Tuesday, August 9, 2011

... you will be happy forever

"If you wait to be happy, you will wait forever.
If you are happy now, you will be happy forever."
- Sally Huss (c) 1990

Dear reader,

Suzette Anna (King) LaFleur, author of this blog and my loving wife, unexpectedly passed away on May 9th, 2011. Words cannot begin to describe my overwhelming sense of loss over the last three months. Instead, in this venue, I would write a few words about this blog and what it meant to her.

Suzee created this blog as a way to share our grand adventure of moving to Manhattan.  If you have read through the entries, you have had a taste of her passion for fine food, good music, and a love of life.  In the city, where every street held something to see or do - a new restaurant, shoe store, or street fair - she was truly in her element. Life was good and that is what she wrote about.

She was not immune to the hardships of the world around us, rather it was Suzee’s decision that this blog would be focused on the positive. It would be her affirmation to the world. There was just so much to be thankful for.

Suzee also found a new joy in describing for others those things that made her happy. People from around the world were reading her posts and cheering her on. It is true that a joy shared is a joy multiplied many times over.

I know that it would be Suzee's deepest wish that you would, in turn, celebrate your life and your love for each other. Take the time to find the magic in the day to day. When you find some joy, smile wide, laugh loud, and share it - be the messenger of joy that others can look to.

Wishing you well,

Rick LaFleur

p.s. Some links of interest for family and friends:

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Mike's Amazing Humus!

I asked my friend Mike to send me more recipes, and he quickly obliged. I was looking for something quick and healthy tonight, so I made this one - oh so delicious!

I have to say, my friend Ann has been a humus fan for a while - she'd buy those tubs from the deli section of the grocery store, and she really enjoyed them as a dip for veggies, or a spread for her sandwich. I'd come over and try a bite, and bleck. It seemed too stiff, kind of chalky, and incredibly bland. Plus the prepared stuff seemed to be just as high in calories as dips I really liked, so I never really got into humus. I just figured I didn't like it.

Then, while I was out a party at the South City Grill with Mike, Jessie and a number of other fun folks, we ordered a few appetizers, some of which included humus. Others were calamari, and fried zucchini and eggplant served with tzatziki (love love love this stuff!!) Oh and this amazing feta - just sliced with oregano and olive oil on it - so good! And it was an awesome party! Anyway - the humus was lovely and I enjoyed it. I also found enjoyable humus at The Silver Leaf Tavern - served with freshly baked flatbread. For a $2 nibble at happy hour, it's tasty with pinot grigio if they have any to pour. Oh and another fabulous place is Barbounia - the freshly baked just out of the oven flat bread served with the humus and other mediterranian dips is superb!!

So now I know - humus is like a chocolate chip cookie - you can have chips ahoy, but why waste the calories - go for the home made version, and you will be so much happier!

Here are Mike's thoughts on humus, and the fabulous recipe!

Humus in 5 minutes


If you ask 100 people where the origin of Humus came from you, you’ll get 100 different answers. The Israeli’s lay claim that they invented it while the Turks, Greek, Egyptians and every other country in the middle east will do the same. Who originally invented? Since no one truly knows, I’ll speak out and say I did. Why not? Everyone else is claiming ownership, I might as well throw my name into the hat. In the end, regardless of who invented it, it’s a quick an easy vegetarian appetizer that can be made in literally minutes and is very healthy for you.

The traditional way of making involved taking dry chick peas, soaking them overnight in warm water, and then boiling them down for 2 hours to thoroughly cook them. With modern technologies, food manufacturers do the work for you and the canned stuff is just as good.


One 16 oz can of chick peas (also known as Garbonzo beans). *
2 cloves of large garlic chopped down to small pieces
2 table spoons of Tahini (Sesame paste)
3 tablespoons of lemon juice (1 large lemon)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed black pepper
3-4 tablespoons of milk

* Brand choice for chick peas is Progresso. I’ve tried dozens of other brands such Bush, Goya and other brands but the best flavor seems to come from Progresso.

Add all of your ingredients into a food processor and puree until creamy. This may take 2-3 minutes. If your mixture is lumpy, add more olive oil as needed. There is no such thing as too much olive oil.

For the Vegans of the world, take the milk out and substitute with more oil.

Serve with toasted pita bread chips or veggie sticks.

So, I served this lucious dip with roasted carrots and roasted red and yellow bell peppers as well as some little crostini toasts I had left over. Yummy!!!
Note: the recipe's typo has been updated. 1 16oz can is correct. Initially I mis-read the recipe - I thought it was 2 cans of 16 oz garbanzos, but no, 2 cans of 8 oz, so my 1 can of 16 oz was just fine :) I had specially purchased the tahini, and will keep my eyes open for more recipes to use this delicious seseme seed puree. And I had lemons, and milk, etc. on hand. I hadn't heard of adding milk until Mike had it in his recipe, and I like it - it's not so heavy this way - very nice. Then I realized I didn't have any garlic - I know, how could that be? But it was. So I subbed some dried. It worked out pretty good! I'm sure the fresh garlic would have been even better. I will note that I used a nice extra virgin finishing oil in this - you know - that special oil you keep for salads, etc. Oh yes - so delicious!
This keeps great in the fridge too - whip up a batch - and share it with friends. Oh and while you buy the tahini, get some nice flatbread or pita too. Fresh though - not that stuff you find at the deli section with Ann's humus (LOL). If there isn't any fresh, you could perhaps try some naan - the Indian flat bread. I've seen that in the grocery, and it looks softer than the packaged pita. Unless of course you go the toasted route Mike suggests, then by all means, the deli pita is fine :) My favorite accompaniment continues to be the roasted carrots :)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Rick's Pineapple and Ham Appetizer

Rick had the idea the other night to have pineapple wrapped in ham - sweet and salty - one of my favorite combinations. I was shopping on the Fresh Direct web site (oh grocery delivery is a true gift of living in NYC) and I saw that capicola and thought, what the heck? I'd never tasted hot capicola ham before, so for that reason alone I had to order a bit.
Now, if you haven't had hot capicola ham either, it is SPICY! :) Luckily, my other favorite flavor combination is sweet and spicy!

I peeled and cored the pineapple, taking care to remove all the eyes - it gave me a good 4 cups of spears for it's $3.99 price. We'll enjoy it without the ham as well!

Just wrap the spear with a small piece of ham, and secure with a pick. I got these bamboo picks from Pearl River Mart if you find yourself in town :)

I wanted a dipping sauce as well, so I took 1T of sour cream and added a couple shakes of cumin and a couple shakes of coriander, and mixed it up. Very nice :)

I know this is a crazy combination of foods - ham from Italy, fruit from the Pacific Islands, and spices used in Spanish and Turkish cooking, but somehow it works :)

What are your "strange and flavorful" combinations???

Monday, March 21, 2011

Amaretto Pear Crisp

Doesn't that close up look so delicious? The caramelization on the side of the baking dish, the whole rolled oats, and the peary sweet juice between the lumps of fruit.

OK - yeah, I'm tooting my own horn, but I was feeling extra inspiration today - not allowing Rick's software implementation get in my way - haha!

I took my very very ripe bartlett pears (my absolute favorite variety) and I cored and cut them in pretty large chunks, with the skin on. They were so ripe, the skin was as tender as the flesh, so I wanted that extra fiber.

Here are the ingredients:
4 incredibly ripe bartlett pears, cored, chopped with skin on
2T amaretto
1/2 a stick of salted butter (1/4 C)
1/3 C light brown sugar
1/3 C flour
1/3 C old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 t all spice

I combined the chopped pears and amaretto and placed them in the bottom of a baking dish - maybe a 7x9".

I combined and cut the cold butter with the brown sugar until the butter is the size of peas. Then I stirred in the remaining ingredients, and spooned it over the pear amaretto mixture.

Pop it in the oven for an hour at 350. Try to let it cool before you jump in there. To guild the lily, add a small scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Enjoy! We sure are!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Tequila Suzee

I'm always looking for a new cocktail that uses ingredients that I like to keep at home, and the Tequila Suzee is right up my alley :)

Add 1 part white tequila (I like Hornitos)
1/2 part Cointreau
2 parts fresh grapefruit juice (or the Tropicana with pulp)
a teaspoon of sugar
and a grapefruit twist

Shake it all with ice and serve in 2 pretty glasses. I like to add the ice I had in the shaker too!
What are your favorite flavors to add to tequila?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Preserving Herbs

I ordered some rosemary and thyme and garlic this week from Fresh Direct. They always give a nice bunch, but they use these crappy vented bags which essentially render the herbs useless within a day or 2. Less than a day for delicate herbs.

I wanted to use these on a roast beef, and maybe the rest later in a white bean dip. I plucked the leaves from the rosemary and the thyme stems, and washed them. I popped them in my mini chopper with a head of peeled garlic and probably about a 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil.

I took half and spread it on my roast beef and set it to marinate. The remaining half I spooned in 2T portions in ziplock sandwich bags, which I then popped in a freezer bag. I seriously hope these frozen bits work well in the future. I really hate throwing away food.

Have you done anything to preserve cut herbs for use in the future?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Suzee's Cucumber Martini

I've written at length about my love of the cucumber martini. My favorite is at the Banc Cafe - they make their own cucumber vodka with Ketel One and yes, cucumbers. A kind of mascerated love juice that is so delicious.

I don't think I can maintain a supply of cucumber vodka like the Banc Cafe, and I don't get to go very often, so I'm looking for ways to introduce a cucumber martini more frequently than 2 or 3 times a year. This isn't quite it - perhaps you all have some ideas to make it better.

I made a cucumber juice to create the martini - I blended a whole english cucumber (but I recommend you peel yours) with about a half cup of water. I strained it and used it in this drink. I think next time I would puree the cucumber without the water.

3 parts Belvedere Pink Grapefruit vodka (this is what I have!)
1 part St Germain liquor
4 parts cucumber juice
juice from a wedge of lemon
Shake with all your might with ice cubes!


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Rick's Favorite Fish

I've written about my desire to "get" Rick to like seafood because it is so good for you. I've been sticking mostly to delicate fishes with consistent textures, and according to Rick, this recipe is quite a success.

1 lb cod or other delicate white fish
2 - 3 T olive oil mayonaise
2-3 t dijon mustard
freshly grated parmesan cheese

Mix the mayo and mustard, and spread over the fish filets. Grate a nice layer of shredded parmesen over the mayo mixture - think of this as your flavored salt layer.

Bake the fish for 15 minutes at 350, or until opaque.

It's quite nice with roasted asparagus as well :)


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Financier Patisserie - pure heaven!

I tried the Financier Patisserie this past week. My diet would be happier if I had not. The coffee is rich, and the rich cocoa powder available to add must come directly from Belgium as it is so amazing.

After passing the incredible pastries show cased as you wait in line many times without considering ordering one ( you know, 'cause Mom says they never taste as good as they look, and frankly usually she is right), one day I was having a craving. And they had chocolate eclairs. So I ordered one. Wow - the pastry was fresh and light, the filling was a rich thick chocolaty pudding rivaling my chocolate cream pie filling, and the icing was glossy and sweet. Normally I'm expecting bavarian cream in an eclair, and normally the chocolate filling would have been a huge disappointment. This was not a normal pastry from a normal bakery. This was a freshly made eclair - same day I swear - with a balance of flavors and textures that were exquisite.

Now I have to seriously force myself to walk on by that case. But, if I am going to purchase a treat, it will be at Financier Patisserie!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

French Food At Home

I've been watching a new cooking show lately - French Food at Home with Laura Calder. Really fun soundtrack - a jazzy background with what could be French vocalizing or it could just be someone scatting gently. Her kitchen is so homey - big windows with rustic panes, bright blue tile for her back counter top, a big farmhouse sink, and with all these rustic touches, she has juxtaposed state of the art appliances and a contemporary kitchen island. I know - it sounds awful, but somehow it really works!

Laura is a unique host as well - her show is from Canada, and perhaps there food hosts don't feel the need to over sell each dish - she is very low key. The food she makes looks simple, and you are encouraged to try things you never have before. No "watch out for this" or "if you don't do this, xyz will happen", and there is an assumption you know cooking terms like "bain marie". Frankly I find her so refreshing!

I'm looking forward to trying this recipe very soon - Easy Pastry Shop Apple Tart.

If you like food TV - you can find Laura Calder on Cooking Channel :) Enjoy!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Suzee's Broccoli Cheddar Soup

Last Monday was President's day - I woke up late and lazy - isn't that what holidays are for??

Fresh Direct had broccoli on sale - 1 bunch for $1.99 and 2 bunches for $3. And it was time to do something with it! I love broccoli cheese soup, and lately I've been avoiding prepared soups as they have WAY too much salt for me. I've been looking forward to this soup for a while :)

I took all the broccoli, and peeled the stems (peel them well to get down to the soft inner core), and chopped them up. I added them to a dutch oven.

I had 2 quart containers of homemade chicken stock (read - no salt at all), and I added that frozen, along with one can of fat free low salt chicken broth, and cooked the broccoli very very well done.

Of course the frozen stock melted and I took a stick blender to all that broccoli. It took a little time, but I managed to get all those pieces blended up :)

I added a t onion poweder, 1 t garlic powder, 2 t sea salt and 1 t of fresh ground pepper. I also added a cup of shredded cheddar, and mixed it all up.

I served it in mugs with a dollop of low fat sour cream - and it was delicious!!

Looking back, I think I would serve the cheese as a garnish rather than stirring it in - one cup compared to all that broccoli and stock meant you couldn't taste it as clearly as you'd like. I don't want to add more, I want to taste more :)

Let me know how it goes for you! Enjoy!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Leftovers are my favorite!

I love leftovers. I think they are the key to getting a meal on the table during the week. Not having to prepare more than one special dish, or sometimes anything at all feels pretty good after walking back from the train.

Brunch is a traditional time to use leftovers. Rick loves steak and eggs, and I love potatoes. So this morning we had a nice holiday treat!

I thinly sliced left over baby red potatoes, and sauteed them in a nonstick pan with a little butter.

When they were done, I added some thinly sliced steak to the pan. I had undercooked this steak for planned leftovers, so the heating didn't over cook this NY strip. That would have been a sin!

After the steak was heated, I added eggs to the pan with a scosh more butter. This is one time where Rick and I agree - over easy is the way to go!

Sprinkle it all with a bit of sea salt, and it's perfect. For some reason Rick feels the need to add ketchup, but that is his plate.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Suzee's Roasted Asparagus

These lovely roasted spears are enhanced by a sprinkling of sharp cheddar cheese. My friend Suzanne used to roast asparagus in a little oil with freshly grated parmesan cheese grated over the tips. She has many wonderful dishes, and if you get the opportunity to partake in a dinner she has made, don't miss it!

I make her version frequently, but decided the other day to shake it up a bit and see how this might taste.

Wash and snap the ends off a bunch of asparagus, and roll them in some olive oil. Lay them in a sheet pan in a single layer, and roast for 15 minutes or so at 350. Pull them from the oven, and add shredded sharp cheddar cheese to cover the tips. Continue roasting for another 15 minutes. Delicious! The cheddar is surprisingly a more flavorful cheese in this preparation - perhaps because the shreds are larger, so more cheese is used overall. Whatever the reason, it is a heartier flavor, and quite tasty. I think Suzanne would approve.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Suzee's White Bean Puree

I was reading facebook entries, and since I "like" Food and Wine, I saw the entry about "What's for dinner tonight" referencing baked chicken, roasted brussel sprouts and white bean puree. It reminds me of my own 30 minute meal entry, as I cook the meat and veg this way frequently. So what I honed in on was the white bean puree.

I recently started cooking with cannellini beans. They are smooth, and delicate, and delicious. What drew me into this recipe as well was the use of dried rosemary. Every time I use dried rosemary, I'm never pleased. The flavor is flat, the needles are hard, and I find it interrupts my enjoyment of whatever I'm making. So, you think, why would you want to make this recipe? The method used to freshen the rosemary - you simmer the needles in olive oil for 3 minutes prior to mixing into the beans. Hmmm...maybe that could work.


That doesn't mean this recipe is a failure. Just that I'd recommend minced fresh rosemary instead. Rick really liked it, and it is really nice hot, warm or room temp, so a great appetizer or snick snack with raw or roasted veggies, or crackers.

Here is my version:

1 T fresh minced rosemary
1 T fresh minced thyme
4 or 5 fat garlic cloves, minced
2T olive oil

In a saucepan on low heat, combine  these ingredients, and let simmer for 5 minutes.

2 cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 C white wine
1/2 C water
1/4 t salt
1/4 t freshly ground pepper

Add these ingredients to the saucepan, and start mashing with a potato masher to create a smooth combined dip. If your beans are resistant, feel free to pull out your food processor or mini food chopper to make your puree. Also a stick blender would work.

Once the mixture is hot, and smooth, move to a serving dish, and pour a tablespoon or so of the most flavorful finishing olive oil you own. It is quite amazing how the fruitiest of olive oils makes such a difference in this dish.

I had some long thin organic carrots I roasted peeled but whole, and they were just fabulous dippers for this nutritious dish. I recommend trying the roasted carrots as your dipper  - they too are great hot, warm or room temp, so it would be a great finger food dish to serve with cocktails.


Friday, February 11, 2011

Romantic Days

Man of my dreams

Love shared, love created

A new chance

A family joined

Seven years ago

A realization

Thoughts and dreams

A life of possibilities

Preparations and travel

Lent is an issue?

Quick and dirty

Time to start a family

Friends come together

A party of joy

White dress and tux

Swish and dancing

Life shared, life anew

Grand happiness, deep sorrow

Shared emotion, and quiet comtemplation

What next?
Love alive.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

SD26 at Madison Sq Park

Monday night we took advantage of Restaurant week at SD26. It has a contemporary decor, with a fun looking cocktail lounge as you enter. Walking past the bar, the dining room opens up with a cathedral ceiling, and open kitchens. There is actually a salumi and artisan cheese station as well - I think if I find myself here again, I may have to take advantage of that!

When we sat, we ordered cocktails from the specialty menu. Our server had an iPad which showed the cocktails and wines. It was a novelty, and perhaps they do have a direct link to inventory, but really kind of kludgy in practice.
I ordered the SD26 Negroni cocktail - a vodka martini with Aperol (what is that??) cucumber and lemon. Well - you know how I love me a good cucumber martini :) The first sip was acidic, sour and cucumbery, which I didn't care for. The second sip, the flavors seemed to meld together nicely. It was an enjoyable cocktail, garnished with a lemon slice attached to a cucumber slice with a toothpick - the 2 wheels looked like a double button as the toothpick threaded the wheels. Rick ordered La Verita, a rye whiskey with maple syrup, bitters and black pepper. It was fabulous! Garnished with a lemon wheel, it had a light fragrance, and a smooth finish.
When we sat at our 2 top table in the middle of the room, long home made grissini were laid in a silver basket. They were at least 18" long, and delicious! Nice breads were served, including a fresh focaccia, and a light poufy roll. This beautiful bottle of olive oil was seriously the best olive oil I've ever tasted. Beyond fruity, beyond peppery...I hope sometime I find a bottle of this lovely stuff to take home!

My appetizer was the Uovo Raviolo with truffle butter. As I sliced into the beautiful pillow of pasta, the lovely yolk ran, and the warm cheese oozed...Happy sigh! So delicious!

Rick ordered the spinach and pear salad. It was light and fresh, just what he was looking for.
My entree was the guinea hen - it is boneless, with a rich sauce including chestnuts and the poultry rested on a bed of julienned brussel sprouts. It was savory, tender and very filling! I took home about half for later.
Rick ordered the beef cheeks for dinner, and I did get a taste! Rich, thick sauce derived from the borolo broth, tender beef - it just melted in my mouth. Divine!
For dessert, I had the tiramisu - it was the classic, and very tasty. Rick had the panacotta, and it was light, fresh, and a wonderful ending to the meal.
Overall, SD26 has fabulous food. The flavors are fantastic, preparation perfect, and service efficient. The only thing that would keep me away from SD26 is the loud atmosphere. With the hard contemporary decor, there is nothing to prevent you from having your thoughts interrupted by the conversation a few tables away. Well, and the tables right next to you as well. There were lots of business deals "going down" and after work cocktails and dinner while debriefing the day. I am glad we got a chance to try the excellent cuisine, but I'm not sure we'll be back.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Suzee's BLT Dip

My sweet friend Amber asked me for this dip today. I haven't gotten around to blogging about it yet, but figure now is a great time with the super bowl coming up!

1 lb bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
1 pint grape tomatoes cut in quarters. If they are large, cut in 6ths or 8ths.
1 bunch arugula (yes, it matters. I've tried other greens, and this really is the best), chopped
16 oz light sour cream
1 packet ranch dressing mix

mix it all up and enjoy!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday Mary Afternoon

Brunch is a religion here in NYC. Restaurants have special menus and cocktail specials, some even offer "all you can drink" options. We like to go to Brunch because it's better than a blue hair special, and if you go late, around 3 or 4, there is plenty of elbow room :) Sometimes, though, we like to laze around in our pajamas for the day, and if we want a brunch like experience, this is one cocktail we enjoy!
The secret is to use Mr. & Mrs T's Bold and Spicy bloody mary mix. It is the only ingredient I use that still contains high fructose corn syrup, but I don't think anyone thinks a bloody mary is health food. It's a treat, so I don't feel too bad about that.

A simple vodka is fine - no need for martini worthy spirits. Add in 3 good shakes of tobasco sauce, and a few grinds of pepper. And one of the most important things is the fresh garnishes. Today I added a couple celery stalks and a couple cucumber spears - the fragrance as you sip the cocktail just puts it up over the top. Seriously.

Mix, enjoy the fragrance, and sip. You won't have any choice but to enjoy :)