Sunday, June 28, 2009

Moroccan Night Recap

Oooh - exciting to get to travel to foreign lands for the night! Our Moroccan Night event was so much's a quick recap:

  • Table - after scouring the house for exotic table setting items, we ended up going with an animal print undercloth topped with smaller red cloths. Then, we used animal print napkins (found for just a few dollars at Home Goods) in red napkin rings (Dollar Store). From my Real Simple cookbooks, I've learned the lovely simplicity of using multiple clear hurricanes filled with candles and small items - for our table, I used a mix of earth-toned stones (Dollar Store again) under cream candles.

  • Apertif - I couldn't find Anisette (I think I'm going to need to begin making the trip to Nejaimes when I have parties; my usual liquor store seldom knows or has the off-beat things I'm looking for.) Anticipating this from past experience, I looked up substitutions online before going to the store and learned that Sambuca would work, so I used that instead. A bit of the liqueur is poured into the bottom of the glass, a few ice cubes are added, then it's topped with cold water. It's an interesting and light drink to begin the evening and to set the ethnic tone.

  • La Kemia - the appetizer table was so pretty and fun to create. In Moroccan homes, this is served on a round table in the center of the room and everyone gathers around the many small dishes. No utensils are used - it's all finger food. Our coffee table just happens to be round, so it worked out perfectly! Everyone's favorite were the Lamb Kabobs, ala Alaskan Dave. Dave - thank you so much for spice rub recipe - it couldn't have been more perfect! Anyone interested in the spice rub mix, just check out the Comments section on the original Moroccan Night post.

  • Dinner - the cucumber and mint salad was light and refreshing - we used lots of mint from our garden. Warmed flatbread made a nice accompaniment. Then, we had Chicken with Olives...large chunks of potatoes are also cooked with the chicken, along with tomatoes, mushrooms, onions and spices, so it's an entire meal in one pot. We also had a tasty spinach souffle. And, one of our guests, who was smart and DID go to Nejaimes, was able to find a lovely Spanish Montecillo Crianza red wine for us to share - very smooth and delicious.

  • Dessert - I was sadly unable to find Turkish Delight during my shopping, so substitued baklava, and served dates along with it. And, no Moroccan meal would be complete without sweetened Mint Green Tea, which is served in glasses rather than cups. (I happened to mention my search for Turkish Delight at dinner, and one of our guests brought us a box of it the next day as a thank you gift - yum!)

For anyone interested in more photos, here's a slideshow:

We all really enjoyed the exotic fare. We had our tea and dessert as we learned to play Royalty - my uncle won both rounds. Can't wait for the next theme dinner - I'm waiting to be inspired by another culture. Any great ideas?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sauteed Braising Greens

Yum. In our recent Berkshire Organics home delivery basket, we found a bag of what I thought was a mesclun-style salad mix. However, upon reading the newsletter that was included in the delivery, I discovered that it was instead something called a "braising mix."

The newsletter tells me that the braising mix includes: red, green, yellow, and magenta chard; yellow mustard greens; green frills mustard greens; ruby streaks red mustard greens, red bore kale, winter bore kale; and red Russian kale.

This was new to me, and, happily, the newsletter also included a few recipe options. I chose the Sauteed Braising Greens one (courtesy of Markristo Farm in Hillsdale, NY...Hillsdale was the site of our recent photo expedition!), and we voted that it was FAN-tastic! Here's the recipe (I have modified it slightly to toast the pine nuts):

  1. Heat saute pan over medium heat and add 2 T pine nuts; when nicely browned, remove nuts from pan and set aside
  2. Coat pan with 2 T olive oil and add 2 cloves crushed garlic.
  3. On medium-high heat, cook garlic for 2 minutes.
  4. Place 8 oz. braising greens in pan (push down as needed to fit them in) and saute for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add juice from one lemon, salt, pepper, 2 T raisins, and the toasted pine nuts and saute for 1-2 minutes.
  6. Serve!

Easy, fast AND delicious - an all-around winner.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Berkshire Organics

Oooh, one of the local Tweeters that I follow recently mentioned getting his fresh vegetables from a local delivery service called Berkshire Organics. This was a new name to me, and upon reading the comment, I immediately Googled the company.

Their website provides plenty of info. I don't know how I never heard of them before...they're just down the road at the Burgner's Farm store.

(Note: to find the price list on the site, you need to begin the order form, where you'll see the basket options listed. Another Note: the website also mentions that they have been featured on Martha Stewart!)

From the price list, I learned that I could choose from different "baskets," meaning different types of produce would be included and/or different amounts, depending on which I chose. I could also choose a delivery frequency (I'm going with every other week). On the designated delivery day, my basket will be delivered to my house, and I can leave a cooler out or my door unlocked if I won't be home. They leave the food in one container, and on the next delivery, they'll leave the food in another container and pick up the one from the previous delivery.

Upon perusing the available basket options and prices, I decided to go with the Berkshire Basket, an assortment of seasonal organic fruits and vegetables, just right for two people. Even though this is a pricey option for me, I'm going for it for a few different reasons:

  1. It's DELIVERED....HellO!
  2. I'd like to support local growers whenever I can.
  3. The produce is organic, meaning more sustainable farming methods have been used.
  4. I always mean to get to the farmer's market, but never seem to find the time.
  5. I can subtract this amount from my normal grocery shopping budget and just not buy produce at the regular grocery store.

And, when it is not our growing season, Berkshire Organics has partnered with other organic farmers who will be able to supply them with the produce they need for fulfilling orders. Today's order was delivered while I was at work (yay), and I also received an email alerting me to what would be included in today's delivery. Here's what we get:

  • 1 quart Strawberries - Czajkowski Farm, Hadley, MA
  • 8 oz Braising Greens - Markristo Farm, Hillsdale, NY
  • 1 bunch Scallions - Markristo Farm, Hillsdale, NY
  • 1 head Lettuce (Red, Boston, or Romaine) - Enterprise Farm, Whately, MA
  • 1 pint Cherry Tomatoes - Somerset Organics, GA
  • 1 Cucumber - Somerset Organics, GA
  • 1 bunch Celery - C & B Farm, FL
  • 1 bunch Broccoli - CA
  • 1 head Cauliflower - CA
  • 6 oz Blueberries - Cottle's Farm, NC
  • 2 Nectarines - CA
  • 3 Plums (Red) - CA
  • 4 Apricots
  • 2 Mango (Champagne) - Fair Trade
  • 5 Bananas - Fair Trade

There are other items available as well - eggs, breads, cheeses, etc. I think I'll stick with just the basket for now, and see how it goes. But, isn't this a FABULOUS idea! Hope they can spread the word and get lots of customers so they stay in business a good long time...I like everything about this service.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Last Day of School

Cool motorcycle display inside, with great neon lighting.
Lucky kids - they're now on summer vacation!

My daughter is officially done with her Sophomore year and can now be considered a Junior. Woo-hoo! To celebrate, we headed out to Misty Moonlight Diner in Pittsfield. We also happened to celebrate her 8th grade graduation here, so I'm sensing a trend.

Misty is one of those sock hop style diners with the checkerboard floors, formica tables, naugahyde chairs with metal legs, and oldies playing in the background.

They especially rock because they SERVE BREAKFAST ALL DAY! This is tops in my book. They also serve dinner all day. The menu is meant to have something for just about anyone. They even have blue plate specials - meatloaf, roast beef, roast turkey, pot roast Isn't the stuff on a diner table just the best?- served with mashed potatoes and gravy, a roll and a salad.

You can also choose from a variety of appetizers and small plates, like quesadilla, potato skins, buffalo wings, hummus and veggies, etc. Then, of course, a selection of burgers, wraps, hot sandwiches, salads, etc. can get just about any American style entree you might be hankerin' for here.

We finally settled on...

  • Daughter: HOT buffalo wings with bleu cheese dressing and veggie sticks; they ended up being a little hotter than expected, but she still loved them.
  • Friend: Fried shrimp plate with french fries and coleslaw; it came with both cocktail and tartar sauces. The coleslaw recipe was good - seemed like the sauce had mLove the checkerboard floor and shiny naugahyde.ayo, vingar, sugar, and salt...didn't detect any horseradish, and very thinly shredded and very fresh cabbage.
  • Me: Hot roast beef sandwich with plenty of gravy and fries; I don't buy white bread in stores, but this sandwich MUST be served on soft and gooey white bread. I could have used a little more gravy, because I'm nuts about it. I dunked my fries in my daughter's bleu cheese dressing - mighty tasty.
So, I go off to work tomorrow at 7 am and my daughter stays home to sleep until noon, and then rest afterward. Ah...the life!

Misty Moonlight Diner on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 15, 2009

4,000 Questions - #13: Cash

I won't be getting very far on this little bit of dough.
Here's the background info on the 4,000 Questions posts...

Question #13: How much cash do you normally carry with you?

You know, for someone who works for a financial services company, with a bank office right downstairs, I seldom have any cash on me. And, I've discovered that most of my co-workers are the same way! We're so used to using Debit Cards for everything, or using online banking, that we just don't seem to have cash in our purses or pockets. In fact, I'm always a bit perturbed when I actually DO have to pay with cash, which is a rarity. Even fast food restaurants take Debit Cards now.

The photo at right shows the measly four bucks I found when I just checked my purse to answer this question.

TRIVIA: the term "buck" in reference to a dollar comes from the days when buckskin was used as a form of currency.

How much cash do YOU normally carry with you?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Moroccan Night

Hey, fellow bloggers! First, first let me apologize for my delinquency in posting new content. I realize I am waaaay behind, and will try to get back on track asap; life has just been a bit more than hectic lately.

Anyway, I'm planning an upcoming Moroccan Night and thought that would make a fun and interesting post. This all started when my uncle gave me a cookbook called "Casablanca Cuisine." He also gave me a card game called "Royalty," which I don't know how to play. So, I thought it might be nice to invite him to come to a Moroccan-themed dinner party, at which he teaches the guests to play Royalty! Sounds like a plan, right?

So, I'm currently looking around the house for Casablanca-style table setting stuff. I think I might be able to use a large old curtain I saved that had blocks of color - purple, fuschia, yellow - along with little tiny mirrors, for the table cover. I also have clear glass hurricanes, which I can fill with purple and gold candles, along with pistachios, to create a "look" for the center of the table.

As our background music, I think I'll purchase the soundtrack to "Casablanca."

And, here's our menu (from the cookbook):

  • Apertifs: according to the cookbook, we should serve Anisette before dinner - an anise flavored liqueur served over ice, with just a bit of water added
  • Appetizers: La Kemia, which consists of many little plates, containing things like pistachios, spicy sausages, a variety of olives, pickled green peppers, and garbanzos in cumin sauce
  • Salad: Cucumbers and Mint (fresh from our garden)
  • Main Course: Chicken with Olives, Cous Cous, and sauteed vegetables
  • Dessert: Turkish Delight, Figs, and Mint Tea

In addition to us, our Guest List will include:

  • My uncle (quite a character; over 6 feet tall, and with a white goatee; he was a hippie when I first knew him, and he now plays "Uncle Sam" in local parades, and holds Peace Vigils on Pittsfield's Park Square)
  • Doris (My uncle's housemate; a former librarian for the New York City library, and quite a personality; she asks the most interesting and random questions)
  • Ann (our neighbor from across the street; her dad was Norman Rockwell's studio assistant for so many years, and she is fun and full of so many great stories)
  • Ruby (our neighbor from next door; her husband died suddenly last summer, and I think she'd enjoy the evening out.
  • Syma (my good friend from Albany, who is always open to new ideas and new people)

So, that's the plan. Any suggestions from readers, to help make the night more memorable?


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