Let's Raise a Glass!

A couple of weeks ago, friends Susan and Towny posted about verrines (de Noël) on The Modern Trobadors. It was with them that Mark and I had our first official verrines while dining is Provence - both in Roussillon and in Ansuois - for my 50th birthday celebration. I say that these were our first official verrines because I have been serving verrines for years, unaware that they had a name, and were going to be fashionable in France a decade later. 

Verrines are a wonderful way to serve a small and exquisite opener for your meal - something larger than an amuse-bouche, yet smaller than a first course. Most of all, to me, they are about beauty. ... Simply translated from French, verrine means “glass casing.” The glass allows its contents to shine. A well crafted verrine is the Fabergé egg of the meal.

I served my first verrines sometime around the year 2000. My employer at the time - the director of The Children's Museum of New Hampshire - and her husband asked me if I would create a dinner for them and their important guests from Japan (the Japanese consul to Boston and his wife). I created a meal that was American in its ingredients yet Japanese in its presentation - small portions, delicately prepared and (I hope) beautiful both to their eyes and their palates.  The first course at the table was a set of three tiny verrines per person.  They were tomato-thyme, yellow bell pepper-bay laurel and sweet pea-tarragon soups - red, yellow and green. 


Garlic Confit

Earlier this month, I spent a business weekend on Cape Cod.  I've lived in New England all my life, have traveled north, south, west and abroad numerous times, but had never visited this crooked arm that juts into the Atlantic Ocean.

Holiday decorating is taken very seriously.  I could hardly wait to come home and adorn my own nest. 

And now with Christmas only a week away, this morning I decided it was time to do something with the dozen canning jars I had bought.  A food gift that required a minimal amount of time fit the bill nicely.


Gnocchi: if at first you don't succeed...

... try, try again. Isn't that the truth!

One of my favorite vehicles for pesto is homemade potato gnocchi (pronounced NYO-key). The ridges created by the gnocchi board - or the tines of a fork - provide the perfect nooks and crannies for catching all that basil-y goodness, augmented by pine nuts and Parmigiano-Reggiano. The pesto making is easy.... but not so much the gnocchi!

My first foray into gnocchi making was a true disaster. I found a recipe for pumpkin gnocchi in an Italian cookbook and wanted to make them for my friend Susan (principal cellist of the Albany Symphony Orchestra) and her boyfriend, as she had given me the book for my birthday. Never being shy about testing recipes on friends, I forged ahead. The recipe said to mix the pumpkin with flour and egg until a soft dough forms, adding "1 or 2 tablespoons of flour" so that the dough isn't too soft. Never having done this, I made some not very good assumptions about what "soft dough" meant.