New Year’s Eve

In the midst of holiday parties, my husband and I decided to celebrate New Year’s Eve with a movie and dinner for just the two of us. We walked down to the Balboa, our neighborhood theater, to see “Charlie Wilson’s War” which we really enjoyed. (FYI – the next day we went back to the Balboa to see “Juno” – great movie). Before we left for the movie, I prepared our starter course – mushroom caps filled with blue cheese – which then required only simple reheating. This course was served with a bottle of Champagne Taittinger. The main course was the most delicious crab we ever had, purchased the prior day in Pillar Point near Half Moon Bay. We dipped this into unsalted butter being warmed by gracefully shaped porcelain warmers. This was accompanied by a caesar salad, a recipe I found in Epicurious. Our wine for this course was our favorite “house Chardonnay” – Rodney Strong Chalk Hill. We waited to have dessert with our dear friends and neighbors, Nanci and Andrew. Check out Andrew’s Blue Turtle Spa!

Mind Shaft Society Expedition Gathering

My husband Freddy and his Burning Man theme camp, the “Mind Shaft Society” went on an expedition to the deYoung Museum to begin their brainstorming for 2008. It was a cold, wet day so when they returned to our house from their expedition, I was prepared with sun-dried tomato soup, a recipe from Food & Wine. Everyone really enjoyed that! To accompany the soup, I also served a variety of cheeses and crackers and carrots and olives. Also, thanks to Freddy’s sister Barbara we had an array of great nuts from Christmas plus some chocolates, grapes and cherries. Refueled, the Mind Shaft Society actually starting talking about fuel for their camp in ’08. Stay tuned!

Thanksgiving ’07

It was a nuclear family Thanksgiving, graced by my Mom and Sister and family visiting from out of town. The menu was traditional with kosher and vegan accents. My husband is master of roasting turkey on the Weber. Along with the turkey, he also barbecued petite yams purchased at the Ferry Building Farmers’ Market – no need for marshmallows or brown sugar! We had traditional stuffing using lots of celery and onion and a green bean casserole. My sister also made delicious Yukon Gold mashed potatoes. A meal highlight was the cranberry sauce. Using a recipe from Epicurious, the ingredients include tart dried cherries (from Trader Joe’s) and cinnamon. For dessert we had a vegan pumpkin pie purchased in San Luis Obispo and a chocolate pecan pie with whipped cream made from a recipe in Gourmet. Beverages included cherry cider and Zinfandel. The table setting was the creation of my mother using a new napkin fold and “turkeys” made from pine cones with old silk flowers for tails.

Fresh Mahi Mahi

The inspiration for this evening’s ChezHelvetica dinner was the wild fresh fish available at Safeway which was Mahi Mahi. I grilled the Mahi Mahi in a grill pan indoors and placed it on a bed of fresh greens with sliced mangoes. It was topped with a salsa verde (using mint from our garden as well as parsley, garlic, capers, lemon, oil and vinegar), a recipe from the current issue of Martha Stewart Living. The side dish was whole wheat couscous.

A journey through the wine section revealed the best deal on the shelf (of the wines we would consider), a bottle of 2005 DeLoach Chardonnay from Russian River Valley in Sonoma County. The wine had that double malolactic taste that was smooth, buttery and slightly oakey.

The dinner turned out to be excellent and was easy to prepare and not cost prohibitive.

First Fresh Corn of 2007

The First Fresh Corn of the year appeared today. The corn was from Mexico and was indeed fresh, but I have to say that it was nowhere near the quality of sweet corn from my native northeastern Ohio (where the Szalay family grows some of the finest hybrid sweet corn in the world)!

The menu tonight was inspired by Memorial Day and wanting to barbecue. I grilled asparagus and an avocado and dressed it with some balsamic vinegar. The vegetables were accompanied by what we affectionately refer to as an Aidell Dog. Bruce Aidell manufactures a wonderful variety of sausages from artichoke & garlic which was cooked for tonight’s ChezHelvetica, to Chicken & Apple and Mushroom & Garlic and a Cajun.

Wild cherries completed the meal!

After Movie Dinner

Inspiration: I needed a dish that required only reheating at 9:30pm after seeing the movie “Waitress”. I had some ricotta in the refrigerator that was about to expire and some ground beef in the freezer from a prior dinner that I wanted to use up. I also had some multi-grain penne — so what recipe would work for these ingredients?

I first looked at and considered a recipe by Giada de Laurentis but didn’t want to fry a bunch of meatballs. So I then went to Epicurious but found no inspiration. I opened Dashboard on my Mac and typed “Pasta Ricotta Beef” into Google since those were the ingredients I had to work with. The Google search revealed this recipe at which I adapted.

Shopping: Ingredients came from Trader Joe’s, Safeway and a little market next to where I had my nails done earlier in the afternoon which had some really good mozzarella.

Amendments: The recipe called for canned tomatoes and I substituted fresh hot house tomatoes. The salad recipe I used was in Food and Wine. It called for spinach, plums, basil with a dressing of orange and lemon zests, juices, etc. I made the dressing exactly but had spring greens and apricots so used those instead of spinach and plums. It was great!

Ambiance: We listened to Tangents Radio. Host Dore Stein played sensual acoustic Mediterranean music.

Prep Time: 1+ hours
Cooking Time: 13 minutes
Cost: about $20
Wine: Ravenswood Old Vine Zinfandel from Lodi 2004 $9.99 (coincidentally, this wine is featured in the June issue of Gourmet as a recommended wine)