Sunday, April 28, 2013

Familiar Patterns

The temperature, after many false starts, is finally rising in New Jersey. Although one still needs to wear a light jacket, the sun is shining through--a mood elevator for sure.

When my life gets crazy, as it is right now, I tend to become super organized. Controlling the quotidian aspects of my life makes me feel less out of control. I am one of those people who finds comfort in familiar patterns and the predictability of routine. And one of my patterns is very predictable as I've said before--I go into the kitchen to cook.

This week I made a few tasty dishes for week-night dining. As I was racing through the market one afternoon, I saw some very nice flounder filets. I knew that at home I had some shallots, garlic and feta cheese, so I grabbed a bunch of spinach as I flew through the produce aisle.

When I got home,  I poured some olive oil into a saute pan, added a large minced shallot and brought the pan up to heat. I cooked the shallot until it was starting to soften then added a clove of garlic, minced.

In the mean time I cleaned and chopped the spinach then dropped it into the pan and sauteed for a couple of minutes. When it was wilted I turned off the heat and tossed in a handful of cubed feta cheese, letting it soften a bit then setting it aside to cool.

When it was time to prepare dinner I laid out the filets and put about 2 tablespoons of filling on each one. I rolled them up and placed them into an oiled baking dish, sprinkled them with olive oil and a dusting of paprika.  Then into a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes until cooked through but not dry.

Not bad for a Wednesday night.


 Spinach and Feta Stuffed Flounder Filets

1 pound flounder filets (4)
10 ounces fresh spinach
1/3 cup feta cheese, cut into small cubes
Olive oil for pan
1 large shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
Pinch ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste

Pour olive oil into saute pan, add minced shallot and bring pan up to heat. When shallots start to soften add minced garlic and saute until translucent.  Add spinach to pan and saute for about 3 minutes, until wilted.

Off heat add feta cheese and stir until it just begins to soften. Season with nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside to cool.

Season flounder filets with salt and pepper, then place about 2 tablespoons of the filling onto each filet. Roll fish filets and place in an oiled baking dish, seam side down. Drizzle fish with some olive oil and sprinkle with some paprika.

Bake in 400 degree oven, uncovered, for about 20 minutes until fish is firm but not dried out.

Serves 3-4

Thursday, April 4, 2013


The calendar says it's Spring, but here in the Northeast it is still just 29 degrees. Enough already! It's April for goodness sake. The weather did not cooperate when we were in Los Angeles either to celebrate Chris' birthday. What was predicted to be 80 degrees and sunny was really cool and cloudy with a marine layer that never lifted. That being said we were never deterred from eating at Chris' and Jess' favorite restaurants.

We had great burgers at Plan Check in their funky West L.A. neighborhood. Well-crafted anejo honey sours at the Peruvian restaurant, Picca. And fabulous fire-roasted vegetables and pizzas at Gjelina in Venice Beach--just to name a few outings.

Back at home I was still hoping for Spring when I came across this beautiful and delicious radish salad to brighten the day.
Next came Easter. Our Easter celebrations usually range from large gatherings to very large gatherings, but this year was a much smaller group. We were to be six adults and three children,  so I decided to keep the cooking low key.

There was no mixed antipasto, no glazed ham this year, no sweet potato casserole, no baked rigatoni with beschamel and prosciutto. And I don't remember the last Easter that I did not make Aunt Louise's Cheesecake.

Instead, I  served a shrimp cocktail to accompany a glass of champagne before dinner. Then came a perfectly cooked, if I do say so, filet of beef  served with slender haricot vert, parboiled then sauteed in butter,  and roasted new potatoes, followed by a salad of baby lettuces. Dessert was easy--cupcakes for the kids, and a very simple coffee cake along side a bowl overflowing with ripe strawberries and whipped cream.

This was the surprise--the coffee cake was the hit of the day. Who knew?
I found this recipe in one of my old kitchen notebooks. I used to make it a lot when we were first married and have no recollection where it came from. This unpretentious cake is quick to put together, small enough not to last forever and delicious!
Ready for the oven
Out of the oven

I knew it was a hit when my niece's 8 year old son said,"This is the best coffee cake I ever had. I wouldn't mind taking the rest home."  With pleasure, Tucker.


For Cake:

3 tablespoons softened butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Heat oven to 350 degrees and butter an 8 inch square or round baking pan.

Mix butter with sugar; add egg and beat until creamy.

Mix together dry ingredients. Add to sugar mixture alternately with milk and mix to incorporate. Add vanilla and stir. Spread batter evenly in a buttered 8 inch square or round pan.

Sprinkle with topping and bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes until done.


Mix 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 1/4 cup flour and 3 tablespoon cold butter until crumbly.