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 - Comments (0)

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 - Comments (2)

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 - Comments (0)

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.

summer’s bounty

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

Categories: Soups, Meat, Veggies and Sides, Desserts, Dinner Party, Posted on July 25, 2017 by Sandy Bergsten

My last cooking class at Dorothy Lane Marker’s Culinary Center was so much fun. We had a great group, plenty of farm fresh ingredients, and a lineup of recipes that could be done almost entirely ahead of time. Let’s face it- if you’re going to have people over you want to be out with your guests, not stuck in the kitchen.

The theme was “Summer’s Bounty”. What made this dinner party class a success was the series of courses that highlighted the best of the season. Now you might think serving up multiple courses makes for more work. The exact opposite is true.

Offering several smaller portions will actually save you time and money. The key is to choose recipes that have components that can be made hours before your guests arrive. Many courses that flank the main are usually vegetable based, such as soup or salad, that means you can serve smaller portions of protein for your main course, and that will really cut down on your costs.

When planning your menu let the season guide you. Then create an evening where the foods complement and support one another. Your guests will love when you say you picked up your key ingredients at the local farmer’s market (even if that was the farm stand inside your neighborhood grocery store). The point is to feature what is fresh, then choose easy recipes that you can make or prep in advance.

I adore my gazpacho recipe. This perfect starter is light and vibrant. The secret ingredient is Clamato juice, so be sure to ask if any of your guests have a shellfish allergy (if so you can substitute V8).

For the main course we grilled up flank steak. The evening I taught this class it was 99 degrees in the shade. There was no way I was going to have everyone melt around a raging grill while I cooked the steaks. So I thought like a caterer and right before my students arrived I grilled the steaks until they were just rare, transferred them to rimmed baking sheets and tented them with foil. Then right before serving I popped them back onto the hot grill for a minute or two. The result was perfectly cooked meat that was medium-rare. While some grill masters might find this technique sacrilegious, you’ll find doing this at your next party will keep you cool and collected.

For the sides I served fresh corn relish and sweet potato fries. Sweet corn is here, personally I serve it up at every turn. This salad features what fresh picked corn is all about.

The sweet potato fries are a fabulous accompaniment not only because they puff up like little clouds, the crème fraiche sriracha sauce is ideal not only with the fries, but sublime next to the flank steak.

What better way to end a summer meal than with shortcake parfaits. Season fresh berries are tossed with a little Grand Marnier, then spooned over crumbled bakery-fresh shortcakes, then topped with barely sweet lightly whipped cream. This dessert literally comes together in a minute. I love to serve my parfaits in martini glasses. It makes for a festive finish to a dinner that truly showcases the summer season.

And a big thank you to my fabulous helpers from DLM- Pam, Rita, Donna, Terry, and Susan. It was a super night all around!

easy as 1-2-3

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

Categories: Appetizers, Cocktail Party, Posted on July 10, 2017 by Sandy Bergsten

Sometimes you need a sensational appetizer that literally comes together in the count of three. On Wednesday night I’m teaching a cooking class at Dorothy Lane Market’s Culinary Center. When I was putting the lineup of recipes together it seemed like we might need a little something to kick things off.

The evening is going to feature grilled flank steak and tons of farm fresh sides. So I wanted a super easy starter that would complement the main menu. Perhaps a little surf to balance the turf.

You’ll be amazed at the ease and “wow” of these Persian cucumbers with smoked trout.

Persian cucumbers are small sweet cucumbers about 4 to 6 inches in length that have a thin and delicate skin that never need peeling.

If your local grocery doesn’t carry them. Pick some up on your next trip to Trader Joe’s.

Slice the cucumbers into ¼ inch rounds.

Layer on paper towel, cover with another sheet of paper towel to absorb excess moisture. The cucumbers can be sliced hours ahead of time, wrap the rounds and paper towel in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.

Next you’ll need a smoked trout filet. Dorothy Lane Market carries outstanding ones in their fresh fish department, but you can also find many good packaged ones at your grocery store next to the smoked salmon.

Remove the skin from trout and discard. With a paring knife scrape off any of the dark flesh on the underside and discard.

Flake the trout into very small pieces. This also can be done several hours ahead of time. Place in an airtight container and refrigerate.

Now for what holds it all together- Boursin cheese. This 1960’s throwback really pulls it all together.

To assemble spread dollop of Boursin cheese on each cucumber slice.

Top with the flaked salmon, pressing lightly to adhere.

If not serving right away top the canapes with a barely damp paper towel.

Then cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to an hour.

Be forewarned, once your guests have a bite, they will disappear before you can count to three.

civil sustainability

entertaining with style- making it work for you

Categories: Setting the Stage, Posted on June 25, 2017 by Sandy Bergsten

I just returned from the GCA Zone X Meeting in Cincinnati. The Town and Country Garden Club put together an outstanding conference. 

The two-day event beautifully accentuated the regal splendor of their Queen City on the Ohio River. Not only were the gardens and vistas spectacular, the lineup of speakers was impressive and made a real impact on everyone present.

One of the keynote speakers, Len Sauers, a professor of sustainability at Xavier University and former VP of Global Sustainability at Proctor and Gamble, spoke to us about climate change and water scarcity. His focus was not just on what was happening globally but how we as individuals can make a real difference.

Who knew that if everyone in our country washed their clothes in cold water that we would meet 5% of our carbon emission reduction goal. Another was to swap out a paper product for a more sustainable one. He used paper napkins as one example.

When he mentioned the difference switching to cloth napkins and using napkin rings to help identify them, I sat a little taller in my seat. Little did I realize the global forethought in the throw-back way I’ve always set my daily table. There is something civil in sitting down to dinner. My entire adult life I’ve served my evening meal at the dining room table, each person with their own place.

During the mid-eighties as a newlywed in New York City I slowly began collecting silver napkin rings. They beautifully and clearly marked which napkin belonged to which person, allowing for repeated use and fewer washings. Back then my only thought was on conserving my own energy, not the world’s.

As my family grew so did my collection.

Now this might sound stuffy to some, but I encourage you to giving this swap a try. Cloth napkins can be found almost anywhere and at any price point. Personally, I prefer the white cotton napkins from William and Sonoma. They have great heft, so if I quickly take them out of the dryer and smooth them out I usually don’t need to iron them. And because they are white, I can bleach them if they become stained.

In Ohio I use my silver napkin rings. Out west I have a collection of pewter ones I got at Pottery Barn. Both go perfectly with my everyday stainless. Why don’t you find some that reflect your own personality and style.

Next time I’m at the store I’ll pick up cold water wash detergent. The technology in the formula ensures a brighter wash than regular detergent in warm water.

Elegantly conserving is as easy as 1-2-3!

out of the box

food detective

Categories: Appetizers, Sauces and Such, Supper, Cocktail Party, Dinner Party, Well Equipped, Posted on June 11, 2017 by Sandy Bergsten

Every month, for the past decade, my husband receives a special delivery from the fruit of the month club. And each month I bring the package in, place it on the counter, and when he comes home from work we pour ourselves a cocktail and survey the box.

After a thoughtful draw on our drinks we open it up. The first thing we say to one another is “well what do you think we are going to do with all of those… pineapples… kiwis… nectarines”.

This month was mangos. Dave was doubtful, but I was actually pretty excited. He shook his head and took his Makers Mark into the other room.

I on the other hand set out to make a big batch of mango salsa.

A crazy but slightly essential kitchen tool is the mango splitter.

It does an amazing job of separating the sweet flesh from its hairy hard center.

Dice the peeled and cored mangos.

Peel and dice a half cup of English cucumber.

Finely chop one tablespoon jalapeno.

Dice one third cup of red onion.

Roughly chop one third cup of cilantro leaves.

Place everything into a large bowl.

Add one tablespoon of fresh lime juice.

Toss well and season with salt and pepper.

Tonight we are having friends over for a relaxed Sunday supper. We’ll kick off the night with the mango salsa and my favorite guacamole recipe.

Little do my guests know, but each of them will be leaving with a little party favor.

post a comment