double dip

perfecting the "done before they arrive" party- a work in progress

Categories: Appetizers, Cocktail Party, Posted on December 11, 2017 by Sandy Bergsten - Comments (0)

Bringing an appetizer to a special friend’s party calls for something a little exceptional. Nothing says home like a dip, though there is certainly nothing humdrum about this double salmon dip.

First glances are deceiving, this concoction is sophisticated and sublime. Smoked salmon and salmon roe. Don’t skimp on the ingredients, the highest quality yields superb results.

Make sure the salmon roe (or caviar) is not smoked but fresh. The eggs should be large, juicy and firm. It should come out of the refrigerated fish section of a high-end market. Don’t be tempted to substitute the small grainy red “caviar” you’ll find next to the canned tuna fish. You’ll be sorely disappointed.

After you’ve whisked together the whipped cream cheese and half and half, fold in the smoked salmon and chives.

Gently fold in the caviar, being careful not to break the eggs.

This beauty can be made a day in advance.

Serve with thick cut potato chips. Because this dip can be rather salty, unsalted chips might be best. If you have any dip  leftover, it's incredible on bagels the next morning.

Note: real salmon roe can be pricey but it can be frozen. Weigh out one-ounce portions and freeze. Thaw slowly overnight in the refrigerator. These little eggs are equally fabulous on top of scrambled eggs with crème fraiche and dill, on blinis or crowning a lemony pasta with asparagus tips.

You’ll be tempted to double dip- but we know you won’t, at least not while anyone is looking.

with thanks

entertaining with style- making it work for you

Categories: Posted on November 27, 2017 by Sandy Bergsten - Comments (3)

Tis the season to tell those around us how much we appreciate them. Time to thank those who make our lives better, easier, more beautiful. A thoughtful thank- you always goes a long way.

Often I make a homemade treat. Most years I make batches and batches of my ho-ho-hot fudge sauce. But this year my garden club did a bulb sale to fund their local community projects. I enthusiastically signed up for dozens of paper whites knowing that my check would go far.

Reality set in when I picked up all those bulbs. I mean how many pots of paper whites can you have blooming in your home?

Then I thought I’ll place them in little gift bags and give them as hostess and holiday gifts. But then I realized do all the people I want to show I care know how to properly plant and care for a forced bulb, or would the bulbs sit discarded in their festive bags?

At our last garden club meeting our fundraising chair had the foresight to ask one of our horticulture experts to do a little bulb tutorial. Cindy Garner is so talented, she showed us how we all can easily make a variety of gorgeous displays with our paper white and amaryllis bulbs.

Here’s a secret all good entertainers know- when you see a good idea, jot it down and figure out how to make it your own. There is no plagiarism in cooking and entertaining. The important thing is to figure out how to make it work for you. Imitation is really the best form of flattery!

Start with a paper white bulb. You can pick them up at your local garden center. I then went to Michaels for my other supplies.

I picked a vase that I could easily slip the bulb into and some clear glass marble vase fillers.

Fill the vase with an inch or two of marbles.

Nestle the bulb (bottom side down) into the marbles.

I then trimmed three gold painted branches so once inserted rose about six to eight inches above the top of the vase.

Insert the branches into the vase.

I chose a subtle wired ribbon that I thought would complement the bloom and painted twigs.

Tie a bow around the center of the vase. Wired ribbon is easy to manipulate, so that even the least crafty can create a beautiful bow.

That’s it! All you need to do is inform your recipient to add water to just the base of the bulb, and to keep adding water so that it stays at that point (if it’s any higher your bulb will rot, any lower and it will dry out). The bulb will soon shoot up through the vase and into the twigs and bloom about two weeks after you’ve started watering it. The best part- once the bloom has faded you can remove the old bulb and insert a new one. That way you can have paper white blooms all season long.

Once your friends see this festive gift, they might copy you too. Tis the season!

breakfast is served

food detective

Categories: Eggs, Breakfast/Brunch, Fête Fact, Posted on November 10, 2017 by Sandy Bergsten - Comments (1)

One of best parts of the holidays can be the ebb and flow of loved ones into your home… dinners crowded around the dining room table, sandwich fixings splayed across the kitchen counter for lunch, and then there’s breakfast. Let’s be honest- that first meal of the day be a real challenge.

Almost every morning my Norwich terrier and I share an egg. It’s a simple affair, one that takes approximately seven minutes from creation to clean-up. Sometime it’s scrambled, occasionally it’s poached, a little French omelet is always a treat, and a runny soft boiled egg is heavenly over a slice of buttered toast.

But I find the joy in this morning ritual tends to dwindle as the number of recipients increases. Soon you find yourself feeling like a short order cook, and if you ever have noticed- real short order cooks never sit down with their patrons. Even if they could, they really can’t. And don’t get me started with the dishwasher.

As your house fills it’s rare that everyone is up and adam at the same time. Most likely one has just darted out the door for a jog, another just back for a shower, and others jet-lagged are still slumbering in their beds.  Boxes of cereal or repeat performances of bagels and cream cheese don’t tend to exude the “welcome home” you probably want.

The question is how to serve up a hot breakfast for all you love? There are actually many ways to precook otherwise complicated eggs. Two for a crowd that can be disastrous if left to the last minute are poached and soft boiled. Nothing more makes you want to scream “why the hell did I bother” into a kitchen towel then turning a dozen eggs into virtual super balls because you got distracted by having all of your love ones enter, then leave, then enter and leave your breakfast kitchen.

Here’s an amazing technique for pre-poaching eggs. You can actually prepare these and store them in an ice water bath in your refrigerator for a day or two. Then simply warm in a pan of simmering water for less than a minute. Delightful served as a benedict, over some hash, or some sautéed spinach.

For this post I’d like to replicate an amazing breakfast I recently had in Brooklyn at the Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg.

Their “Dippy Eggs” are two perfectly soft boiled eggs served in egg cups with little toast soldiers, kefir butter, maldon salt and breakfast radishes.

A few months back I stumbled upon a fabulous recipe for jammy soft boiled eggs. The trick was to lower the eggs into boiling water, simmer for exactly six and a half minutes, lift them out and immediately place them into ice water for 30 seconds, then tap each end to find the air bubble, and peel away the top.

I thought why couldn’t you just keep the soft-boiled eggs in the ice water and reheat them in simmering water the next day just like poached eggs. Guess what? You can!

I can’t wait to serve Dippy Eggs to my crew in the coming weeks. Because what could possibly say I love you more than an egg in a little cup.

Carefully place eggs into a pan of boiling water with a slotted spoon.

Simmer for exactly six minutes and thirty seconds. Immediately lift the eggs out with a slotted spoon and carefully place in a dish of ice water. Place in the refrigerator for up to three days.

To mimic the fancy kefir butter place Land-O-Lakes butter with canola oil in a ramekin.

Sprinkle with a little Maldon Salt.

Cover and store in the refrigerator. It will keep for days.

Combine a quarter cup of Maldon salt with freshly ground black pepper and if you have any pink and white pepper corns grind those into the mix as well. Set aside.

This will last for a month.

Wash and trim the radishes. Rainbow ones, if you can find them, look great on the plate.

Slice and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Store in the refrigerator for up to a day.

The morning of, take the eggs out of the ice water and set in a bowl at room temperature. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bring a pot of water to a boil, then lower to a simmer.

Spread country rustic bread with soft butter.

Cut into finger-width spears.

Place the toast “soldiers” on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until toasted, about 8 minutes. When golden remove from the pan from the oven and set aside until ready to assemble.

For each plate place a dollop of butter. Add a heaping pinch of seasoned slat flakes. Arrange a pretty pile of sliced radishes. And stack several toast soldiers like lincoln logs.

As your loved ones file into the kitchen lower their egg into the boiling water with a slotted spoon. Simmer for 30-40 seconds until the eggs are warmed through. Remove from the boiling water. And place in a dish of room temperature water in the sink.

Tap an end to find the air bubble, then peel away the top of the shell. Trim off the top and place in an egg cup.

To serve simply place the filled egg cup on the assembled plate.

I’m sure you’ll crew will swoon for these dippy eggs too.

house of horror-d’oeuvres

perfecting the "done before they arrive" party- a work in progress

Categories: Appetizers, Cocktail Party, Dinner Party, Fête Fact, Posted on October 28, 2017 by Sandy Bergsten - Comments (3)

What could be more frightening than having company arrive and not having a canape (or two) to greet them?

Fear not! Just in time for Halloween (and the upcoming holiday season) here are several appetizers that can be made well in advance and stowed in your freezer, or assembled in a matter minutes. Now you’ll always have something scrumptious to serve when the doorbell rings.

I like to offer one hot hors d’oeuvre and another cold passed or stationary one. The point of a canape is to simply whet the appetite, figure a total of three or four bite-size pieces per person. Remember guests should be able to hold their drinks in one hand and the food in the other.

It’s always nice if the canapés complement, not compete with what you’re serving for dinner. If meat is your main, perhaps a smoked fish for a starter.

If you’re having fish, then perhaps an antipasto platter. A vegetarian option is always a good bet.

My deepfreeze is home to several hot hors d’oeuvres. Thirty minutes before my guests arrive I preheat the oven and line a baking sheet with heavy-duty foil. The foil is key, because then you never need to wash the pan, once it’s cool just tuck it back in the cupboard.

Be sure to keep a few boxes of cheese puff cups with fig preserves in your freezer. You won’t believe how easy they are to prepare.

The English muffin bases make mushroom cheese crisps taste like you fussed.

Smoked salmon on cucumber rounds are practically calorie-free and look gorgeous on a tray.

Update your crudité. Asparagus with wasabi mayonnaise is a fresh twist.

Caprese skewers are another colorful way to integrate veggies.

Pass on the dip and serve olive tapenade over whipped goat cheese with pita chips instead.

With these recipes in your repertoire Willie knows your guests will roar for more- trick or treat!

best dressed

food detective

Categories: Salads and Dressings, Dinner for Two, Supper, Dinner Party, Lunch, Posted on October 17, 2017 by Sandy Bergsten - Comments (0)

Here’s a trio of dressings that will literally steal the scene. One bite and you’ll never reach for their bottled understudies again.

The best part… you won’t believe how easy they are to prepare! So whip up one or all three, they’ll last for a week in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Seriously- who doesn’t love ranch dressing?

In a medium bowl whisk together the ½ cup sour cream, ¼ cup mayonnaise, one grated clove of garlic and a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice.

Whisk in enough buttermilk for the desired consistency (approximately ½ cup).

Stir in a tablespoon of chopped chives. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.

This blue cheese dressing is perfect alongside a platter of chicken wings or drizzled over a wedge.

Whisk together two ounces of crumbled Roquefort, ¼ cup of buttermilk, ¼ cup of mayonnaise, ¼ cup of sour cream and a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice.

Season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.

You’re going to become addicted to this simple Caesar dressing.

Whisk together ¼ cup mayonnaise, ¼ cup Parmesan, two tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, a tablespoon of Worcestershire, a tablespoon of Dijon mustard, ¼ to ½ teaspoon anchovy paste and one grated clove of garlic until combined.

Slowly whisk in ¼ cup olive oil until thoroughly incorporated.

Toss with crisp romaine and bakery fresh croutons.

And the award goes to…

eins, zwei, drei

food detective

Categories: Poultry, Dinner for Two, Supper, Dinner Party, Well Equipped, Posted on October 1, 2017 by Sandy Bergsten

How about a little schnitzel just in time for Oktoberfest? Sounds complicated, but really it’s as easy as one, two, three.

What’s key is choosing a chicken breast that’s not too big. I’m not sure when someone thought it was a good idea to offer up chicken breasts that resemble those of a small turkey. They are unwieldy, difficult to cook properly, and frankly a bit grotesque. I often find myself rifling through the refrigerator case at the grocery store trying to find one with a desirable weight, by the time I’m finished it resembles a Feline’s Basement sales bin. A proper chicken breast half should weigh between four to six ounces.

The next thing to know is that almost every chicken breast is enhanced with a slight pounding. The point is to make the majority of the breast the same thickness. That means it will cook evenly. Which means you most likely will need a mallet.

I purchased by meat mallet at Bridge Kitchenware when I lived in New York City decades ago. Sadly, Bridge has closed its retail doors, but I’m Sur la Table and William Sonoma have ones that will fit the bill. You want it to be heavy with a large flat surface. Yes, it does take up precious real estate in my kitchen drawer, but I use it at least once a week. And I find giving meat a little thump makes it more tender. Don’t try to pound any meat with those awful wooden cubes that are flat on two sides and spiked on the other. While it might work on ice, it will destroy any good cut of meat. If you don’t feel like investing in a quality metal mallet, ask your butcher at your grocery store to please do pound your meat to the desired thickness for you. Butchers are the absolute best! They wouldn’t have a little bell on their counter if they didn’t want you to ask them for favors.

For the chicken schnitzel separate the chicken breasts, and if necessary discard the tenders. Place the breasts between two sheets of waxed paper. With a heavy metal mallet gently pound the meat to a 1/4 to 1/8-inch thickness. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper.

Line a small rimmed baking sheet with waxed paper or a baking rake and set aside.

In the first of three flat bowls, place the flour.

In the second beat the eggs and Dijon mustard to blend. In the third place one cup of the panko.

Working with one chicken breast at a time, dredge in flour, shaking off excess.

Then dip into egg mixture, turning to coat evenly.

Carefully coat with panko, pressing the panko gently to adhere to chicken.

Transfer chicken to prepared baking sheet. (The chicken breasts can be coated several hours ahead of time. Cover with foil and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before cooking.)

Heat 1 tablespoon oil and one tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium-high

heat (pan should be large enough to hold two breasts).

Add the chicken breasts to the skillet and cook until golden brown on both sides, about 8-10 minutes.

Transfer the chicken breasts to a paper towel-lined plate and season with salt. Place the chicken breasts on plates and garnish each with freshly chopped parsley and a lemon wedge.


eat a peach

perfecting the "done before they arrive" party- a work in progress

Categories: Desserts, Dinner for Two, Supper, Dinner Party, Posted on September 17, 2017 by Sandy Bergsten

With temps finally falling and farm fresh stone fruit still available, now is the perfect time to pop a crisp in the oven. It couldn’t be simpler with this easy to do, adjustable recipe.

No need to bake for the masses, with this recipe you make exactly what you want. And the best part- you can make a large batch of the topping and pop it in the freezer. That way whenever you happen upon fruit at its peak, you can whip up a fresh fruit crisp as quickly as you can slice and toss.

Start with one cup fresh fruit or berries per person.

Peel, slice and place in a large bowl.

Add a grating of lemon zest.

Toss with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

Add a teaspoon of light brown sugar and a pinch of cinnamon.

Toss and place in an oven-proof baking dish or individual ramekins.

For the crisp, slice one-part butter into small cubes and allow to come to room temperature.

Measure out one-part light brown sugar, one-part flour, one-part rolled oats, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of cinnamon.

Whisk together in a large bowl.

Add the softened butter to the bowl.

Crumble with your fingertips until it forms little clumps. It should look like dry cookie dough, add a little more flour if it is too moist.

Scatter the crumb topping over the fruit, so that a little bit of the fruit peeks through.

If you’ve made extra topping, place in an airtight container and freeze for your next crisp.

Place the crisp in a 375-degree oven and bake for 30 minutes for ramekins and up to an hour for a larger baking dish. You will know the crisp is done when the fruit bubbles and the topping is crisp and crunchy.

Serve warm with a drizzle of heavy cream, slightly whipped cream, or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The perfect finale to any fall meal.

total eclipse of the heart

food detective

Categories: Salads and Dressings, Breads, Pizza, Tarts, Eggs, Supper, Lunch, Breakfast/Brunch, Sources, Well Equipped, Fête Fact, Posted on August 31, 2017 by Sandy Bergsten

As the countdown for the eclipse approached, I wondered how best to mark this extraordinary event. The moon was scheduled to block out the sun at 2:28 on Monday afternoon. Not the time I typically entertain. Then an idea came to me the night before just like a flash in the dark. With my Amazon procured ISO certified glasses in hand, I asked my husband for a date.

How often do we take the time to enjoy a leisurely lunch? Each time I do I recall how utterly civilized it is. So I decided to recreate one of my all-time favorite midday meals for my beloved.

In another life, I dated a lawyer who happened to love golf. Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m not much of one for the sport, but I was crazy about this amazing open-faced sandwich they served on the terrace of his club. So each time he asked me to play I willingly laced up my cleats and kept my sights on the nineteenth hole.

The most sublime meals are often quite simple to prepare. This holds true for this esteemed open-faced egg salad and smoked salmon sandwich.

Egg salad is one of those easy things that many mess up. The problem is that most don’t know how to properly boil an egg.

To begin place four large eggs in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to barely a boil. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.

Now for the secret to perfectly peeled eggs. Pour off the hot water and immediately cover the eggs with ice and cold water. Not only does this stop the cooking process, the eggs slightly constrict, pulling away from their shells.

Drain the water from the pan. Shake the eggs in the drained pan until they bump into each other and crack all over.

Then tap the end of each egg to discover its “air pocket”. This pocket reveals where there is a small space between the shell/membrane and the cooked egg. Under a slow stream of water, starting at the air pocket, gently peel the egg, shedding the shell and the membrane underneath. The shell should begin to slip off, if it doesn’t, carefully search for the air pocket, then start again.

Place the peeled eggs on a paper towel to drain.

I know we shouldn’t have one-use gadgets in our kitchens, but I’m mad for my egg slicer.

Slicing twice yields the perfect dice.

A quick chop with a knife to ensure all is uniform. Place the finely chopped eggs in a bowl.

Finely chop a sweet onion to measure half a cup, add to the eggs. Season lightly with salt and freshly ground pepper and toss with a fork.

Add two tablespoons of mayonnaise and half a teaspoon of Dijon mustard to the eggs.

Stir well with a fork to combine and distribute the yolk. Add more mayonnaise if needed. Taste for seasoning.

The egg salad can be made a day in advance. Cover and refrigerate.

Lightly toast two slices of rustic country bread.

Allow to cool.

Top each slice of bread with a scoop of egg salad, spread to the edges.

Drape with slices of smoked salmon.

Be sure to choose one that is high-quality and very thinly sliced.

Garnish with a sprig of fresh dill or a dollop of caviar.

I love cavi-art which is actually made from seaweed. It’s quite affordable, has a long shelf life in the refrigerator, and never bleeds.

Accompany with an arugula salad. Simply toss the greens with a little extra-virgin olive oil, a splash of good balsamic, a pinch of kosher salt and a couple grinds of fresh pepper.

Arrange on the plate.

This heavenly repast is truly out a sight. 

you say tomato…

food detective

Categories: Salads and Dressings, Veggies and Sides, Dinner for Two, Supper, Dinner Party, Lunch, Sources, Posted on August 21, 2017 by Sandy Bergsten

One of the best things about living in Ohio in August is the abundance of freshly picked tomatoes. You can actually smell their sweet ripeness from afar. These beauties need little adornment… a pinch of salt, a grind of pepper, a splash of good olive oil and perhaps a drizzle of fine balsamic.

This simple tomato salad really doesn’t need a recipe. But for those who do… here are the steps that will take you straight up to heaven.

Start with two large red tomatoes and one cup of mixed heirloom cherry tomatoes. 

Core and cut of the very bottoms off of the red tomatoes, then cut each of the large tomatoes into quarter inch slices.

Season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.

Slice the cherry tomatoes in half.

Place in a bowl, season with salt and pepper. Toss with one tablespoon of good olive oil.

Right before serving sliver fresh basil leaves to make one loosely packed quarter cup.

Place the tomato slices on a platter.

Top with the cherry tomato halves, spoon any remaining juices and olive oil over the tomatoes.

Drizzle with a good balsamic glaze, one of my favorites is Mandarano.

Scatter slivered basil on top.

If you want to make an out of this world caprese… cut one to two balls of burrata into quarter inch slices.

Take care when cutting for the creamy center will spread.

Top the red tomato slices with pieces of burrata. Then continue with the cherry tomato halves, juice/olive oil, balsamic glaze, and basil.

let it marinate

Categories: Meat, Supper, Dinner Party, Fête Fact, Posted on August 5, 2017 by Sandy Bergsten

Wouldn’t you rather have cocktails with your guests then be chained to your grill? Caterers and many restaurants often precook their protein then finish it off right before serving. Time to think like a pro and follow suit.

My citrus marinated pork tenderloin is exceptionally tender. The trick is marinating it the day before. Turning the Ziploc bag several times a day allows the herbs and juices to perfectly infuse the meat. It’s fabulous with a citrus reduction sauce, which is better made a day ahead of time too.

For the marinade start off with fresh basil leaves, thyme sprigs, cilantro and garlic.

Place half of the herbs in a large Ziploc bag. Scatter half a head of peeled, crushed garlic cloves on top.

Place the pork tenderloins on top of the herbs.

Place the remaining herbs and garlic on top of the meat.

Combine the lemon, lime, and orange juice in a large measuring cup.

Whisk in the olive oil.

Pour the marinade into the Ziploc bag, carefully seal the bag removing the air. Marinate in the refrigerator for 24 hours, turning the bag over occasionally.

While the meat is marinating make the citrus reduction sauce. Place two tablespoons fresh lemon juice, one tablespoon fresh lime juice, and one cup of fresh orange juice in a small saucepan.

Bring to a boil then lower the heat to a simmer. Reduce to ¼ cup, be careful not to scorch the pan.

Add one can of chicken broth and reduce to ½ cup.

Add one cup heavy cream until simmer until slightly thickened, about one minute.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.  The sauce can be made a day ahead. Allow to cool completely, cover and refrigerate. Gently re-warm before serving.

To precook the tenderloin, heat the grill a high heat an hour before your guests arrive. Remove the tenderloins from marinade. Grill the pork, turning to brown all the sides, until the internal temperature reaches 125 degrees, about 15 minutes. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and tent with foil. Let stand at room temperature.

Right before serving throw the tenderloins back on the grill for about 5 minutes turning on all sides to warm the meat through.

Transfer the meat to a cutting board slice diagonally and serve with citrus reduction sauce.

Next time give it a rest, and try grilling your meat ahead of time.

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