Let me introduce you to a couple of my dearest friends: Kasha and Nicole (unfortunately Joanne is in California and wasn’t physically able to be with us – IheartyouJO). Now, I don’t even know where to begin telling you about these leading ladies of mine. I don’t think I could quite do them justice with words alone. They saved me from being a high school outcast when I first moved solo to this island. You know that scene in Mean Girls where Lindsay Lohan is new and eats lunch alone in the bathroom, thanks to a lack of friends? Yeah, that girl was me! Fortunately, these two girls + Joanne extended their hand out in friendship (or in pity) to little ol’ me.
They rescued me from being trampled upon by the harmful high school herd and saved me from the biting cold of potential ostracism and loneliness. I couldn’t be more grateful. Actually they couldn’t be more grateful – their stomachs, to say the very very least.
Now, I don’t want to bore you to tears (because I really could by going on and on and on until the sun goes down and it becomes far too late for you to start whipping up anything in or inviting anyone to your sacred kitchen or dining room) by becoming overtly sensitive and excessively mushy appraising my friendships, so let’s just leave it at this: There is absolutely nothing greater than good food and good company. Lucky for me, I have the best of both worlds.
Cabbage Salad with Apples and Walnuts
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
1 small savoy cabbage
1/3 cup walnuts
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper
½ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons sour cream (or creme fraiche or heavy cream)
2 apples (any crisp, tasty eating variety, such as Sierra Beauty, Granny Smith, or Fuji)
1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese (optional, I used feta)
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Tear off and discard the tough outer leaves of the cabbage. Cut it in half and cut out its core. Slice the halves crosswise into a fine chiffonade.
Toast the walnuts in the oven for about 8 minutes. While they are still warm, first rub them in a clean dishtowel to remove some of the skins, then chop or coarsely crumble them (unless, as was in my case, they’re already chopped).
To prepare the dressing, mix the vinegar with the lemon juice, some salt, and a generous amount of pepper.
Whisk in the olive oil and then the creme fraiche or cream. Taste and adjust the acid and salt as desired.
Quarter, peel (I like the skin so I left this part out), and core the apples. Slice the quarters lengthwise fairly thin and cut these slices lengthwise into a julienne. Toss the cabbage, apples, and walnuts (and cheese, if you’re using it) with the dressing and an extra pinch of salt. Let the salad sit for 5 minutes, taste again, adjust the seasoning as needed, and serve.
Adapted barely from Ina Garten
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, plus extra for topping
1 pound yellow onions, cut in 1/2 and sliced (3 large)
2 pounds zucchini, sliced 1/4-inch thick (4 zucchini)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup hot milk
3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
3/4 cup grated Gruyere
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Melt the butter in a very large (12-inch) saute pan and cook the onions over low heat for 20 minutes, or until tender but not browned. Add the zucchini and cook, covered, for 10 minutes, or until tender. Add the salt, pepper, and nutmeg and cook uncovered for 5 more minutes. Stir in the flour. Add the hot milk and cook over low heat for a few minutes, until it makes a sauce. Pour the mixture into an 8 by 10-inch baking dish.
Combine the bread crumbs and Gruyere and sprinkle on top of the zucchini mixture. Dot with 1 tablespoon of butter cut into small bits and bake for 20 minutes, or until bubbly and browned.
Chicken Mushroom Marsala
Adapted from Gourmet, June 1995
3 whole boneless chicken breasts with skin (about 2 1/2 pounds), halved
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 onion, sliced thin
1 pound mushrooms, sliced thin
1/2 cup Marsala
1 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
Pat chicken dry and season with salt and pepper. In a large heavy skillet heat oil and 1 1/2 tablespoons butter over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and brown chicken in 2 batches, transferring with tongs to a large plate as browned.
Discard all but 1 tablespoon fat from skillet and sauté onion and mushrooms, stirring occasionally, until liquid mushrooms give off is evaporated. Add Marsala and cook mixture, stirring, until Marsala is almost evaporated. Add broth and chicken with any juices that have accumulated on plate and simmer, turning chicken once, until cooked through, about 15 minutes. Transfer chicken with tongs to a platter.
Simmer mushroom sauce until liquid is reduced to about 1/2 cup. Remove skillet from heat and stir in remaining 2 tablespoons butter and salt and pepper to taste, stirring until butter is just incorporated. Spoon mushroom sauce around chicken and sprinkle with parsley.
Raspberry Brown Sugar Gratin
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
1 pints (2 cups) fresh raspberries (or your choice of berry)
1 pints (2 cups) sour cream (or crème fraîche)
1 cup dark brown sugar
Preheat broiler. Gently fold raspberries and sour cream together in a shallow 1-quart dish (or in four 1-cup ramekins for a fancy feel). Press the brown sugar through a sieve or mesh colander so that it sprinkles evenly over the dish. Run the dish under the broiler until the sugar just starts to caramelize. Eat at once.