Mav’s Fab 5 – April 30th, 2013

With Mother’s day coming up, we’ve been reminiscing about all things comforting and yummy, just like mom made. So, this month’s blog is comprised of our favorite desserts, recipes and classic cocktails, some from our childhoods, others we’ve found along the way. We hope you shoo your mama’s out of the kitchen and spoil her with some of our favorite treats!

Classic Cocktails and their Origins
our 5 picks

Harry’s Bar (Venice, Italy)
Calle Vallaressco, 1323
30124 Venezia, Italy
+ 39 (0) 41 528 5777

Before this bubbly peach cocktail became a brunch favorite, it was concocted and made popular by bartender Guiseppe Cipriani in 1948. The drink quickly gained popularity at Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy (a favorite haunt of Ernest Hemmingway, Orson Welles and Sinclair Lewis) and became a staple at the New York counterpart Cipriani’s. It is due to the unique pink color of the drink, which reminded Cipriani of the color in one of Venetian artist Giovanni Bellini’s paintings, that this drink got it’s name.

Caffe Giacosa (Florence, Italy)
Via della Spada 10/r
50123 Firenze, Italy
+39 (0) 55 2776328

The invention of the Negroni is credited to Italian Nobleman, Count Negroni. As the story goes, Count Negroni (who apparently made a living as a rodeo cowboy in the U.S. for a period of time) asked his bartender at Caffe Casoni (now Caffe Giacosa) to add gin instead of soda water to his Americano (a cocktail containing Campari, sweet vermouth and club soda) – it seems he was in need of an extra kick on this particular day! He also switched the lemon garnish to an orange to note the difference between the two drinks. The Negroni became so popular that the Negroni family founded the Negroni Distillery, where they produced a ready-made version of the drink.


The origins of the martini are a bit blurry, which is fitting considering the affect it tends to have when consumed! The most widely accepted story is that it evolved from a cocktail called the Martinez, named for Thomas Martinez who served them at the Occidental Hotel in San Francisco. However, the people of the nearby town of Martinez claim it was first created by a bartender in their town. There is a third theory that it was named for the bartender, Martini di Arma di Taggia, who concocted it in 1912 at the Knickerbocker Hotel in NYC. The martini rose to popularity during prohibition because it was relatively easy to illegally manufacture gin. Today you can order your favorite version of the martini with gin or vodka, dirty or dry, with olives a twist, and of course, shaken or stirred!

Bloody Mary
King Cole Bar (New York City)
The St. Regis Hotel New York
2 East 55th St.
New York, NY 10022
(212) 339 6857

From what we can decipher, it seems the Bloody Mary was a collaboration between George Jessel and Ferdinand Petiot. Jessel, a comedian and frequenter of the 21 Club popularized this cocktail made of equal parts vodka and tomato juice. Petiot, a bartender, also claimed to have invented the Bloody Mary, but later clarified that he adapted it by adding spices and garnishes at The King Cole Bar. Some say it was named for Queen Mary of England, others say legendary actress Mary Pickford… either way, it’s clear that it was inspired by one seriously spicy Mary.

The Manhattan Club
200 W. 56th St.
New York, NY 10019
(212) 453 8855

The most popular story behind the Manhattan credits its concoction to Dr. Ian Marshall at a event at the Manhattan Club in NYC. The party was hosted by Jennie Jerome (mother of Winston Churchill) and was in honor of presidential candidate Samuel J. Tilden. The drink became incredibly popular and having not yet been named, began to be referred to it as the Manhattan cocktail. It has also been said that the cocktail was served as early as the 1860’s at a bar called Broadway near Houston St. One this is for sure, New York City can solidly stake its claim on this brown liquid delicacy.

Favorite Savory Recipes
our 5 picks

Summer Kale Salad

We found this delicious dish at a picnic in Brooklyn close to a decade ago and immediately hunted down the guest who brought it for this recipe! It’s good hot or cold and proves what we’ve been preaching – kale is not just a garnish any more!

What you’ll need:

1 bundle of kale
Olive oil (splash)
Pepper to taste
Braggs –liquid amino acid to taste
1 fresh leek
Pine nuts 1/2 – 3/4 of a cup

What you do:

Cut or tear the leaves from the thick center stem (discard stems) and rip remaining leafy greens into bite-sized pieces. Steam! (Just a few drops of water in the bottom of a non-stick pan does the trick) Set aside in a bowl.

Slice about ½ of one leek very thin (mostly the white portion) and then roughly dice the sliced circles so that they’re ½ thin circumferences. Set aside. We generally use 1/3 – 1/2 leek.

With just a splash of olive oil in a pan at med/low, toast the pine nuts gently. You want them golden but be careful, they will burn quickly! Once they’re done, dump them (oil and all!) on to the kale, add the leeks, pepper and Braggs (which will bring in your salt element) to taste. Wash your hands, dig them in and toss that kale! Enjoy!


We’re just going to say it… this is the BEST Spanakopita out there. A deep dish, tangy, hearty variation of the traditional Greek spinach and feta pastry – we’ve searched hugh and low and this recipe reigns supreme! It is definitely the most labor intensive of the recipes in this blog (separating each tissue paper thin layer of phyllo dough is an art) but once complete, it is worth every second! Consider this a delicious challenge! We dare you!

What you’ll need:

2 cups of crumbled feta cheese
2 tablespoons of flour
5 eggs
3 tablespoons of butter
½ pound of melted butter
1 cup of chopped onion
1 teaspoon basil
2 cups (1 pound) cottage cheese
½ teaspoon oregano
2 pounds fresh spinach
1 package of phyllo dough (defrosted)
Salt and Pepper

What you do:

Clean, stem and chop the spinach. Salt it lightly and cook, adding no hot water for five minutes. Cook the onions in butter, salting lightly. When soft, combine with remaining ingredients and spinach. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

To assemble: Spread melted butter on a 9X13 baking pan. Place a “strudel leaf”(aka one the thin phyllo sheets) in the pan (it will outsize the pan – let the edges climb the sides) and brush generously with butter. Keep layers of dough coming, one on top of another, brushing each with butter. When you have a pile of 8 leaves, spread on half of the filling. Continue with another pile of 8 or so leaves (don’t skimp on the butter!), then apply the remaining filling, spreading it to the edges. Fold the excess of the phyllo down along the edges, making little tidy corners. Pile as many more layers of phyllo and butter as your baking pan will accommodate (this will create the most amazing crispy, golden, flaky crust). Butter the top most leaf. Bake uncovered for about 45 minutes – until beautifully golden.

Paula Deen’s Southern Fried Chicken

You’d never know it by looking at her, but our CEO has a penchant for all things Paula Deen. Maybe it’s just the utter respect for butter and cream that melts her heart, maybe it’s Paula’s adorable southern accent… all we know, is that when it comes to frying anything up, Mama Paula is a trusted source. This fried chicken has just the kick we’re looking for when we’re packing a summer picnic!

What you’ll need:

3 eggs
1/3 cup water
About 1 cup hot red pepper sauce (recommended: Texas Pete)
2 cups self-rising flour
1 teaspoon pepper
House seasoning (recipe follows)
1 (1 to 2 1/2-pound) chicken, cut into pieces
Oil, for frying, preferably peanut oil

What you do:

In a medium size bowl, beat the eggs with the water. Add enough hot sauce so the egg mixture is bright orange. In another bowl, combine the flour and pepper. Season the chicken with the house seasoning. Dip the seasoned chicken in the egg, and then coat well in the flour mixture.

Heat the oil to 350 degrees F in a deep pot. Do not fill the pot more than 1/2 full with oil. Fry the chicken in the oil until brown and crisp. Dark meat takes longer then white meat. It should take dark meat about 13 to 14 minutes, white meat around 8 to 10 minutes.

House Seasoning: 1 cup salt 1/4 cup black pepper 1/4 cup garlic powder Mix ingredients together and store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

Cucumber Salad

Cucumber salad has a special place on the rosters of many cultural menus, but this version of a classic is the version my grandmother made, so of course, we’re pretty partial to it. From the pages of the Jennie Grossinger’s The Art of Jewish Cooking – this has been a staple in the family since the 1950’s – the secret is making sure the cucumbers are cut paper thin! This cucumber salad is tart, crunchy and fresh and is exactly what we want to munch on during a hot summer day! So get out your mandoline and enjoy!

What you’ll need:

3 cucumbers
2 teaspoons of salt
½ cup of cider vinegar
2 tablespoons of cold water
1 teaspoon of sugar
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 scallions – sliced thin

What you do:

Peel the cucumbers and slice VERY thin. Sprinkle with the salt and set aside for 20 minutes. Drain well. Mix together the vinegar, water, sugar and pepper. Add to the cucumbers with the scallions. Mix well and chill for 2 hours before serving.

Lils Chicken Parm

Growing up vegetarian, I ended up in a funny position when in my first adult relationship; I wanted to make dinner for my new boyfriend and realized I had no idea how to cook meat! This recipe – originally based off of the Chicken Parmesan from The Joy of Cooking, was the first meat based recipe that I tackled. Throughout the years, I have altered it here and there and I’ll be honest, this used-to-be-veggie-girl makes a damn fine chicken parm! The instructions might seem a bit outlandish but follow them to a t and you will blow your friends away!

What you’ll need:

Chicken breasts (boneless, skinless – ideally free-range and organic)
All purpose flour
Bread crumbs
Garlic powder
Parmesan cheese (grated fine like powder)
Fresh Parsley
Fresh Basil
Salt and Pepper
One yellow onion
An egg or two (depending on how much chicken you’re making)
A whole bunch of fresh garlic cloves
Pasta Sauce (your favorite marinara)
Olive oil or Safflower oil
Smoked mozzarella cheese

What you do:

Take a handful of the parsley (sans the stems) and dice it up really finely. Add it to a medium mixing bowl. Add breadcrumbs (you’re going to need to eyeball the amount that you think you will need to cover the amount of chicken you’re making), salt and pepper (If you have grinders, I usually do about 5 twists of each), about 1 teaspoon of garlic powder and 2-3 tablespoons of parmesan cheese. Mix this up with your hands – it’s your crust – and it should be colorful!

After unpacking the chicken breasts, I like to cut off the white veins of fat and any extra fatty area’s around the outside. Take a piece of wax paper and put each chicken breasts on it (one at a time), lay another piece of wax paper on top of the chicken and then beat said chicken with the bottom of the pasta sauce jar. You don’t want to make it too thin…you’re simply tenderizing that chicken – it will expand! After your chicken has been tenderized, toss each breast in flour (shaking off any excess).

In a small bowl crack the egg, add a bit of water from the tap and beat the water/egg mixture. Dip the floured chicken into egg mixture so that it’s coated and then transfer the breast to the bowl with your crust mix. Press the crust onto the chicken with your fingers – make sure each breast is totally covered.

In a non-stick pan, add the oil and cook at medium – you want to sear each breast for about one minute or 90 seconds on either side – you want the crust to be golden brown but don’t worry about cooking the chicken all the way through – this will happen during the time in the oven.

Pour your marinara into a small saucepan, add about half of a yellow onion (diced), a handful of torn up basil leaves, and 2 crushed cloves of garlic. Let this simmer until the onions are tender. Pour some of the prepped sauce into the bottom of a 9X13 baking pan so that a thin layer spreads across the bottom. Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top of the sauce. Arrange your chicken breasts tetris style, so that they fit in a way that works best for the pan. Pour the rest of the sauce across the chicken. Slice the smoked mozzarella in thick slices (about 1/3 of an inch thick) – and cover each piece of chicken with a slice (or a few!) of mozzarella (it is ESSENTIAL that this is smoked mozzarella). Sprinkle the whole pan with parmesan cheese. Finally, peel 5 cloves of garlic – leave them whole or if they’re really large, cut them in half. Pop these into the sauce around the chicken so they’re hidden evenly. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

Dessert Recipes
our 5 picks

Celia’s Oatmeal Cookies

It’s almost sinful how much bake-sale money I raised in high school with this next recipe. Literally I would just put up a sign that read “Lily’s Mom’s Cookies!” and these delicious variations of a traditional cookie would be gone! I hope that they bring you as much joy and luck as they’ve brought me!

What you’ll need:

1 ¼ cups butter (melted)
¾ cup brown sugar (we whip this up with some white sugar and molasses)
½ cup white sugar
1 egg
½ teaspoon (ish)
almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1/3 teaspoon ginger powder
1/3 teaspoon all spice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
3 cups old fashion uncooked oats

What you do:

Set your oven to 375 degrees. Blend the melted butter and sugars (brown and white) together until fluffy. Add in the egg and the extracts. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Mix both bowls together and then stir in the oats. On a parchment paper covered cookie sheet, drop spoon sized dollops and bake for 8-11 minutes.

Cloud Cookies

I named these cookies at age five – they’re easy, quick, gluten-free and a yummy, light sweet – perfect for summer! What’s even better is that they’re totally adaptable…right before baking, you can fold in walnuts or strawberry juice or our favorite, mini dark chocolate chips!

What you’ll need:

2 egg whites
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla
¾ cup white sugar

(optional: 1 6 ounce package of semi-sweet chocolate chips or ¼ cup of chopped walnuts)

What you do:

Beat egg whites, salt, cream of tartar and vanilla until soft peaks form. Add sugar gradually, beating until peaks are stiff. Fold in any additions. Cover a cookie sheet in parchment paper and drop dollops by the spoonful. Bake at 300 degrees for 25 minutes.

Candace’s Banana Birthday Cake

If you know our fearless leader, you are aware of her love of all things sweet – but in particular all things banana. So for her birthday, it seemed only appropriate that I make her the best banana cake in the world! This cakes is a sure-fire winner with some really cool culinary tricks that keep it super moist and fluffy. I made it with vanilla butter cream icing for Candace but a great cream cheese or cream fraiche icing would work nicely too!

What you’ll need:

1 1/2 cups banana’s, mashed and super ripe (I let a few get really brown and then threw them in my freezer. If you pull them out the night before, they’ll thaw up and they’re like liquid banana gold on the inside!)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
3 cups of flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup butter, softened
2 1/8 cups white sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ½ cups buttermilk

What you do:

Preheat your oven to 275 degrees. Grease and flour a 9X13 pan. In a small bowl, mix mashed bananas with the lemon juice and set aside. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking soda and salt and set aside. In a large bowl, cream ¾ cup butter and 2 1/8 cups sugar until light and fluffy.

Beat in eggs, one at a time and then stir in 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk. Stir in the banana mixture. Pour the batter into the prepped pan and bake for one hour or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and put directly into your freezer for 45 minutes. This will preserve the moisture like a magic trick!

Prepare your favorite icing (buttercream, cream cheese, crème fraiche, etc..) – and ice that cake! Beware, even after 45 minutes in your freezer, your banana cake will still be quite warm and the icing will melt a bit if you put it on right away!

Double Layer Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Butter Cream Icing

This was the very first dessert that I learned to bake growing up that wasn’t a recipe stolen from my mothers regular repertoire. If you have a chocolate lover in your life, I swear to you, this is the key to their heart. This cake is decadent, moist and truly a pure expression of chocolate. As far as chocolate cake goes, you will be hard pressed to find a better one anywhere!

What you’ll need:

1 ¾ cups unsifted flour
2 cups of white sugar
¾ cup Hershey’s cocoa
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoon baking power
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup of milk
½ cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water (you can also use coffee for a mocha effect- but I’ve always stuck to water)

What you do:

Grease and flour two square layer cake pans (or one 9X13 pan if you only want to do one layer), shake out the flour excess. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. While beating with an electric mixer (on medium) add in the eggs, milk, vegetable oil and vanilla extract. Stir in the boiling water. This batter will be very runny but don’t worry, It’s supposed to be like that!

Pour the batter into your prepped pan and bake for 35-40 minutes. If you want to make a super large cake – double this recipe and split between two 9X13 pans. As soon as you can stick a toothpick into the center of the cake and pull it out cleanly, take your cake(s) out and let them cool.

If you’re doing the double layer preparation, flip them upside down to release them from the pan once they’ve cooled. You’ll want a thick layer of the chocolate butter cream on top of the first cake, then carefully drop the second layer on top and cover the entire masterpiece generously with more chocolate buttercream.

Chocolate Buttercream Icing: Beat 6 tablespoons of softened butter in a large bowl until creamy. Add in 2 2/3 cups of confectioners’ sugar and ½ cup of cocoa until fully blended. Stir in 1/3 cup of whole milk a splash a time, stirring in between splashes. Add 1 ½ teaspoons of vanilla extract. Voila! (You may want/need to multiply this recipe for extra icing)

Emeril’s Coconut Cream Pie

Coconut is one of our favorite sweet flavors – it’s reminiscent of the Caribbean and summer cocktails and fluffy cupcakes and mermaid bra’s – really what is not to love?! We though including a delicious cream pie would be the perfect note to end this blog on… so below is a coconut cream masterpiece form our friend Emeril!

What you’ll need:

¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons of white sugar
3 cups of milk
4 eggs, separated
¼ cup of cornstarch
1 1/3 cups of sweetened flaked coconut
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon butter Pie crust (we recommend homemade!)

What you do:

In a nonstick 1-quart saucepan, combine ¾ cup of sugar and 2 ¾ cups milk together. Bring this up to a boiling point and scald the milk. In a small mixing bowl, whisk the remaining milk, egg yolks and cornstarch together until smooth. Temper the egg yolk mixture into the scalded milk. Bring the mixture back to a boil and cook for about 3 minutes or until it gets thick, stirring constantly. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in 1 cup of flakes coconut, vanilla and butter. Pour the filling into the prepared pie shell. Cover the pie with plastic wrap and refrigerate for two hours.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Using an electric mixer, whip the egg whites and remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar until stiff peaks form. Spread the meringue evenly over the top of the pie. Sprinkle the remaining 1/3 cup of coconut on top. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven and cool. Bon Appetite!

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