Matzo Ball Soup - It's Not Just for Shiva Anymore

Matzo ball soup is such a "hamishe" dish. The repudiated cure-all is a Jewish staple and it's very easy to make. This recipe originates with Ilse Sander - my grandmother. It took a little effort for Mary Ellen to wrap her mind around the ethnic dish, given her Roman Catholic roots, but once she did she certainly found it to her liking - despite a slight mishap.
Matzo balls should be nice and firm - you want them to resist your teeth and your spoon. This is achieved with ganzeschmaltz, more commonly known as goose fat. Here's the recipe:
1/4 cup matzo meal
1 egg
1 Tbs. ganzeschmaltz
Pinch salt
Pinch pepper
Pinch nutmeg
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, mix until combined. Pinch off a small amount and roll into a ball between your palms. Repeat until all the "dough" is rolled. Cook in chicken broth until the balls float and serve.
Makes about 10 balls

Girl's Day Out - Adventures in Shopping, Cooking and Inhaling

On this week's episode Mary Ellen, Delta and I went on a little shopping trip.  The east village here in New York City is full of delightfully off beat stores with eccentric merchandise. The store we visited was the Wandering Dragon on East 10th Sreet. It had such a curious collection of items, including out dated military paraphernalia, stuffed oddities like two headed calves and a plethora of artificial limbs. I"m afraid it doesn't exist anymore, but if you find yourself in the neighborhood be sure and wander a bit yourself - you never know what wonderful little holes in the wall you'll find.
 After our foray into the odd we found our way back to my place where Mary Ellen produced what I believe is called a "joint", or marijuana cigarette. It was my first experience with "pot" and I have to say it made me feel just as odd as that two headed calf.
That accounts for my less than with-it performance in the kitchen while making our dish for the day - veal with olives. The meal was just delicious, however. I found myself enjoying it with much more relish than I usually exhibit at dinner for some reason. Here's the recipe:
 You'll need:

4 veal cutlets
Salt and pepper
3 Tbs. butter
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup cocktail olives, sliced
 Start by pounding the cutlets to ensure their tenderness, then salt and pepper them on both sides. Melt the butter in a large skillet and brown the cutlets on both sides. Add the wine and olives and let simmer, covered for about 5 minutes. Serves 4.

Creative Entertaining with Edible Flowers

Hello people, thanks for joining me! This week is all about flowers - edible flowers that is. Eating flowers sounds incredibly decadent - sort of like something that would get the Romans in trouble with the gods like plumbing with lead or Nero fiddling. It's quite respectable, however, and won't bring any lightning bolts down on your head. It's a wonderful idea for creative entertaining.  I especially like serving flowers in salads. The bright oranges, yellows and reds of nasturtiums are so beautiful tucked among the variegated greens of the different lettuces. They also make a delightful conversational opener for a dinner party!

Now, there are certain flowers that are just delicious and perfect for a nosh, including nasturtiums, violets, pansies, Johnny-jump-ups, roses, orchids, chrysanthemums, and clover. You can find a complete list of edible flowers here.
 It's so important to know what you're eating, however. Certain flowers are poisonous and should be avoided - these include: daffodils, foxglove, crocus, azalea, rhododendron, lilly of the valley and wisteria. A more complete list of dangerous flowers can be found here.   
 In addition to being used on pastries and in salads as demonstrated in the show, edible flowers can also be used as garnish or frozen into ice blocks and floated in your favorite punch or in small ice cubes for summer cocktails or candied with sugar. It's such a delightful way to liven up your meal. Try it the next time you entertain. Your dinner parties will never be "business as usual" again!
 Thanks for coming by. Come back next week for some more fun!

Mary Ellen's Brazen Birthday Surprise

Hello people, welcome back! This week Mary Ellen has asked me to help her throw a birthday party. It's a bit cheeky of her and you'll find out why in the vidcast.

One of the subjects we cover is cake decorating. Making a pretty cake isn't difficult. To begin with if you're using a contrasting frosting you'll want to frost the cake twice. Begin by applying a very thin layer over the entire cake and then putting it in the fridge. The icing will harden and seal the cake crumbs in so you can frost it again without pulling up the crumbs and marring the appearance of the finished cake.
I like to use a combination of elements when decorating a cake, as we did in the demo. Begin by amassing your supplies. We used
-         sprinkles
-         sugar flowers
-         colored icing in a pastry bag.
The sprinkles were applied in a swath across the cake and accented with the flowers across the top. The pastry bag was used to create smaller star flowers and leaves. It's easier to create an abstract design than it is to write a name on the cake. The letters all have to be even and regular, where as an abstract design can be...well, abstract.
We also had strawberry punch for that party. It was just delicious. Here's how it's made:
You'll need:

4 cups of water
4 cups of sugar
2 quarts hulled strawberries
1 cup sliced pineapple
1 cup mixed fruit juice (we used kiwi/strawberry)
Juice of 5 large oranges
Juice of 5 large lemons
2 cups carbonated water
3 cups crushed ice
Boil the sugar with the water to create simple syrup. Chill the mixture in the fridge. Combine the strawberries, pineapple and juices and add syrup to taste. Chill the mixture until ready to serve. Just before serving add the carbonated water and crushed ice. The flavor of this punch is intense. It's designed to mellow out as the ice melts. It can be thinned with more carbonated water if desired. You can also make this punch more powerful with the addition of rum.
Now in this episode you meet Delta for the first time. She did a fashion segment on the original show and was just wonderful! She also made a lot of the original costumes for the first season of my Style network show. The party scene of the episode was shot in less than ideal conditions. I'm almost completely in the dark. It's one of those production value issues I mentioned last week. I feel like a Virginia Slims ad "You've Come a Long Way, Baby".

Swedish Meatballs: The Darlings of the Cocktail Set

Hello people! Welcome to my first blog entry and my first vidcast! This week we're making Swedish meatballs. You'll find the recipe below. The segments you'll be seeing in my weekly presentations are from my original cable access show that aired here in New York in the late 90's. The process of putting those shows together was such a valuable education for me. You'll be able to see my progression through the production values of the original material. It's not up to broadcast standards, but the content is such fun I hope you'll be able to overlook the flaws.
Swedish meatballs are a wonderful dish for home entertaining, piled atop pasta, and as a cocktail nibble served out of a chafing dish. I had a little help putting the recipe together from my friend and neighbor Mary Ellen. She served as my sidekick - my Rhoda, if you will - for many of the episodes of the original cable access show. She was played to perfection by a wonderful actor - Thom Hansen. You'll be seeing a lot more of Mary Ellen in this series.

As promised, here's my recipe for Swedish Meatballs or Kottbuller: 
You'll need:

1/4 cup butter
3 tablespoons minced onion
1 one-inch-thick slice of bread
1/2 cup milk
1/2 pound ground beef
1/4 pound ground pork
1/4 pound ground veal
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup beef stock, warm
1 cup cream (or milk), warm

Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat and cook the onion until lightly browned. Soak the bread in the milk until soft. Combine all remaining ingredients except flour, stock, and cream and mix well with your hands. It's important to use your hands; nothing else will combine the ingredients as well. Then roll the meat mixture into small balls and brown them in the rest of the butter. 

Remove the meatballs and set them aside. Pour off all but 3 tablespoons of the fat from the pan. Add the flour and stir until it's mixed well with the fat. Remove the pan from the heat, add the stock and cream, and stir constantly until the gravy is smooth and has
thickened nicely. Put the meatballs back in the pan with the gravy and cover. 

Simmer over very low heat for 30 minutes to 1 hour, then transfer to a chafing dish and serve.

Makes about 25 balls

This recipe can also be found in my book, Brini Maxwell's Guide to Gracious Living, which can be purchased here.
Thanks for coming by. Be sure and come back next week!