Fall. Harvest season. Every chef loves to cook with such bounty. So when I was invited to give a cooking demo and couples’ dinner at a private home in bucolic Bedford, NY, I jumped at the chance. It was a convivial group of friends, all the parents of schoolmates, who welcomed me on a cool October evening.
The starter menu was created from small, flavorful dishes that spoke to the season. Warm spices and flavors were a good counter to the chill in the air. Demos began with 3 small plates: a soup, a savory pastry and spiced meatballs.
Roasted Carrot-Ginger Soup
We began with a puree of carrot soup. Roasting carrots with fresh ginger and the addition of toasted and ground coriander and fennel sets this soup apart. Recipes in NOTES below.
A demo of the Greek specialty, Spanakopita, a spinach & feta pastry, offered 2 ways to use the phyllo dough - folded into traditional triangles or rolled into logs and then sliced into bite size pieces.
Turkey Meatballs Spiced with Chilis
These meatballs are spiced with two chilis & ground fennel and are finished with a tomato glaze. They made the perfect ending to the appetizer course.
Gnocchi with Mushroom and Butternut Squash
For the first course, the guests sat down at the table to a plate of herbed cheese gnocchi. Don't be daunted by chef Thomas Keller’s extensive recipe which follows. Although this dish has many steps, much can be prepared in advance. I consider this dish a labor of love, and when you taste it, you will understand why.
A smoked leg of lamb, prepared by the host, followed. We prepared roasted seasonal vegetables - asparagus, eggplant and cauliflower to serve with the lamb.
And finally, the dessert
In keeping with the seasonal theme, an apple dessert finished the meal. And what better dessert than an all time Jeanne Journal favorite - chunky apple walnut cake. For recipe and video, (see link). This time, baked in individual portions and served with a dollop of fresh whipped cream.
As I sat down to fine-tune details for publication, I realized that two of the recipes offered here were from none other than the Barefoot Contessa herself, Ina Garten! It was 25 years ago that I first met Ina and began working for her as a baker in her eponymous store in East Hampton. This led to a rewarding 14 year association as part of the food styling team on the Barefoot Contessa show on the food network. How lucky can one girl get?
It is no surprise, then, that I have embraced Ina’s award winning recipes. Always kitchen-tested many times over, these recipes are fool proof, easy to follow and taste sensational. I feel fortunate to have been able to watch so many of them unfold and become mealtime staples for so many. Although as a professional chef, I may “tweak” on occasion, they have become a well-loved part of my culinary repertoire. I can hardly wait to try & share some of her new recipes from her latest book, Cooking for Jeffrey, with family, friends and clients!
Roasted Carrot-Ginger Soup:
Spicy Turkey Meatballs:
Herbed Cheese Gnocchi:
Gnocchi with Mushrooms and Butternut Squash:
Jake and Anne Citrin for inviting me to take part in this very enjoyable evening.
To Veronica Mezzina who is a talented writer, editor and all around creative spirit. Thank you for filling a much needed void, by helping me convey my message so naturally and effortlessly.
To Daniel Starrenburg for offering to be the party photographer. Thanks for a job well done!
Loaves & Fishes Cookshop for beautiful wooden surfaces shown in this story. Visit www.landfcookshop.com
to find many spectacular products for the home. 631-537-6066