This is really just a post about celery toast. It’s not pretty, but it has become my favorite snack over the past few months.
2 slices white bread (We like Pepperidge Farm for this because it’s nice and square and toasts up well.)
4 ounces Cambozola blue cheese
1 cup celery from the center (Don’t use the outer stalks, you want the inner, tender stuff.)
1 garlic clove
olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper
Slice the celery and the scallion on the bias and as thinly as possible. Mix together in a bowl and grate the garlic into the mixture. Add olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and until everything is dressed, but not soaked. Toast the bread until golden brown. While the bread is still warm, butter it generously. Slice the cheese into quarter inch wedges and divide on the bread. Top with the celery mixture and a grind of pepper. Cut the toast in half and serve.
Although I *may* have taken to eating this for my entire supper, it really is the perfect snack or appetizer. The acidity of the celery and scallion slaw are so perfect with the creamy blue cheese and butter. Plus it is so easy to double or triple the recipe for a crowd (when it’s safe to have a crowd again…) We’ve started keeping a little notebook of recipes we’ve tried that will be good for entertaining someday. It’s nice to have goals, right?
Over July 4th weekend, Naoto and I went all out for a fondue feast. I’ve been wanting to have fondue for awhile now, and at the beginning of the pandemic, I made it one of our stay-at-home goals…who knew at the time we’d have so much time to accomplish that list!
(Try to ignore Naoto’s hair here…it’s even longer and more epic now!) Randomly, we own three fondue pots. I received the metal one for a Christmas gift in college and then learned cheese works better in ceramic, so I bought the ceramic one at Marshall Fields (RIP) almost twenty years ago. And my parents found the burnt orange 70s model at a thrift shop. So we figured we’d break out alllll the pots for our three course fondue fest.
We started with traditional Swiss fondue. I have (had?) a fondue cookbook but I couldn’t find it in time for the fest, so we relied on Food & Wine for the recipe. (We halved the recipe since there were only two of us which was more than enough and included leftovers.) We made the fondue in the pot, adding the cheese slowly and stirring often. It worked like a charm! (We learned our lesson the last time we had fondue…seven years ago!)
We had bread, carrots, potatoes, and broccoli for dipping. I can’t believe we forgot apples and pretzels for this round!
After we’d had enough cheese (yes, there is such a thing!) we started preparing the main course–meat and vegetables.
For the main course, we used this recipe for a broth fondue. We built the broth in the pot and let it come to a boil slowly. We found this was a nice way to pace ourselves…
We were going to do a few kinds of meat and vegetables, but we ended up just going with steak…next time I would add shrimp or chicken for some variety. (We were afraid of having too much food!) With the steak, we had carrots, broccoli, zucchini, potatoes, and mushrooms.
We ended up making little shish-ka-bobs, mixing meat and vegetables together on the same fork.
My favorite combination was steak + carrot + zucchini dipped in ponzu sauce. Fondue sauces are a great part of the experience and next time we’d like to experiment with more. I have to say though…the ponzu was the perfect citrusy balance to the meats and vegetables.
For the dessert round, I mixed up some Brandy Alexanders while Naoto prepped the fondue ingredients. It was a very indulgent evening!
For the chocolate fondue, we used this recipe and we made it on the double broiler on the stove before we transferred it into the fondue pot. We dipped strawberries, bananas, brioche, marshmallows, and pretzels. I had to blow out the flame after a few minutes because the pot got too hot and the chocolate was burning, so we need to find a better heating element for the chocolate fondue next time! Maybe just a little tea light? It took three days of soaking to get the pot clean!
It was such a fun project to plan and to execute. I’m really missing hosting parties and it might seem silly to make a big to-do on a regular ol’ Sunday night, but I found it such a great distraction. I love a good theme party and why not throw one just for ourselves? Oh, and it was a perfect excuse to wear my kaftan and bask in the 1970s for the evening. (P.S. We used these forks from our coffee shop pal, Madonna.)
Speaking of ramen…Naoto made homemade broth on Saturday and it was a step-up in flavor from the Furious Spoon version! He is going to try a bunch of different recipes until we find the perfect blend for us! We used this recipe which is chicken based and seemed easy enough for a “quick” broth. It took about four hours from beginning to end and we had enough for our two bowls, and a huge container to freeze for leftovers.
With the broth recipe, you first roast chicken wings and vegetables (to intensify their flavors.)
Next, you boil the roasted chicken and vegetables for hours along with shiitake mushrooms and aromatics.
By the end, the meat is falling off the bone and the broth is a deep brown. You’re never supposed to let it boil; it just barely simmers on low for hours. This keeps it from getting cloudy. (No one likes a cloudy broth!)
In the end, you strain the broth and you’re left with a giant bowl of spent chicken and vegetables.
Here’s the final product. We added chashu (using the Furious Spoon recipe,) a soft-boiled egg (that was a little overdone,) and scallions. I love the Hokkaido-style ramen at Misoya so Naoto made buttered corn and roasted potatoes to add to mine. It was a fun experiment for a Saturday! I kind of wish we’d started this earlier in the pandemic! There’s time to perfect Hasegawa Ramen before winter!
Naoto and I both love Law & Order. Back in our early dating days, we’d spend hours on the couch watching episode after episode during the marathons on TNT and USA (for the Special Victims Unit version.) We both loved Jerry Orbach’s character, Lenny Briscoe, the best. He was salty and sarcastic and had the best opening one-liners. And, because he was on the show for so long, it really felt like he was a weathered New York detective by the time he retired. Once he left, the show wasn’t the same, though we did continue to watch until the bitter end. When he died, it felt like we lost a member of our neighborhood. I’m so glad he lives on in Law & Order and Murder She Wrote. I read about The Dead Celebrity Cookbook on Twitter and promptly ordered it from the library. Have you ever read it? It’s so fun! I ordered it for Katherine Hepburn’s famous brownie recipe (which I still haven’t made!) but when I thumbed through the book and found Jerry Orbach’s steak recipe, I knew we had to start there. I am usually not a cumin and coriander fan, but everything in this recipe works together perfect to create a perfectly seasoned steak with a tangy, slightly sweet, and very flavorful sauce. We ate it with some sautéed zucchini but I’d like to make it again with some old school steakhouse sides next time.
And…it’s because of The Dead Celebrity Cookbook that I finally learned after all this time that Jerry Orbach played Lumiere in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast! (How did I not know this?!)
I’ll report back if the Katherine Hepburn brownies are amazing…there are also recipes from 3/4 of the Golden Girls, so I think another Golden Girls Gala may be in our future!
The tomatoes are coming! The tomatoes are coming! So far, we’ve picked Big Boys, Black Krims, a Mortgage Lifer, and tons of Juliets. We’ve been eating plenty of tomato sandwiches, BLTs, and caprese salads and we added this caprese pasta salad into our menu. Our goal for the summer is to try five new tomato recipes, so one down, four to go. Once we get a good harvest of big tomatoes, it will be easier to experiment. Juliets aren’t slicing tomatoes, so right now we’re limited to salads. They are particularly delicious this year, so no complaints! We haven’t had any red Brandywines yet, so…I’m waiting patiently. But I have to say, the Mortgage Lifter and Black Krims are really fantastic…we’ll be planting more of those for sure next year!
July 4th seems like weeks ago. I remember when I was a kid, it felt like July 4th was the end of summer…like it had this power to make the rest of summertime rush by. As an adult, I still kind of believe this, especially since school supplies are already out at Target. (Really…it’s ridiculous.) But really, there’s so much summer left! It was soooo hot and humid on the 4th. It rained a teeny bit, but not enough to really impact the garden, or the heat. I gave our plot a good soak during the community garden BBQ. Our tomato jungle is coming along nicely…no tomatoes yet…but our edamame is growing like crazy and the rabbits haven’t eaten it yet! Naoto and I had a mini Hasegawa Happy Hour and made Cherry Manhattans (recipe from Leopold Bros.) Cherry Manhattans have become our lazy summer drink. Despite what this picture shows, we drank them inside because it was too sweaty to be outside. We had Chicago-style hot dogs, corn on the cob, and baked beans for supper. It was the epitome of America. We ended up watching fireworks from the Circle Bridge over the Eisenhower (Interstate 290 for you non-Chicagoans.) I love fireworks, but I hate crowds, so it was kind of the perfect spot. It was still so hot, but there was a decent breeze (from the traffic?) and the were no mosquitos, plus it was only a few blocks from home. (What can I say? I’m a lazy reveler!)
Back when we were dating, Naoto and I had dinner at his coworker’s house. I don’t remember what we ate for dinner. What I do remember is Joyce and her husband, Doug, offered up mango salsa as an appetizer and…it was so good. You know how when you’re at someone’s house–especially someone you don’t know very well–you shouldn’t make a pig of yourself and eat the entire bowl of salsa? I think I broke that rule. I couldn’t stop…it just might be the perfect (non-tomato) salsa. It’s sweet and tangy and the textures of the mango and black beans and onions work together perfectly.
Monday night Naoto made the salsa for the first time in a long time. We have a photocopy of Joyce and Doug’s handwritten recipe in our recipe box…I think it’s the first shared recipe of our relationship. And this is why I love handwritten recipes! Just poking through my recipe box reminds me of Joyce and Doug and the beginning of my relationship with Naoto in a way that no link to an internet recipe ever could.
Anyway, Naoto prepared the salsa to put on fish and I had to restrain myself from eating the whole batch with tortilla chips before he cooked the cod. I think the salsa is really best with chips, but fish is probably healthier…either way, make this salsa!
Mango & Black Bean Salsa
1 1/2 cup black beans (canned, rinsed)
1 mango, finely chopped
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
3 Tbs lime juice
1 Tbs canola oil
2 tsp brown sugar
Mix together; stir thoroughly; chill for 1 hour.
Serve with chips, or on fish if you’re feeling fancy.
Maybe you know this about me…I haven’t seen many movies. In fact, most movies made in this century, I’ve only seen because I’ve been on plenty of long plane rides. When the Oscars come around, most years I haven’t seen any of the nominees. Recently, Ida (Best Foreign Film) is the only one I can remember seeing. So it should be unsurprising that I’ve never seen The Godfather. The movie turned forty-five this year and TCM brought it back to the big screen on Sunday (and today! Go if you can!) I knew it would be the perfect way to experience this classic for the first time.
I decided to make an event of it and host a Godfather feast after the movie. We drank chianti and enjoyed the fabulous antipasto platter pictured at the top, caprese salad, spaghetti and meatballs, and cannoli while we talked about the movie and how crazy good looking Al Pacino was in the 70s. (Especially in uniform.)
I’ve seen quite a few of the Fandango/TCM Big Screen Classics and they are well-done and not widely attended (at least around my neighborhood.) The TCM people do a little introduction and closing with some history of the movie, which is always fascinating and helps put the classic in context. I’m checking out the rest of this year’s line up to see what other parties we can plan–E.T. is coming and I haven’t seen that since the 80s so it will be like seeing it again for the first time!
Have you seen any good movies lately? (Old or new!)
P.S. As usual, not a sponsored post. And pics of The Godfather courtesy of the movie…not my own camera. 🙂
As promised, I’m going to share some of the food we made for the hanami party. The first is this spicy salad that we found on Cookpad. (Thanks to Jess for all of the hanami tips!) It is so fresh and delicious and I even think it would be tasty without the fresh fish. The wasabi-ponzu dressing is the highlight.
Tuna & Watercress with Wasabi Ponzu Dressing
1 bunch of watercress
3-4 radishes, sliced paper-thin, cut into half-moons (A mandolin is handy here.)
1/4 red onion, sliced paper thin (The mandolin is already out. Use it again.)
6oz fresh sushi grade tuna or salmon, sliced into bite sized pieces (You can also use smoked salmon, but fresh is best!)
1 tablespoon ponzu sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons wasabi paste
Whisk the ponzu, oil, and wasabi together until smooth. Toss the vegetables, fish, and dressing together. Sprinkle with a bit of salt, if needed. Serve immediately. Feel the burn.
We spent yet another New Year’s Eve at the Golden Steer with our friends. It’s become a tradition that I start looking forward to as soon as I turn the calendar to December. Naoto and I talk about the French Onion soup and the steaks we will order all month. After dinner, everyone came back to our apartment for drinks, snacks, and dessert. It’s always nice to ring in the new year in the comforts of home and with the laughter of friends. I made a simple cover for our island with the leftover wrapping paper from Phantom Flight Night™. I taped on some glittery dots that I punched out of gold glitter paper from my stash. It was simple and sparkly. New Year’s Day was lazy! We watched part of the Rose Bowl Parade–I only watch for the Trader Joe’s float, pictured above. It’s always fantastic. For supper we ate (our version of) toshikoshi soba. In Japan, toshikoshi soba is eaten as the last part of the meal on New Year’s Eve, but since we had dinner plans already*, we decided to eat it on New Year’s Day. We topped our noodles with roasted chicken, scallions, and cabbage, but this recipe has more traditional ideas. And I picked up some special New Year chopsticks last time we were in Japan so it was fun to actually find them in time to use them for New Year’s dinner!
How did you spend your New Year’s Eve?
*I think next year we should serve the noodles as a close-to midnight snack!