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never 2 old to start cooking
a shared journey and learning experience

​Cooking for friends!!!

Cooking for others, especially freinds, is one the the greatest joys of cooking. It combines the sense of accomplishment of the meal preparation with the warmth of sharing with others. Sur la Table 's mantra is that life happens around the table. No more so is that true than when friends and family make up the gatghering. Featured here is one of my favorite menus - crab imperial in Portobello mushroom caps, feta slaw, roasted corn on the cob (see newsletter link), and garlic and pecorino toast (see newsletter link). Enjoy, as  do I.

Crab Imperial

One of the nice things about this dish, and the same is true of crab cakes, is that you can prepare it ahead of time and then store it in the refrigerator - for up to a day - and allow it to chill, which makes it easier to handle, and which also allows the flavors to get to know each other.


1 pound (450g) lump crabmeat, picked over for shells
1/2 cup (120ml) mayonnaise
2 tablespoons (30ml) Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons (10ml) fresh juice from 1 lemon, plus grated zest of half a lemon
2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
1 small shallot, finely minced (about 2 tablespoons)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs (1 ounce; 30g)
2 tablespoons (30g) unsalted butter


In a medium bowl, stir together crabmeat, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, lemon juice and zest, parsley, Old Bay, and shallot until evenly incorporated. Season with salt and pepper. At this point you can cover the mixture in a glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and store in the refigerator until ready to cook - up to a day.

When you're ready to cook them, preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C). Stir the bread crumbs with melted butter until evenly coated. Season with salt. Put servings of crab in the vessel for serving, and coat the top of the crab with the buttered bread crumbs evenly on top. Set on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until crab mixture is heated through and bread crumbs are golden, about 20 minutes.

NOTE: the illustrated presentation is in a Portobello mushroom cap, which is simply prepared by just removing any stem from the cap before filling.  You can also use ramekins, scallop shells, or any other ovenproof vessel of choice.
Feta Slaw

This particular variation of slaw, copied shamlessly from that served at Zoe's KItchen, eschews the sweet elements that are common to so many slaw recipes, especiailly those customary to the American South.  It has a decidedly Mediterranean flavor profile, and the acidity of the vinegar goes well with seafood.


Cabbage (usually one good sized head will serve 4-6), first quartered, then cored, then shredded about 1/8" thick.  You can buy pre-shredded cabbage if you prefer.
Kosher salt
Spring onions (the green tops, only, cut crosswise about 1/8" thick) - about 1 cup.
Feta cheese crumbles - about 1 cup, or the same volume as the green onions.
Mediterranean seasoning blend (I use Zoe's Kitchen's proprietary blend).
Extra virgin olive oil.
White wine or champagne vinegar.


About 30 minutes prior to final mixing and serving, sprinkle a couple of pinches of salt on the cabbage and toss to distribute uniformly. Then set it aside for the indicated 30 minutes. This will caiuse the cabbage to sweat and lose some moisture, which improves crunch once the dish is finally prepared.

When time comes for final preparation and serving, add the onion, feta cheese, and spices to the cabbage. Toss to distribute uniformly. Just prior to plating and serving, add oilive oil and vinegar - both sparingly to avoid making the slaw limp. Toss to coat evenly. Serve and enjoy.

NOTE: depending on what else in on your menu, this slaw takes on a whole different taste when you add some chunks of  Granny Smith apple. This adds some sweetness and crunch that go well with some dishes.  Use your own judgment. 

The joy of dinner!

What brunch does to get a day off to a great start, dinner can do to put a
great cap on your day; a nice meal with good friends, good food, and
beverage will make you feel as though you've really accomplished
something.  You'll sleep better, and not just from being pleasantly tired at
the end of the day.  Particularly if you live alone and are preparing dinner
for a few friends, the kitchen's place as the center of your home is ideal.
No one that I know feels the least bit negative toward spending some time
in the kitchen, glass of wine in hand, visiting with the cook as the meal is
prepared or assembled - it's a great time to visit.  And, there's somthing
warm and comfortable about plating the meal in the kitchen in front of
your guests and allowing them each the pleasure of taking their plate to
the table.  I am not a fan of having people 'fix' their plates from dishes set
out on the kitchen counter, buffet style.  That's just not me.  Working in
front of your guests, offers a real feeling of accomplishment, especially for
those new to cooking, a feeling that you won't get anywhere else.  Too, you
get to control the presentation (which we know is a big part of making food
appetizing) and bask in the glow of their amazement at your talent,
new-found, rekindled, or otherwise.  It's just plain fun.

My personal preference is to keep the evening meal light and simple.  For
my money, the meal you see in the photo to the right is about as complicated
as I think a meal needs to be.  A light dessert and some coffee afterward (not pictured) make for a really well-rounded evening.  I generally forego any appetizers before the meal.

Take a look at the photo.  What you see is fettuccini Alfredo with shrimp, avocado and tomato salad, rosemary/sea salt bread, water, and glasses for wine for those who want.  Here's how that's all put together.

Rosemary sea salt bread is a favorite.  It's easy, savory, and sounds a lot more complicated than it is.  I like to put the loaf, partially sliced, on a cake stand and use that at the center of my table.  Two birds with one stone - bread course and centerpiece.

The salad is simple, and takes one-fourth avocado per person, served alongsidle some sliced tomatoes.  I like to mix up the tomatoes - cherry, grape, small heirloom, Roma - it's almost endless, and very easy.  You can have a good time with the presentation as well.  I usually drizzle some dressing on it - there are a lot of store-bought dressings out there, and until you're making your own specialty, they work very well.

If you have a reliable source for uncooked shrimp you can roast or saute your own; my own preference is to roast shrimp .  You can prepare it ahead of time, simply warming it a little before you add it to your dish.  If you are uncomfortable roasting or otherwise preparing shrimp don't be afraid to get some already prepared.

Fettuccini is easy.  I usually allow 2.5 ounces per person.  To a big pot of water (I'm talking 6-8 quarts) add 2-3 generous pinches of salt, and a little olive oil - it helps keep the pasta from sticking to itself and usually means you can even use less water if you don't have a large pot.  I also break the fettuccini in half - just makes it all easier to manage.  Once the water is boiling, put the pasta in and let it boil for 11 minutes.  At the end of 11 minutes, pour it all into a collander in the sink and let the water drain.

While the pasta is cooking it's time to start preparing the real star of the evening - Alfredo sauce.  Alfredo sauce is very, very high on my list of comfort foods.  It's rich, creamy, and has a certain mystique (probably because of the erroneous assumption that something that good must be extremely difficult).

​Alfredo Sauce
(serves 4)


1 stick of butter
I cup of heavy cream
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and white pepper to taste

While your pasta is boiling away, start about half way through the 11 minutes and melt the butter in a large saucepan - keep the heat low so that the butter is hot and melted, but not bubbling.  As soon as the butter is melted, add the heavy cream.  Stir gently until the two are almost completely homogeneous.  As soon as you have poured the pasta into the collander, add the Parmesan cheese to the butter/cream mixture; that's when the sauce really starts to thicken.

NOW, right after you've added the cheese to the sauce, pour the pasta from the collandar into the sauce in the pan and stir with a wooden spoong to ensure that all of the pasta is coated; you can also put the shrimp in at this point.  Salt and pepper, if you want (I prefer to let each guest season to their liking).

The sauce will continue to thicken, and when it's reached the consistency that you want, put it on the plate or in a pasta bowl and you're ready to go.

With salad and bread already on the table, water glasses filled, and wine in the ready if desired, the parade to the dining table as each guest takes their own to their choses seat is truly a triumphant march.  Sit down, continue the conversation, and enjoy.