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What do you think of this menu for bf's birthday eve dinner?

I always try to do something special for his bday...this year we have even less money than usual so would rather not go out but make a delicous meal at home.

Thinking of the following (please remember I am not a world class cook so maybe this doesn't "go together"

Chicken and Mushroom Marsala
Artichoke Ravioli (on the side) with parmesean cheese on top (no red sauce)
steamed broccoli

Then pignoli and rainbow cookies (homemade) for dessert...


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  1. It sounds lovely and from the heart.
    Maybe switch out the brococoli for something more interesting? Roasted delicata squash perhaps? Or a nice salad to start or finish?
    I take it he's not a big chocolate person...

    1. I think it sounds great...like a gift of love.

      4 Replies
      1. re: critter101

        Thanks to you both - so sweet. What is delicata squash? Yes something more interesting for a vegetable would be very nice. I am not that creative...

        Correct tabaja - not really a big chocolate person! He likes it but he is more into pastry - cookies, turnovers, etc...we get pignoli cookies from the local bakery that are awesome but I thought he'd think it cute if I made some (hence the post from a few days ago)...

        1. re: lovessushi

          I should have asked the ravioli-holding question in this thread instead of making a new one...anyway, also have a quick question about the cookies - can I make them on Monday or Tuesday and serve on Wednesday? How do I keep them fresh in the interim?

          1. re: lovessushi

            Always store soft cookies and crispy cookies separately. Tuesday for Wednesday service is fine (unless you're a cookie fiend and can't help nibbling them to nothing between Tues & Weds).

            Maybe instead of broccoli, a zucchini, tomato, onion, garlic and bell pepper stir fry in EVOO with some basil and oregano sprinkled on.

            1. re: weezycom

              Yes...I could see eating them all between Tues and Wed. - ;-)

              So just separately in airtight containers? or does that matter?

              That stir fry sounds nice - deifnitely something i would like though unfortunately he wouldn't - not a zuchinni and bell pepper fan! Strange, I know :-)

      2. If you are looking for a diff vegie presentation - I've been playing with savory tarts and I bet you could do a heart shaped one with the puff pastry. I filled it with gruyier cheese and roasted asparagus (on one) the other was sauteed mushrooms/garlic on the gruyier. I did them separate in case my guests didn't like mush. I somewhat followed this site's:

        I didn't like my first attempt when I used ricotta/parm as the base (pics attached of the not so great tarts


        Have fun, your menu sounds wonderful

        1 Reply
        1. re: lexpatti

          Thank you! I hadn't thought of a tart...cute and I think he'd really like that...I will investigate...

          If I made the tart I guess I'd want the filling to be rather light as the artichoke ravioli seem kind of heavy along with the chicken...

        2. It sounds like a lovely meal, and I'm sure it will be much appreciated.

          I'd serve the ravioli as a starter. Then the Chicken Marsala with a light salad and a nice baguette. Then your cookies for dessert (with perhaps a small scoop of fruit gelato).

          1. Instead of broccoli, I would suggest steamed broccolini tossed in garlic butter & olive oil and finished w/ parmesan or, my favorite, Locatelli Romano. I would also suggest a brown butter sauce and shaved romano for your ravioli and I think, as someone else suggested, that it should be served as a first course.

            20 Replies
            1. re: lynnlato

              Channa and lynnlato I think that's a much better idea to serve the ravioli as a first course - and I like the idea of the brown butter sauce. Broccoli sounds delicious as well - I've never cooked with it.

              Also the idea of fruit gelato is perfect - I was wondering what to serve alongside-

              1. re: lovessushi

                And here we are at another year.... so glad we've made it :)

                I never quite got around to the above last year - he wound up going on a diet a few days before his bday!!
                But this year he is not...so...

                I am looking for a seafood soup I think - I can't think of what it's called - but the soup that has a red base and lots of different types of seafood in it...zuppa de pesce? Sorry if that's not it. But does anyone know what I'm talking about and can recommend a good recipe?

                What would you serve with that? Just bread?

                I think carrot cake for dessert - I was thinking of getting one from a local bakery, but it has been very hard to find a bakery I like that also makes carrot cake. I will post that separately though...
                I was looking at the cook's illustrated recipe for carrot cake- any thoughts as to how that one is or could someone recommend a better recipe? He likes cream cheese frosting - no raisins and no pineapple.

                Thank you!!

                1. re: lovessushi

                  Zuppa di pesce is a type of fish soup with a tomato/wine base - here is a recipe that gets good reviews: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                  You might also be thinking of cioppino, which is an American fish stew with a tomato base. Google it and you'll find a million recipes, or perhaps some Hounds will chime in with theirs. Either way, crusty bread along with it is an absolute must! If you're up for making your own, Jim Lahey's No-Knead recipe is no-fail and makes AMAZING bread - my friends refer to it as "crack bread." The broccolini with garlic and oil that someone suggested earlier would be a nice vegetable accompaniment, or you could serve a salad.

                  1. re: biondanonima

                    I think I was thinking of the cioppino - thank you! But I will google both and take a look. Also good to hear that bread is good - I had been considering making it - a friend told me about it and I was hesitant to try.

                    1. re: lovessushi

                      not to throw another one into it but could it have been a portugese seafood soup? Like this one:

                      It has a name but I can't find it. I went searching after having it at a restaurant and loving it.

                      1. re: lexpatti

                        Thank you lexpatti -it was definitely cioppino or zuppa di pesce - but thanks anyway - your recipe looks good too - I will add it to the list of things to try :)

                        1. re: lexpatti

                          @lexpatti - were you thinking of moqueca?

                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                            yes yes yes, that's it. I couldn't even find my original post when I went a searching for recipes (after that restaurant experience) - thank you.

                            1. re: lexpatti

                              i remembered that thread - that's why i figured you were talking about moqueca ;)


                    2. re: lovessushi

                      re: the carrot cake, i've heard great things about the CI recipe. i'd add a little ground ginger to it (maybe 1/2 tsp), and i love the *flavor* of walnuts in my carrot cake but i can't stand soggy/soft nuts, so i'd probably garnish the cake with finely chopped, toasted walnuts (maybe press them onto the sides the way some people do with shredded coconut).

                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                        Thanks ghg - good to hear - I like the idea of ginger too. Never though of adding them on the outside...very good idea!
                        What do you think about making it on Thursday night? Bday is Friday. If I do that how do I keep it fresh? I've never made a cake a day ahead. I'm still just as clueless as a few years ago.. ;)

                        1. re: lovessushi

                          you're not "clueless," just a little culinarily challenged ;)

                          carrot cake is actually even better if you can make it at least a day in advance. *however,* you can't frost it too far ahead of time. so, bake the cake layers a day or two before and make the frosting up to a day in advance...store both in the refrigerator. the day of his birthday, remove everything from the fridge and let it all come to room temperature; whip the frosting with a hand mixer to make sure it's fluffy & uniform, and frost the cake.

                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                            Aw :) You always know the right thing to say ;)

                            This is great - now I have a plan of attack! ;) Thank you :)

                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                              With carrot cake, make absolutely sure you don't serve it ice cold. It might seem "stale" if too cold, even if it isn't. At room temperature, it loosens up a bit.

                        2. re: lovessushi

                          I love the idea of a hearty soup for dinner. Definitely serve it with a nice loaf of bread. If your soup bowls can go in the oven, heat them up for a few minutes before serving- it's a nice touch.

                          For another course.. what about a salad with fall ingredients? Maybe something with pears or cranberries and arugula?

                          1. re: cheesecake17

                            That's a great idea about the salad and the bowls - I hadn't considered a salad...he would love something with cranberries

                            1. re: lovessushi

                              My mother in law makes a delicios salad with dried cranberries- red leaf lettuce, dried cranberries, toasted slivered almonds. The dressing a balsamic vinaigrette with fresh orange juice.

                          2. re: lovessushi

                            Cioppino is great with toasted garlic bread.

                            1. re: sbp

                              Ooh what a great idea!! I will definitely do that!!

                      2. I hope that you have some pine nuts in your larder now. Whole Foods is charging $28/pound because of the shortage of pine nuts due to a poor crop this year world wide.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: ChiliDude

                          In some areas, the terms broccolini and broccoli rabe (a.k.a. rapini, broccoli di rape) are interchangeable, so be prepared for it to be quite bitter.

                          If you search on CH and elsewhere for info on "pine-mouth", a condition linked to Asian species of pine nuts, you will see that while the nuts themselves do not taste bad, within a couple of days of eating them a bitter sensation overwhelms everything you eat for the next couple of weeks. If you buy cheaper pine nuts, you should probably take the precaution of eating a few a few weeks before your celebratory dinner, so that before you make the cookies you are sure that the occasion will not be a bitter memory, literally, for you both.

                          1. re: greygarious

                            Sometimes broccoli rabe is just right, sometimes just too darn bitter for me. I've found Chinese broccoli - gai lan - makes a great substitute.

                            1. re: sbp

                              I've never heard of it...but we have an Asian market near my house - next time I'm there I will investigate...

                              1. re: lovessushi

                                they'll definitely have it at Mitsuwa...assuming that's where you're talking about!

                        2. Isn't dessert going to be the cook with nothing on it? I mean a cookie would be nice too.

                          23 Replies
                          1. re: Hank Hanover

                            actually, she said that the BF isn't on a diet this year...so i guess he gets TWO desserts ;)

                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                              Um...well...maybe two desserts...I think ghg has it spot on... ;)

                              1. re: lovessushi

                                Ok so Cioppino, garlic bread, some type of green thing on the side with garlic, red pepper flakes, and olive oil...
                                Dessert that night maybe linzer tart cookies...the carrot cake is for the next day - his actual birthday - he will want to go to sushi for his bday dinner, so we'll have the cake when we get back :)
                                Now, can anyone recommend a good cioppino recipe? And what exactly is the difference between that and zuppa di pesce as far as taste? Sorry...as ghg said, culinary challenged ;)

                                1. re: lovessushi

                                  well, technically cioppino & zuppa di pesce (and bouillabaisse, and cacciucco!) are all Mediterranean variations on fish stew.

                                  cioppino is a specialty of San Francisco, and to be truly authentic, should be made with local seafood including shrimp & Dungeness crab...which should be cooked in their shells. oh, and it's usually red wine and tomato-based. (cacciucco is similar, but typically uses less shellfish and more chopped fish fillets, and usually includes red chile for heat).

                                  zuppa di pesce allows for more latitude with ingredients based on regional availability & seasonality, may not be tomato-based, and may be made with white wine.

                                  and not to confuse matters even more, bouillabaisse should contain at least 5 different types of seafood, is white-wine based, and has a background anise flavor (from fennel or pernod) and a hint of orange.

                                  so, now that you know all of that, which one do you think would appeal most to him? then we can get you a good recipe :)

                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                    There are dozens of recipes for more or less the same kind of tomato broth based fish stew. They should all be pretty similar. The main thing to remember is the downfall of most restaurant versions is they dump in all the seafood and let it overcook. Regardless of what the recipe says, you are best off letting the tomato "soup" simmer in some shrimp, lobster and/or crab SHELLS. This will get the seafood flavor into the dish without overcooking the meat.

                                    Dump in the seafood more or less just before serving, and in the order of how long it takes to cook. For instance, crabs/lobster, then firm flesh fish, the clams, the shrimp, then squid (although with squid, you can either cook very very briefly, or put in first and let it cook for 20 minutes; either way will be tender).

                                    Staggering the seafood and not overcooking is the difference between great fish stew and ordinary fish stew.

                                    1. re: sbp

                                      "Staggering the seafood and not overcooking is the difference between great fish stew and ordinary fish stew."
                                      that's part of it. there's also the issue of the base, specifically using bottled clam juice or other packaged stock vs homemade fish stock if you're cooking the shellfish in their shells (and therefore don't have the option of simmering them in the soup to flavor it first).

                                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                        Yes, good point. Separating out the shells IS a lot of work and not very convenient. Clam juice is a a fair alternative. The main point is unlike meat stews, with fish stew you don't "stew" the fish. Even though most restaurants do.

                                    2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                      When I lived in the bay area, we had crab cioppino, there might be a few clams in there but it was mostly crabs. It was definitely a tomato based sauce with some wine and clam juice in there. I think you could mix different shellfish and not bastardize it too much. Use any combo of crab, clams, lobster or shrimp. I think one with just king crab would be pretty special.

                                      This recipe looks like the stuff I remember but keep in mind, you can use any seafood you like. The base is what is important.


                                      The chef owns a restaurant on the wharf and is Italian. That should ensure a pretty authentic recipe.

                                      1. re: Hank Hanover

                                        Oh my...ok...thank you all for all this info...got in late and have to read though and actually understand it when not insanely tired so will post late tomorrow - thank you :)

                                        1. re: lovessushi

                                          Ok - finally back online here - I think I will stick with the zuppa di pesce, as it seems to be more flexible, and I think would appeal to him more (though I'm not actually sure he would know the difference between that and cioppino...I still may not know the difference - lol). So for ghg and those of you with all your wonderful suggestions, can you suggest a really good, relatively simple recipe?

                                          Thanks!! :)

                                          1. re: lovessushi

                                            no contest...Mario Batali's recipe from his Molto Mario days...


                                            oh, i like to add a little fennel along with the celery, onion and garlic...and a pinch of smoked paprika never hurt anyone ;)

                                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                              This looks delicious!!!

                                              I have a few questions... (of course)...and if you don't mind!

                                              What else can I use besides crayfish? They look icky. Also I don't know where to find them. I am a bit squeamish about some things...(i.e things that can look at me as they're sitting in the pot).
                                              What else can I use besides a mullet? I thought that was a haircut...
                                              What's the difference between a razor clam and a "regular" clam? Is that the type of clam you might find at Whole Foods? If I find the clam how do I clean the clam? Do they even need cleaning?
                                              EEEKKK!! ;) lol

                                              If I can actually get past the fish part, and add fennel and paprika, I definitely will do so :)

                                              1. re: lovessushi

                                                LOL! you're hilarious :)

                                                the beauty of recipes like this is that you can always substitute whatever is available - these dishes were originally created to feature local, seasonal seafood.

                                                substitute shrimp for the crayfish, and red snapper or sea bass for the mullet. try to use razor clams if you can get them because they're meatier & more flavorful than some other varieties, but if you can't find any, you can use Manila or littleneck. oh, and i wouldn't buy the seafood at Whole Foods...ever notice how the Edgewater store *reeks* of fish? they don't change out the ice frequently enough, and everything sits there in that funk. ick.

                                                try the new[ish] H-Mart in Fort Lee, Cafasso's Fairway Market in Fort Lee, Mitsuwa in Edgewater, or Peter's Fish Market in Midland Park.

                                                wherever you go, you can buy the fish already cleaned and filleted. definitely buy shrimp *in* the shell - you can either cook them in the shell, or shell them before cooking and use the shells for stock/broth. and finally, the clams will need a soak or a scrub when you get them home to remove any sand or grit, but that's it - then you toss them into the hot soup in their shells and cook them until the shells open, which means they're done.

                                                *one note on the clams (and any other bivalves, e.g. mussels) - if the shell is open *before* you cook it, give it a tap. if it closes, it's ok, but if it stays open, toss it because it's bad. and once you've cooked them, discard any that *didn't* open. got it?

                                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                  LOL - I'm crazy! ;)

                                                  Ok - this is definitely doable - thank you for all the suggestions for substitutions...
                                                  Yes, the WF in Edgewater always smells fishy. The one by me is a bit better but it's still hit and miss. I've never had a problem with Mitsuwa fish or Peter's Fish Market...but H-Mart will be on the way home that day, so maybe there...
                                                  Thanks for the tips on the bivalves...I actually learned about cleaning mussels at a party we threw in August and with a very, very inebriated friend (I of course was cold sober) I watched as he managed the giant knife around the mussel, all without any bleeding... ;)

                                                  I am pleased - I think I can handle this...I'll buy the fish on the way home that day and make it while he's in class...

                                                  As for the carrot cake from CI I am going to the library tomorrow to get the recipe (too cheap to buy the book!)

                                                  Thank you!!!

                                                  1. re: lovessushi

                                                    my pleasure! i'm sure it's all going to be wonderful, but if you need anything else, you know where to find me ;)

                                                      1. re: lovessushi

                                                        Well, the cake is still on...the soup will have to wait for the weekend. Apparently bf will be out the night before his birthday with buddies, and i don't want the soup to just sit and wait - I think it would be better fresh and hot. My work meeting late that evening doesn't help either...

                                                        So I need a fallback recipe for Thursday night...Friday night (his birthday) he said he wants to go to sushi and though there's no money, I don't feel like arguing.

                                                        Meatloaf and mashed potatoes? The Valentine's dinner...eh...he likes it, but i feel like I make meatloaf too often now.

                                                        Any other thoughts? Must be something that can be prepared ahead and reheated - preferably beef or chicken breasts...I know this is a broad question, but I'm sort of out of ideas...

                                                        Ghg are you there??? lol :)

                                                        1. re: lovessushi

                                                          any make-ahead chicken dish, particularly if using breasts since they tend to dry out, would have to be saucy...maybe Chicken Cacciatore or Chicken Marbella.

                                                          for the beef, i'd do pot roast or brisket.

                                                          if you want to serve something other than standard mashed potatoes, you could do anything from chipotle smashed sweet potatoes, to polenta, to herbed oven-roasted potatoes...ooh, or crash-hot potatoes!

                                                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                            Ok - I will stick with chicken...chicken cacciatore maybe...not Marbella, though I would like it - he's not such a prune fan...

                                                            Those crash-hot potatoes look so good!!! Would they wait though? I'm thinking maybe smashed potatoes and then I could just reheat them...

                                                            I still have yet to buy cake pans, the ingredients for the cake, etc. etc... I am so prepared here, so prepared..lol
                                                            Thanks for your help as usual :)

                                                            1. re: lovessushi

                                                              How about chicken marsala with mushrooms. Make enough sauce to pour over some penne' pasta and have some roasted veggie to go with? Possibly butternut or acorn squash? (wait - didn't you start out with a chicken marsala last year that didn't get made?)

                                                              1. re: boyzoma

                                                                boyzoma yes! I did! I like that idea actually very much - thank you for reminding me! I hadn't thought of that...I'm guessing that will reheat well - as will the pasta. He would really enjoy that meal I think - and it's quick enough that I can get everything ready ahead and then make it quickly when I get home - then just put it in the fridge till he gets home.

                                                                What kind of marsala wine am I looking for? That might be a ridiculous question - but can you recommend a label I can look for? Not too expensfve? Or I guess I could just ask at the wine store - they're just not very helpful here!

                                                                1. re: lovessushi

                                                                  definitely use a dry marsala, not sweet. and in terms of label/producer, look for Florio, Pellegrino or Lombardo...all three are good and should be anywhere from $9 to $12.

                                                                  oh, and hooray for settling on a dish! ;)

                                                                  1. re: lovessushi

                                                                    I have Cribari Marsala on hand, but that is just what we like. Fairly inexpensive and available at most stupidmarkets. I also use it for sauteing mushroom caps in butter/wine. But that is, again, how our tastes go. I would love to hear some other brands that Marsala users like to divine into their recipes. And yes, in my experience, it does reheat well. DH absolutely loves it as a leftover. Oh - by the way - NO question is stupid! If so, I have asked a lot of them!