Mah Jongg is not just a game. It has become a part of my life that allows me to entertain my Mah Jongg-playing friends, cook great meals to serve to them and test my mental skills during our game play (which, hopefully, is often).
1 (14-ounce) can quartered artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped
8 ounces cream cheese, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 ounces fresh mozzarella, torn or shredded
4 ounces sour cream or full-fat Greek yogurt
¼ cup pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese, finely grated
Heat olive oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring until it’s softened and fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add spinach to pot one handful at a time, letting each handful completely wilt before adding the next. Add crushed red pepper, if using, and season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid from the spinach has evaporated (no need to drain), about 3 minutes. Add artichokes and season with salt and pepper. Cook for a few minutes, just to take the raw edge off the artichokes.
Reduce heat to low and add cream cheese and mozzarella. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, stir until all the cheese has melted, about 3 minutes. Stir in sour cream and pecorino, and season with more salt and pepper. You can certainly eat this dip straight from the pot (or transferred to a serving bowl), but running it under the broiler for a crispy top is also an excellent option. To do so, transfer dip to a small ovenproof skillet (6 to 8 inches). Place in oven and broil until the top is golden and the dip is bubbling, 5 to 8 minutes. Let sit a minute or two before serving.
Spread the cashews out on a sheet pan. Toast in the oven until warm, about 5 minutes.In a large bowl, combine the rosemary, cayenne, sugar, salt and butter.Thoroughly toss the warm cashews with the spiced butter and serve warm.CHILAQUILES – recipe courtesy of Brian Albert at the Old Chatham Country Store
4 chicken breasts shredded
Mild enchilada sauce
Monterey Jack cheese
Tortillas (use a top quality chip – preferably made to order)
Spray a 9×13″ baking dish with a nonstick spray.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the chicken breasts skin side up on a sheet pan. Rub with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until done. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, discard the skin and bones, and shred the meat. Cover and set aside.
To build the Chilaquiles: Start with a layer of enchilada sauce on bottom of pan. Add a layer of crushed tortillas and push them down into the sauce. Next, a layer of shredded chicken topped by a layer of cheese; again, push it down then put on one layer of green chilis. Repeat starting with the enchilada sauce, chips, chicken, and cheese– continue layering for 4 layers and finish with a cheese layer.
Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes. Check to make sure cheese doesn’t burn. Cover with foil for last 15 minutes.GUACAMOLE – Barefoot Contessa
Makes 3 cups
Keeping guacamole cold in the refrigerator keeps it green. Cover with plastic wrap flush with the guac.
4 ripe Haas avocados 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 lemon) 8 dashes Tabasco sauce 1/2 cup small-diced red onion (1 small onion) 1 large garlic clove, minced 1 teaspoon kosher salt 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1 medium tomato, seeded, and small-diced
Cut the avocados in half, remove the pits, and scoop the flesh out of their shells into a large bowl. (I use my hands.) Immediately add the lemon juice, Tabasco, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper and toss well.
Using a sharp knife, slice through the avocados in the bowl until they are finely diced. Add the tomatoes. Mix well and taste for salt and pepper.
If not serving immediately, refrigerate it in a bowl with plastic wrap pressed directly on the surface to keep the air out.
***I don’t have any photos of the salad but it was so easy to make (thanks to Brian Albert from the Old Chatham Country Store). Are you ready?
Put a little salsa in bottom of bowl then add 1 can Delmonte corn (drained), then 2 diced avocados folded in, and quartered cherry tomatoes. Make a platter of shredded romaine and sprinkle the ingredients over the top. Serve Ranch Dressing on the side. Wow – this couldn’t have been easier. As for the Ranch Dressing, here is that recipe:
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
11/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon good olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup good mayonnaise
1/2 cup Greek-style yogurt, such as Fage Total
1/2 cup buttermilk, shaken
Place the scallions, basil, lemon juice, mustard, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Puree for 15 to 20 seconds to make a smooth mixture. Add the mayonnaise, yogurt, and buttermilk and blend until smooth. Transfer the dressing to a container, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour for the flavors to develop.
Candied violets or edible gold leaf, or chevrons for decoration (all optional)
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour a 8-inch round cake pan, then line the bottom with parchment paper.
Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time. Mix in the chocolate syrup and vanilla. Add the flour and mix until just combined. Don’t overbeat, or the cake will be tough.
Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until just set in the middle. Don’t overbake! Let cool thoroughly in the pan.
For the ganache, cook the heavy cream, chocolate chips, and instant coffee in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally.
Place the cake upside down on a wire rack and pour the glaze evenly over the top, making sure to cover the entire cake and sides. You can tilt the rack to smooth the glaze. Decorate by drawing chevrons on top using a pastry bag and tip or a plastic bag with a corner cut off to create lines; draw a knife through the lines.
Last month I gave a luncheon in honor of Toby Salk‘s visit to NYC. There were eight of us so we were able to have two tables of MJ. We were also celebrating Gail K’s birthday – for dessert we had a birthday cake along with Mah Jongg party favors. Of course, around the game tables there were lots of snacks and candy! In the excitement of the day, I totally forgot to take photos but Toby did shoot some for me. Hopefully she will send more but here is the first one she sent to me:
We had a great lunch – first a spinach dip with crudités and also a couple of bowls of rosemary cashews followed by a lunch of chilaquiles, guacamole, salsa, and chips plus a salad of chopped lettuce with lots of goodies on top and homemade ranch dressing. And then, after a few hours of game play, the chocolate ganache cake came out and, if I say so myself, it was yummy!
Here’s a photo of the rosemary cashews and the chocolate ganache cake (yum!).