Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Venice Communal Table Coming Soon




THE SECRET TABLE @ BIG RED SUN

Saturday August 27th at 7pm

560 Rose Avenue Venice CA 90291


MENU

Appetizers:
Goat Cheese Crostini with Tomato & Orange Salsa
Salmon and Lime Cakes with Lime Dipping Sauce
*****
First Course:
Chilled Puree of Pea and Tarragon Soup with Crème Fraiche
*****
Second Course:
Pasta With Chilis, Lemon, Pancetta Lardon and Marscapone
*****
Third Course
Watermelon and Heirloom Tomato Salad with Feta, Mint and Reduced Balsamic
  
*****
Dessert:
Chocolate Pound Cake with Chocolate Glaze
Whipped Cream and Fresh Mint

Wine & Bubbles
Coffee & Tea

Tariff: $110 per person

Seating is limited. Tickets can be purchased at Http://secretingredients.us. Click on the BUY NOW button and you will be directed to a secure site for payment. Enter the price of the ticket (s) you are purchasing. A confirmation email will be sent to you.

We'll see you around the table

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

East Coast Whistle Stop Tour

I arrived in NYC Thursday before last on the 28th of August.  Ahead of me was a nearly month long idyll of travel, cooking and spending time with my very best friends in the world in the most gorgeous of settings.  I didn't think my anticipation could be any greater or my happiness surpassed until I was surprised at the airport by someone who has become very special to me... but that's another story under a very different heading. 

So as I sit here on the Sound, home to dear friends of mine, watching the rain come down in sheets, I contemplate the nearly last two weeks -- in awe of how much has already happened and how much is still to come. 

I have cooked nearly every day and brought my A-game with favorites like watermelon, heirloom tomato, goat cheese, mint and reduced balsamic salad that has already made a second appearance on the Sound.


Israeli couscous and Blazin' Asian glazed roasted Salmon with Baby Backs for an informal sit down.


Italian Fish Stew with a French influence of tarragon and fennel and my famous Caesar Salad at my bff's country retreat in lovely Rhinebeck on the Hudson. 



Earlier I made a blueberry crip with the freshest, brightest blueberries for my man from Essex and his close friends.  No stress -- just cooking for complete strangers in a strange place... Essex is a brand new territory for me by the way that I am quickly falling in love with... the territory that is.


Fell in love with a few new dishes like roasted tomatoes sprinkled with thyme and honey served on crostini... served my traditional Filet Mignon Roast alongside pasta studded with haricot verts, crisped shallots and garlic, lemon juice and lemon zest, parmiggiano and roasted potatoes in the shape of small dice.  And perhaps the best pecan mini muffins that were sweet, crunchy and practically sticky without all the sticky bun mess.  All easy recipes with an emphasis on flavor and key ingredients that surprised the palate. 



And how could I forget the pots de cremes served with framboise and whipped cream just to give my guests a little respite from the chocolatey velvet interior of the verrine.  Last night I also made a deeply satisfying cheesecake with an extra thick buttery graham cracker crust toppped with blueberries slowly cooked with sugar and lemon before piling them on the cooled cake.  It took all my willpower not to enjoy more than the merest of slices after we returned from a boat ride on the inky Sound marveling at the lights on the shore and the moon above.



On deck is a party for fifty in Brooklyn Heights on Thursday where I'll be serving many of the dishes already mentioned with an appearance of these new favorites: lattice peach pies with caramel sauce.



Maybe one too many good things on the menu as I've got a load of cooking to do tomorrow but in the end it's all worth as the party is for a woman named Annie whom I've never met in honor of her "Surprise 60th Birthday Party" and by the end of her special day we will be friends and I will have contributed in my small way to celebrating her milestone 2500 miles away from my home.

I'm so insanely grateful for the opportunity to share my gift for cooking and entertaining in my home away from home knowing that as long as I can serve a beautiful meal to friends and new friends I am right where I'm supposed to be... at peace with myself and those around me.  Cooking is its own special language of love.

More to come... there's nearly two weeks left! 

Bon Appetit,

Lisa



Monday, July 25, 2011

A New Secret Table on the Books!



THE SECRET TABLE @ BIG RED SUN
Saturday August 27th at 7pm
560 Rose Avenue Venice CA 90291


MENU

Appetizers:
Goat Cheese Crostini with Tomato & Orange Salsa
Salmon and Lime Cakes with Lime Dipping Sauce
*****
First Course:
Chilled Puree of Pea and Tarragon Soup with Crème Fraiche
*****
Second Course:
Pasta With Chilis, Lemon, Pancetta Lardon and Marscapone
*****
Third Course
Watermelon and Heirloom Tomato Salad with Feta, Mint and Reduced Balsamic
  
*****
Dessert:
Chocolate Pound Cake with Chocolate Glaze
Whipped Cream and Fresh Mint

Wine & Bubbles
Coffee & Tea

Tariff: $110 per person

Seating is limited. Tickets can be purchased at Http://secretingredients.us. Click on the BUY NOW button and you will be directed to a secure site for payment. Enter the price of the ticket (s) you are purchasing. A confirmation email will be sent to you.

We'll see you around the table

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

SI & Big Red Sun Host a Grand Secret Table This Friday July 22nd


Secret Ingredients  
&  
Big Red Sun 
Invite you to The Secret Table,  
hosted by Big Red Sun 
Friday July 22nd @ 7pm 

The Big Red Sun - 560 Rose Avenue Venice CA 90291

MENU 

Bubbles on Arrival 
Spiced Roasted Chickpeas 
Traditional Antipasti: Prosciutto, Reggiano Parmiggiano, Herbed 
Olives and Roasted Peppers. 
Caesar Salad with Buttery Thyme Croutons 
Basil and Spinach Pesto, Puree of Butternut Squash and Bechamel 
Lasagne. 
Lemon Ricotta Poundcake 
with Whipped Cream and Fresh Berries 
Prosecco, wines and coffee 
$110.00 per person 

Seating is limited.  Tickets can be purchased at http://secretingredients.us.  Click on the BUY 
NOW button and you will be directed to a secure site for payment.  Enter the price of the 
ticket(s) you are purchasing.  A confirmation email will be sent to you. 

We’ll see you around the table. 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Beach to Biscotti

Last Sunday one of my clients who has a place on the beach threw a "Welcome Back to LA" cocktail party and I was so thrilled to cater.  Cocktail parties are fun and easy to enjoy because once all the food is prepped and presented, you can relax and enjoy the crowd.  And in this instance the view.  Summer usually means lots of parties on the beach in Malibu so my work is exponentially more enjoyable when I'm surrounded by surf, sand and sunshine.  Fortunately for me and my lovely host, Andrew, June gloom took what appears to be a permanent hiatuus and the sun shone spectacularly all day bathing our guests in a warm glow.

I was aided and abetted as usual by my zany cohort, Karin, who makes every job we work on together feel like an episode of  "I Love Lucy."  She's truly demented and brings out the best in me even when I'm feeling pressured and pinched. 


In addition to the standard fare of an abundant crudite which by the way morphed into containers of the best chopped salad the next day perfect for drizzling with olive oil and a little sea salt for a crunchy healthy snack, crostini bar with toppings, cheese platter, brandied chicken pate on toasts and some beyond fantastic guacamole, chips and manga salsa, I made dozens of homemade biscotti I'm becoming famous for...





The biscotti I make are studded with slivered almonds, orange cranberries and lemon zest and scented with almond extract.  They are laborious.  I will not mislead you but so worth the effort when you bite into a cookie that flavorful and a true dance of textures between the soft center and crunchy crisp edges.  Once the dough is prepared they are rolled into symmetrical logs and baked for forty minutes until they are golden brown.


Once they are removed from the oven they must cool for a good half hour before they can be sliced on the diagonal and returned to the oven for another fifteen minutes so they can achieve their drier texture. 



They do expand quite a bit so give them plenty of room on the cookie sheet.  And when it's time to cut  them on the diagoal, coax the knife along as you don't want them to fall apart and crumble under the pressure.  When all goes according to plan you'll get the perfect biscotti great for dipping in wine, milk or coffee. 



The day after the party I woke up and realized I had nary a single cookie, just a bite here and there and a crumb or two.  Friends showed up the night I made them and ate the dozen I spared for the kitchen.  And I guess at the party my lovely assistant and friend managed to divvy them up between she and my client and left me with lots of crudite.  So while I munched on chopped salad this week, Karin is enjoying biscotti on the beach in Tahoe.  Well at least my figure thanks her.

Cheers!

Lisa

Friday, June 17, 2011

Mediterranean Food of The Sun

I am always pleased and grateful that the number one influence on my palate and cooking are the flavors and ingredients of the Mediterranean.  Having lived overseas as a child on the Med and then returned again and again throughout my lifetime, it's no surprise that this style of cooking and subsequent dishes are what I consider comfort food.  Give me vine-ripened tomatoes, olives, garlic, olive oil, fresh basil and a goat or feta cheese and I can make you a week of dishes you won't recognize twice. 

Given this confidence factor I was a trace surprised when I sat down to come up with a menu for debut communal dinner at Big Red Sun on the 9th of July and had nothing. Bupkus.  Other than jamon and Manchego.  This most definitely wouldn't suffice. 
http://us2.campaign-archive1.com/?u=137b87228663d67c8b34c9575&id=aba75ab228&e=%5bUNIQID%5d click here for more information.  Since we're partnering with a Tequila company I wanted to make the food more Costa del Sol less Mexican.  We live in LA.  There are a lot of great Mexican restaurants and our dinners are meant to promote something more experiential so I went hunting for recipes that piqued my interest in preparing them and promised my guests a goreous dinner.

I was soon overwhelmed by the websites and the tactile stimulation one misses when online.  I wanted a great big beautiful cookbook replete with glossy photos to peruse that would point me in the right direction.  I didn't have the right one.  And then I remembered the box of cookbooks my mother had given which belonged to my beloved brother, David, who died in February.  For obvious reasons, I had not been able to look through the box yet as it broke my heart thinking about how much my brother loved to cook and what an inspired chef he was.  I decided today was the day and asked him for a little encouragement on the way.

What I found was a cookbook that is so perfect and rich with recipes and photos that I had to call my mom right away and explain, "David just saved my dinner."  The book in question is called "Mediterranean Food of The Sun" by Jacqueline Clark and Joanna Farrow published by Hermes House.  It's a big hardbound colorful extravaganza that showcases recipes from every region of the Mediterranean highlighting Middle Eastern and European dishes.  This has become my favorite cookbook and in so many ways completely refreshing and original in a day and age when cookbooks have become manuals for making the most quotidian recipes like mashed potatoes, sandwiches, and soups.  How many times do you need to see these i print? 

So with the highest recommendation possible and if you are a lover of all things Mediterranean I suggest you check out this beautiful book.   The bonus on my end is that I've got my brother in the kitchen again and over 500 pages of recipes to enjoy with him as I plan to make each and every one in homage to his memory. 

Cheers,

Lisa

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Sunday Brunch

Last Sunday started out as a glorious morning replete with big fluffy white clouds and a sapphire sea roiling with white caps. And then an icy Nordic wind blew in making the deck less inviting than it looked.  I don't know if this was the cause of the communal intimacy that ensued but I'm sure that it contributed as we all stayed indoors and ate gathered around comfy sofas and chairs.  Or maybe it was Sunday morning in general and everyone was ready for a long lazy meal and chat with new friends.  No matter what the reason, I was overjoyed to watch my guests go back for seconds and thirds, nibble on Katie Lou's phenomenal cookies and baked goods while sipping bloodies and Mimosas and really get to know their fellow guests.  Afterward I had a thought that my parties were becoming less about food and more about people being able to connect with each other in a social forum that was as I always say, better than hanging out in a restaurant where the only thing you leave with is a receipt of the bill. 



One of the other asides to the day was the shop factor a few of my female guests were privy to... greeted by the ever delightful, cheery and fiercely comedic Karin Rogers, who is in the couture business, and noted their stunning ensembles, they were invited to check out a Chanel this and Prada that.  Off they went to Karin's stuido below where they tried on shoes and clothes and left with some fancy additions to their wardrobes. 



I was also so happy to see many of my friends attend this brunch as guests so by the end of the day they were gathered with my new "friends" around island while I washed dishes and told stories as aided and abetted by my sidekick, Karin.  This was truly less work and more entertaining.  I apologized at one point and said we were formerly a more serious business but had morped into a casual homey meet and greet for this one day only! 


Menu was simple and delicious: scrambled eggs atop turkey sausage rounds on muffins with sage and caramelized onion gravy (next time I will assemble on freshly baked biscuits); roasted asparagus with crisped prosciutto; roasted new potatoes, roasted beet and lentil salad with mire poix and goat cheese; smoked salmon with capers, Bermuda onion on rustic bread and creamy butter;  fresh fruit, cookies, muffins, breads.  Bloodies were the best.   I pureed ginger, garlic, carrots and celery in the cuisinart and added this to tomato juice.  Added salt, pepper, lime and lemon juice, worcestershire sauce and horseradish and it was a meal unto itself.  



I can't wait until the next brunch... and I do hope you'll join us!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

My Protege

Nothing gives me greater satisfaction than watching a child develop an interest in food and cooking.  My humble beginnings in the kitchen were inspired by my uniquely perfect Jammies later called affectionaly by all of her grandchildren as Grammies. She was my father's mother, hailed from Texas and was not only the most amazing cook but her baked goods were singularly divine.  When I was around six I pulled my stepstool up to her side at the kitchen counter while she rolled out the flakiest pie crust and said, "teach me."  I still don't bake as well as she did but the rest is history and from that day forward I learned to cook from her. 


So it gives me great pleasure that my dear friend, Wendy Plumb's dautghter, Vienna, who at the tender age of four has fallen in love with cooking.  She's a very powerful little girl already and a great beauty with the kind of spunk that reminds me of me at her age.  Since I am always in the kitchen and often cooking for my extended family, the Plumbs, she has taken to showing up, maneuvering a barstool over to the kitchen island and insisting to help with dinner.  She has amazning hand-to-eye coordination and can deftly handle the tasks I give her.  She's a big lover of fresh basil and last Friday night kept pulling leaves from the fresh plant on the counter, shredding them into bits and walking around to each guest saying, "sprinkle, sprinkle."  So cute I almost cried.  She loves making vinaigrette at this point and is an expert at dipping one teeny finger into the dressing and sayiing, "Ummmm good."  She learned the word, "emulsify" recently and I actually believe she knows what it means! 


I told her mum she's going to be a phenomenal cook by the time she's seven.  It's going to be so much fun teaching her and bartering for kisses in exchange for time as my protege.  Vienna, this one's for you!

Love your Auntie Lisa! 

Friday, May 6, 2011

I Love Birthday Parties

I'm often asked to cater birthday parties and many times for friends.  When this happens I'm allowed the supreme pleasure of being both caterer and guest.    Last weekend was the ever more gorgeous Donna Livington's birthday and we gathered together in her chic, beautifully appointed and decorated Wilshire Blvd. highrise.  Donna's a decorator and it shows. 

Guests were limited to her closest gal pals and included many of my most favorite ladies. 


We dined on crostini topped with my amazing and easy cecca (cherry tomatoes are my secret ingredient, fresh basil, loads of garlic, great olive oil, sea salt, red pepper flakes and just a dash of red wine vinegar) and then sat down to Arugula Salad with shards of parmesan with my balsamic vinaigrette that everyone swears is the best dressing they have ever tasted (balsamic, olive oil, dijon mustard, sea salt and pepper -- swear to Pete that's it).  Salad was followed by Ahi Tuna and Salmon marinated in "Blazin' Asian Glaze" and the now practically quotidian Israeli Couscous studded with all our favorite ingredients.  I do have an extensive repertoire but what can I say... when my clients request their favorite dishes, I deliver. 

Cake decorations were picked fresh from my garden... the effect was entirely whimsical and fortunately no one was poisoned as a result.  


Happy Birthday Donna -- thanks for letting us serve you!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Malibu Times > Malibu Life > Malibu's best-kept culinary ‘secret'

Malibu Times > Malibu Life > Malibu's best-kept culinary ‘secret'

Kids and Cupcakes

The last couple of weekends were all about kids' parties and cupcakes.  I love making cupcakes and the more homemade they look the better they taste.  I don't think cupcakes should be pristine.  Frosting should be made from the best ingredients like butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar, fresh pureed fruit and chocolate and lathered on in a thick and creamy layer.  The cake should be moist and flavorful and if you overcook them, toss them.   There is nothing worse than a dry cupcake no matter how delicious the frosting. 



For this party I made a combination of red velvet and lemon cupcakes with butter cream cheese frosting.  Little girls love pink so I confess to adding food coloring for a super pink treat.  The stand came from Gloria's Cake and Candy Supply and it is a super cute way to create a centerpiece of cupcakes.  



This mad display of cupcakes was for a dear client's daughter's Bat Mitzvah.  I baked over a hundred cupcakes of various flavors from chocolate, white, lemon, and red velvet.  I mixed it up by making minis, regular and giant cupcakes which looked really great when they were put out for the party.  Frosting came in every color of the rainbow with sprinkles and flowers to boot.  My standard butter cream chocolate and butter cream cheese as the base for all.  

Hope this inspires you to get out the cupcake pans and make a batch for your next dessert or just because. They are charming, delicious and so much more fun to eat than your average slice of cake.  

Next up... May calendar of events at our two new venues.   We're excited. 

Cheers,

Lisa

Saturday, April 2, 2011

March 26th Communal Dinner -- Next Event April 9th!

view from the deck
It was a very grand evening starting with a view to die for...



... where guests sipped bubbles and  crunched on crostini topped with olive and anchovy tapenade...

... before settling into a three dish starter at two beautifully set tables in the dining room. I'm a particular fan of the artwork.


Starter included slippery peppers topped with Burratta and basil chiffonade, stuffed grape leaves with greek yogurt studded with cucumber and scented with honey and cinnamon and cannelini hummus with pita chips.


slipper peppers with Burratta and basil chiffonade

grape leaves stuffed with rice

Entrees followed and we celebrated a guest's birthday with a double chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting that was mind-blowingly good or at least everyone said so...

I couldn't have managed any of it without my amazing and supportive team:  Ron Pascual, fabulous sous chef; Lisa van Eyssen and Stacie Isabella Turk, extraordinary documentarian and photographer; Tami Orloff, hostess and owner of the venue; Karin Rogers, front of the house and master of ceremonies.  And of course, my guests who make all the effort worthwhile.  As promised to Maria Cozzi... chocolate layer cake recipe follows.


Best Chocolate Layer Cake:

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 3 cups light brown sugar, packed
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 1/3 cups sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups hot coffee (use water if you do not want coffee flavor in your cake)

Frosting:

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 16 ounces cream cheese, softened at room temperature
  • 8 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted (I kept it white for the party so omit unless you want chocolate frosting)
  • 1/2 cup cooled coffee (ditto)
  • 4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 6 cups confectioners' sugar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour 3 (9-inch) cake pans. Cut 3 circles of waxed paper or parchment paper to fit the bottoms of the pans, then press them in.
In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or using a hand mixer), cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar and eggs and mix until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla, cocoa, baking soda and salt and mix. Add 1/2 of the flour, then 1/2 of the sour cream and mix. Repeat with the remaining flour and sour cream. Drizzle in the hot coffee and mix until smooth. The batter will be thin. Pour into the prepared pans and bake until the tops are firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (a few crumbs are okay), about 35 minutes. Halfway through the baking, quickly rotate the pans in the oven to ensure even baking, but otherwise try not to open the oven. Let cool in the pan 10 minutes. Turn out onto wire racks and let cool completely before frosting.
Frosting: In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Drizzle in the melted chocolate and mix. Add the coffee and vanilla and mix. Add the sugar, 1 cup at a time, mixing after each addition. Mix until well blended and fluffy. To frost the cake, use a spatula to cover 2 of the cake layers with frosting. Stack them together. Flip the third cake layer over and rest it on the top to create a very flat top for the cake. Frost on the sides and top. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

March 26th Sold Out!

Congrats to my team on another sold out show!  And a million thanks to Karen and Tami for the vibiest (is that a word?) venue in Los Angeles.   Cocktails on the deck with 180 degree views of the Pacific in the Palisades.  Loft-like interior with gorgeous art, super chic decor and a state-of-the art sound system that will be playing cool tunes from Paris's famed Hotel Costes.   Lisa's dialed in her camera crew so we're good to roll and of course the menu and food will live up to the standards set by Secret Table months ago.  I am the luckiest girl in the world to have so many amazing friends who support this endeavor and are constantly helping me up my game.  My goal is to one day have met every intrepid foodie on my current mailing list as we grow and reach out to so many new clients who of course become just like family and/or friends to Secret Ingredients. 

Now let's just hope for clear skies so we truly can enjoy the sunset from the deck while sipping bubbles and stimulating our palates for the meal ahead.

Cheers,

Lisa

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Secret Ingredients Newsletter

I have been blessed with a great new partner in the company -- read all about it in this month's newsletter that highlights upcoming events and our next communal dinner which is right around the corner on the 26th of March.  We're featuring a Mediterranean Mezze in honor of Spring.   Lots of fresh flavors and traditional dishes like tender young Lamb tagine with eggplant, stuffed and rolled grape leaves and tangy roasted red bell peppers with puddles of Buratta.   We're also feating a fun new experience at Secret Table.  We'll be filming upcoming webisodes for our "Cooking with Karma" program.  Don't be camera shy.  See you around the table.    And if you have trouble reading our newsletter please feel free to contact me directly: events@secretingredients.us and I'll shoot you a PDF copy.  

Cheeers,

Lisa

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Two New Wines

I drink a lot of great wine and every now and then am truly blown away by a bottle or two.  This week, maybe because it was Valentine's I was gifted two seriously delicious wines -- a red and a white that are so deserving of my praise. 

The red is called Apothic Red and has a gorgeous label as well.  The vineyard is owned by Gallo but you won't see the imprint on the label.  You can learn all about it at http://www.apothic.com/.  It's a rich combination of Zinfandel, Syrah and Merlot and serves up layers of cherries, vanilla and mocha.  My dad would have loved this wine.  His favorite dessert was anything chocolate with a great glass of Zin.   This wine tastes like dessert in a glass.  Price point is even better at 13.99 a bottle and can be purchased online.  Robert Parker has some great things to say about the wine as well so my palate is spot on with this wine. 

The second bottle is a lovely lemony-straw colored Chardonnay from the Burrell School vineyard located in the Santa Cruz mountains.  It's called "Teacher's Pet" Chardonnay.  The name comes from the Burrell School bell tower circa 1890 that overlooks the vineyard.  In the glass, the wine opens up to a nose of toast and lemon custard, pears and pineapple. This is a zesty Chardonnay with juicy flavors of grapefruit, almonds, Honey tangelo and golden delicious apple. The lively acidity begs to be enjoyed with equally lively fare. We drank a 2006 that is sold out -- production was limited to 790 cases.  The wines are fermented and aged  for a year in French Oak barrels.  Bottles from 2007 are available for around $30 and worth every penny.  690 cases were produced so check it out: http://www.burrellschool.com/.   The company's tagline is equally engaging: I promise to sip my wine...  words to live by that I more often than not forget entirely. 

Salut!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Short Ribs Inspired by Daniel Boulud for my new friend, Ron!

    Shopping for a party the other day I ran into a wine rep for Gallo who offered me the lovliest bottle of their high end red wine (which right this minute I cannot recall the name) but the logo was red and foily and beautiful over the black bottle.  In honor of Valentine's Day the bottle was replete with a red bow.  I was so excited to try the wine and thanked Ron profusely.  I also mentioned that I was a chef so he knew when talking about the wine's composition and scores -- I had some appreciation of his pitch.   Once  he found out that I was a chef he asked about Short Ribs to which I replied, "I make the best!" I really do.  They are inpsired by Daniel Boulud's recipe with my own twist on his ingredients and cooking time.  Plus I serve mine over creamy polenta and not a  puree of celery.  Polenta and short ribs belong create a food union that invokes other great partnerships like PB & J and Pommes Frites with Aioli.  
    So Ron this one's for you and anyone else who is ready to surrender to braised beef ribs falling from the bone soaked in rich cabernet layered with flavors of vegetables and bay leaves over a bed of buttery polenta with just a taste of Parmesan. 
    Ingredients: 
  • 1 1/2 bottles dry red wine
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • A dozen short ribs
  • Salt and crushed black peppercorns
  • Flour, for dredging
  • 8 large shallots, peeled, trimmed, split, rinsed and dried
  • 2 medium-sized carrots, peeled, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 2 ribs of celery, peeled, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 1 medium-sized leek (white and light-green parts), coarsely chopped, washed and dried
  • 10 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 6 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 bay leaves and 2 thyme sprigs
  • 6 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 quarts unsalted beef broth
  • Freshly ground white pepper
Preparation:

1. Pour the wine into a large saucepan set over medium heat. When the wine is hot, carefully set it aflame. Let the flames die out, then increase the heat so that the wine boils; allow it to boil until it cooks down by half. Remove from the heat.  This takes around an hour so have patience.
2. Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350°F.
3. Warm the oil in a large, heavy, ovenproof pot over medium-high heat.  Coat the ribs all over with salt and the crushed pepper.  Drop the ribs into a paper bag filled with a 1/4 Cup flour and give them a good shake. Then, when the oil is hot, slip the ribs into the pot and sear 4 to 5 minutes on each side, until well-browned. Transfer the ribs to a plate. Repeat with remaining ribs.  Once finished browning, lower the heat under the pot to medium and toss in the vegetables and herbs. Brown the vegetables lightly, 5 to 7 minutes, then stir in the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute.
4. Add the wine, ribs and broth to the pot. Bring to a boil, cover tightly and place in the oven to braise for 2 1/2 hours or until the ribs are very tender. Every 30 minutes, skim and discard fat from the surface. (It's best to make the recipe to this point, cool and chill the ribs and broth in the pan overnight; scrape off the fat the next day. Rewarm before continuing.)
5. Carefully transfer the meat to a platter; keep warm. Boil the pan liquid until it has reduced to 1 quart. Season with salt and white pepper and pass through a fine strainer; discard the solids. (The ribs and sauce can be combined and kept covered in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days. Reheat gently, basting frequently, on top of the stove or in a 350°F oven.)
6. To serve, spoon a healthy serving of polenta on 6 plates and top each with 2 short ribs. Decorate with some of the discarded  vegetables.  Smother with remaining sauce.  

This is one dish you will serve where your guests will think you're a culinary genius.  And of course, if you pull it off, you are...
 
Bon Appetit! 


 

Monday, February 14, 2011

HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!

Happy Valentine's lovebirds!  I spent the weekend cooking for two parties -- a birthday bash with a crowd that sounded like they were out of Noel Coward play --  hilarious.  And a Grammy party that featured my time-honored bolognese that is one of the best ragus ever!  Oh and at the latter hands down, the most gorgeous guest to date... can't reveal his name but can I just say that cooking for a 6'4" surfer with a sensitive poetic side and a killer smille is like well my version of a lap dance.  Beautiful men really love it when you cook well and they let you know how appreciative they are... okay so this is getting off  track for sure.  

Wanted to add that what makes cooking for people so damn swell is the amount of love and happiness you are able to witness and contribute to via the delicious food you present.   There is a spike of instant gratification when you see the smiles and hear the "oh my God" after a guest bites into a particularly outrageous appetizer like my roasted walnut, anchovie and olive tapenade on crositini or polish off a chocolate pot de creme smothered in whipped cream and then lick the rim of the ramekin.   This is love; right?  Plain and simple.  So I guess without overstating, I am in the business of delivering love and that makes me feel so good about myself. 

So in honor of Valentine's Day I wanted to share all the love I felt this weekend via these decadent, best little chocolate pots de creme, because everyone should have chocolate on Valentine's.  And they're easy so don't freak out....

I baked these in 8oz. jelly jars but you can bake them in ramekins or any type of glass vessel that appeals to you. 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

8 egg yolks
1 1/3 Cup Heavy Cream
1 1/3 Cup Milk
8 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tsp. vanilla

Place the chocolate chips in a bowl.  Heat the cream and milk until simmering.  Whisk the egg yolks with the vanilla.  Pour the steaming milk mixture over the chocolate chips.  Whisk until the chocolate melts completely.  Temper the egg yolks some of the hot chocolate cream and then slowly incorporate into the chocolate.

Place four vessels in a casserole and fill with water until it reaches the glasses halfway point.  Bake until firm around 30 minutes.  Once they've cooled allow them to chill in the refrigerator for at least three hours.  Top with fresh whipped cream or eat by themselves.  They are heaven on earth.

Bon Appetit!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Secret Table February 26, 2011

Dear Friends,

Apologies for the long hiatus between Secret Table communal dining events.   December and January were months heavy with catering gigs which prevented us from gathering around our Secret Table.  But we're back and ready for a steady series of dinner parties throughout the year. 



We launch Saturday, February 26th at 7:30.  Please join us for:

Bubbles
Cardaman Cheese Straws

First Course:
Velvet Corn Soup with Truffle Oil, Crisped Prosciutto,
Dungeness Crab and Chiffonade of Basil

Second Course:

Roasted Halibut with "Blazin'" Asian Glaze

Israeli Couscous with Haricot Vert, Roasted Almonds, Feta
and Tarragon Vinaigrette

Cherry Tomato and Mint Salsa Fresca

Or:

Tenderloin of Beef with Creamy Pommery
Mustard Sauce

Buttery Potato Puree

Braised Kale with Tangy Cherry Tomato Saute

Salad:

Arugula with Shards of Parmesan and Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette

Dessert:

Coconut Cake with Saffron Cream

Each course paired with wine.  Coffee and Tea.

Tariff:
$115 per person
includes tax and gratuity.

Seating is limited.  Tickets can be purchased at http://secretingredients.us.  Click on the BUY NOW button and you will be directed to a secure site for payment.  Enter the price of the ticket(s) you are purchasing.  A confirmation email and address will be sent to you soon after. 

We’ll see you around the table. 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Top Ten Recipes 2010

Now I'm on a roll...

Once upon a time I was roasting Halibut a lot.  I adore the beautiful fleshy filets that are tender, flaky and buttery.   During this time I came up with a glaze that I would marinate and roast the fish in... it was savory, sweet and spicy.  And above all, almost mind numbingly delicious.   I called it a Hoisin Glaze but I think for future reference I'll refer to as my Blazing Asian Glaze...

Recently I resurrected it for a client who requested salmon on the menu and since it was the first time I cooked for her I wanted to make it surprising and special.  I used the glaze and she to my delight, was eating it directly from the jar in which it was transported.

Blazing Asian Glaze

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Ingredients:

3 T. minced ginger
3 T. minced garlic
1/4 C. Chile garlic sauce (with the rooster on the front in the Asian foods section)
1/4 C. Lite Soy Sauce
Juice of one lemon
1/2 jar Plum Sauce
1/4 C. Hoisin Sauce

This is enough marinade for 3 lbs. of fish.

Place fish on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  Spread marinade over fish.  Allow to sit for 30 minutes.

Roast in oven until done to your liking.  25 to 30 minutes for most fillets if you're cooking several pouunds of fish. 

I served this with a Meyer lemon and tarragon vinaigrette dressed Israeli couscous with roasted slivered almonds, haricot vert and feta -- the perfect companion to the incredibly flavorful fish. 

Bon Appetit!

Friday, January 14, 2011

New Year's Resolution

To write weekly posts... a funny thing happened in December: I got super busy cooking and discovered that it's just too exhausting planning, prepping and catering parties and then memorializing them with blogs, pictures and recipes.  In other words, I wimped out.  And it was a fantastic holiday season.  Many new clients, that of course, become more like friends and family after the fact and lots of delicious new recipes that I have promised to share with our fans. 

So count on it... with photos.  But in interim I'm going to start with what I consider to be the top ten recipes from 2010 that had people seriously on their knees begging for more.

1.  Starting with numero uno, this incredibly easy appetizer wowed every person who tried it.  And one lovely guest in particular at a birthday party remarked, "this is so amazing I just want to rub it all over my body."  Maybe that's not the most appetizing thought but she was sincere and I never tire of how enthusiastically people share their kudos and love for the food I prepare.  An aside: after my New Year's party that doubled as a very special 50th birthday party, my client texted me the next day to the effect that is was the best birthday she had ever had and I was so overwhelmed by her gracious and generous words that I did... burst into tears.  I never... repeat never... got this kind of love and appreciation when working in the film business.  So once again, I am so grateful to have both jobs as one truly offsets the degree of discomfort Hollywood can inflict on even the most successsful of playuhs!

Oh the recipe... I digress.

Inspired by lovely Michael Chiarello this is my version of his Cannelini Beans with Arugula served on Crostini.  Once you start making this, I gaurantee it will be a staple at every party.

Ingredients:
2 cans cannelini beans rinsed and drained
4 cloves of garlic sliced wafer thin.
1 bag of arugula roughly chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
juice of a Meyer Lemon
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 cup roughly crumbled Gorgonzola

Crostini
1 loaf good crusty bread a la Filone not baguette as you need some real estate to laden with the beans.
4 T butter
4 T Olive Oil
Dash of Salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Slice the bread at least 1/3 inch thick.  Line cookie sheet with parchment.  Melt butter and olive on top of the stove in a small saucepan.  With a brush, give the bread slices a good coating of the oil and butter.  Sprinkle a little salt over all.  Bake in the oven until golden brown and crunchy.  Do not undercook as you want the bread to hold up under the moist beans.

In a large and wide skillet (you don't want to mash ingredients but gently turn them together) coat the pan with the olive oil and bring it to a sizzle.  Toss in the garlic and cook until translucent. Do not brown or it will taste bitter.  Sprinkle in the salt and pepper flakes and cook until they are aromatic.  Now add the beans and just warm.  Add the lemon juice and in batches turn in the arugula.  The arugula will wilt just like spinach.  When this happens sprinkle the gorgonzola and turn a few times -- it should not melt or be fully incorporated.  Instead, it should be soft little bits of warm flavorful cheese here and there. 

Put your warm crostini on a platter and heap generous portions of the beans and serve.  Be prepared for lots of  "Oh My Gods" and "This is Amaaaaazzzzziinnnnng." 

Shout out to Lauren Iungerich and Tracy Vonvechery this one's for you! 

Bon Appetit,

Lisa 

p.s. on deck is my version of a hoisin glaze for fish that had a table of women recently begging me to open a restaurant.  I'm thinking on it.