A Feast for Mom

Earlier this morning, I left a voicemail for my mother, with the following message: "Top of your head. Tell me the top three things you'd like someone to prepare for you on Mother's Day."

I'm betting she'll say egg salad or some of her other odiferous favorites -- liverwurst and onion on rye, a pot of sauerkraut, a hunk of limburger cheese with crackers. Pass the nose plugs, please.

Generally, she sniffs at dessert, which she considers too sweet, (unless it's on someone else's plate), so that's not even a remote possibility, I think confidently.

A few minutes later, the phone rings.

"Well," she says via cell phone with pouring rain in the background, "I'd like a really nice salad, with mango, like you've made before." She's referring to a curried chicken salad that I made on Mother's Day last year (recipe details below).

"And the egg dish that you do, what is that called, a free-latta? "

Fritatta, Mom.

"Yeah, that might be nice. Hmm...what else...oh yes, and for dessert..."

Dessert? This woman wants sweets?

"I'd like crème brulee," she declares.

I'm batting 0 for three, here. Who is this woman disguised as my mother?

"Remember when I made crème brulee and it turned into scrambled eggs?" I say.

"Yeah, I don't know why that happened, it's so easy to make," she replies.

I decided to keep my mouth shut and let her have this one. After all, that was pre-cooking school...oh stop, no need to explain.

For many reasons (which include a surprise), I'm fete-ing my mother next weekend, and I guess I'll hold off from buying the liverwurst.

But wait... don't mothers have the right to change their minds at any given moment?

Below, recipe details for two of Susan's requests, plus one for cashew shortbread, which I made in her honor two years ago. This is a good one for long-distance Mother's Day celebrations.

Here's to all the ladies! Share your favorite way of fete-ing your favorite mamma.
Curried Chicken Salad With Mango and Grapes
Adapted from "Spices of Life" by Nina Simonds

Ingredients

Salad
1 2-inch hunk of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into three pieces about the size of a quarter
3 tablespoons rice wine or sake
Approximately 1 1/4 pounds chicken breasts, skinned and trimmed of fat
1 fennel bulb, cleaned and trimmed, thinly sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, julienned
1/2 pound red or green seedless grapes, removed from stem, rinsed, drained and sliced in half
1 ripe mango, diced
1/4 cup minced scallions, including greens
Rinsed and drained lettuce leaves (something scoopable like Romaine or Boston; endive is also nice)

Dressing
2 1/2 teaspoons brown or black mustard seeds or kalongi seeds (optional)
2 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1 2-inch hunk fresh ginger, peeled and cut into 1/2- inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 cup plain yogurt, drained in a sieve to release water
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Method
Bring 1 quart water, ginger slices and rice wine to a boil in a medium pot. Add chicken breasts, partially cover and return to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered until chicken is cooked, about 15 minutes (longer for bone-in breasts). Remove chicken from pot and let cool. With hands, pull into bite-sized strips.

Toss chicken, fennel, red pepper, grapes, mango and scallions in a mixing bowl.

To prepare dressing: Heat a small heavy-bottomed skillet until hot. Toss seeds (if using) and curry powder into pan and stir with a wooden spoon over medium-low heat until curry powder is fragrant and seeds begin to pop. Scrape out onto a plate to cool.

Place ginger and garlic in bowl of food processor or blender and pulse until finely chopped. Add curry powder mixture, yogurt, salt and pepper and whiz until smooth, scraping sides of bowl as necessary. Pour dressing into a small bowl and add to salad as needed, until everything is well-coated.

Scoop salad on top of lettuce leaves that have been arranged in a bowl or on a platter.

Makes about 3 main-dish servings.

Fritatta
A nine or ten-inch skillet (cast iron is ideal) makes enough slices for six dinner portions, 10-12 party snack portions.

Ingredients
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped?
1 medium red bell pepper, diced?
1/2 potato per serving, diced and steamed or par-boiled (I used Yukon Golds, which were tasty, but I think any kind would do)?
Approximately 1 egg per serving (you may substitute half the amount of whole eggs with egg whites for a lower-cholesterol option that is not discernable), lightly beaten and seasoned with salt and pepper?
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
fresh thyme leaves, to taste
salt and pepper to taste
grated parmigiano for sprinkling

Method
Saute onion, garlic and pepper in olive oil over medium heat, avoiding burning. Add cooked diced potatoes and mix ingredients with a wooden spoon.

Add beaten eggs; your pan will look like a pool of eggs. Add thyme and parsley. Cover and cook over low-medium heat, until the mixture is almost set, about 12 minutes. If using parmigiano, sprinkle on top and place entire pan under broiler to brown the top, about three minutes.

Remove from broiler and let cool at least ten minutes. Slice and serve.

Follow this link for how-to video details

Cashew Shortbread
Adapted from The New Tea Book by Sara Perry

Ingredients
1 cup salted cashews, finely chopped (food processor or blender is best)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter
1-2 teaspoons granulated sugar
Optional (but highly recommended): 1 tablespoon finely chopped crystallized ginger


Method

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Use either a springform pan (with removable rim) or a 9-inch cake pan; if using cake pan, line with parchment paper. Note: The springform pan makes the post-baking part a breeze.

In a medium bowl, add cashews, flour, powdered sugar, cornstarch and powdered ginger (and crystallized ginger, if using). Mix with a wooden spoon to combine.

Using the large holes of a flat or box grater, grate butter into the flour mixture. (The colder the butter, the better; frozen butter is ideal.) With your fingers, work butter into rest of ingredients. At first, the mixture will be crumbly, but as butter softens, it will become malleable. Shape into a ball.

Pat mixture into pan. Press to an even thickness, covering the entire bottom surface of the pan. Pierce dough with a fork. Bake until golden brown, 40-45 minutes. Upon removing from oven, sprinkle granulated sugar over the surface.

Use a sharp knife to cut into 12 pie-like wedges. Let cool in pan for at least 15 minutes; you'll notice that shortbread hardens quickly, which is a good thing. Store in airtight container.

By Kim ODonnel |  May 11, 2007; 10:34 AM ET Family
Previous: My Mother's Un-Cooking School | Next: Do You Eat for Your Dosha?

Comments

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Am I the only one who finds getting to this blog nigh-impossible since the website change?

Posted by: DC | May 11, 2007 11:53 AM

My mom would love the cashew shortbread, but I don't have a springform pan. Can I use a glass pie plate? Any other options?

Posted by: Long distance daughter | May 11, 2007 1:36 PM

DC, It is just as frustrating for me. The concerns are being heard. One of the near-term solutions is to subscribe to the RSS feed and it will update automatically. Holler if you need more info on that.

long-distance daughter, you may use a pie plate, but what I recommend is lining it with parchment paper, with an overhang, so you can lift baked shortbread out of pie plate with ease.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | May 11, 2007 2:42 PM

Bookmark this URL. It'll take you to the blog directly, so you don't have to negotiate the WP home page.

http://blog.washingtonpost.com/mighty-appetite/

Posted by: Midge Coates | May 11, 2007 2:45 PM

I am making a Mother's Day luncheon for my momma (dad gets to come along for the ride) of whatever looks good at the market tomorrow ... plus the fresh salmon I hope to pick up in a few minutes at the SF Ferry Building fish market! And strawberry shortcake to finish it all off. YUM.

Posted by: Nicole | May 11, 2007 5:42 PM

The Annapolis Junior League Cookbook - Of Tide and Thyme - which is wonderful for many reasons, has a Curried Chicken Salad that is very similar to the recipe you have here Kim, expect it uses Mango Chutney and thus cuts down on prep time. If i get a chance I'll transcribe, but it is wonderful! (The whole book is wonderful and worth purchasing for this recipe and many others)

Posted by: jlp | May 12, 2007 12:50 AM

Subtle ref to a surprise there ... recently married ... could you be cooking up something in your own oven?

Posted by: KJS | May 15, 2007 11:07 AM

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