mix together the spinach, eggs, onion, butter, parmesan cheese and bread crumbs

spinach balls appetizer recipe

Ingredients Mixed and Ready for Ballin’

4. Using a small (melon ball sized) scoop, make balls from the mixture and put onto a rimmed baking sheet lined with Reynold’s Wrap pan lining paper

pan lining paper spinach balls recipe

Shiny on the bottom, parchment on the top

5. Bake for 20 – 22 minutes – just until the balls are firm

vegetarian hors d'oeuvres

Perfectly Firm Party Poppers

6. You can either serve immediately…Or, if you need a party escape: allow to cool, transfer to a travel container and take to your next holiday party. Just reheat for about :10mins on 300 before serving

birdseye frozen chopped spinach appetizers

Could he be avoiding the party pooper by serving the poppers?

Even if you are not expecting a party pooper at your next holiday event, the spinach party poppers are a perfect passed hors d’oeuvre. And, because they are vegetarian, a crowd pleaser: They might even make a Scrooge smile, and, as far as you’ll know, they’re a favorite of low-talkers everywhere.