Lifestyle

Bringing home the cooking

Personal chef offers up Thanksgiving recipes

If meal planning and cooking has become a chore, why not think about hiring a personal chef, such as Susie Naye. This creative cook has dreamed up a new business that can help anyone have custom-made meals on the table in minutes.

Naye, a former Mercer Island resident, is a 37-year veteran of flying international routes with Pan Am and United. Now she is beginning another career as a personal chef. She says that she will give herself two years to turn this part-time business into a full-time one. It's called At Susie's Table, Personal Cooking For You.

Naye educated herself by enrolling in cooking classes -- first in Seattle and then in Paris, where she studied with Patricia Wells, noted cookbook author and restaurant critic for the International Herald Tribune.

``The kind of food I like to cook is initially influenced by memories of my mom's kitchen,'' explains Naye. ``But I have developed my own updated and creative touch, indicative of the French Provencal influence.''

Her cooking philosophy is creating dishes that emphasize freshness, healthy preparation and seasonally-available ingredients.

``I am offering nutritious, cost-effective meals,'' says Naye. ``It's also a stress-free alternative for the busy professional, two-income family, retired senior, new mom or simply someone who falls short of setting enough time aside to prepare dinner.''

She begins with an in-home consultation, complete with a food questionnaire.

``This enables me to establish my client's particular needs,'' she says.

Using the questionnaire as a guide, Naye prepares a menu.

``This way I can identify any special diet requirements, food preferences and portion sizes that are necessary,'' she says.

Naye cooks one or two week's worth of meals for a family in their home. She fills the family's refrigerator and freezer with the custom- prepared and labeled meals and leaves the kitchen spotless. She also writes up detailed preparation instructions that are easy to follow.

``My goal,'' says Naye ``is to give customized cuisine paired with unequaled service.'' Now that's a great recipe for success!

If you need Naye's services, contact her by e-mail at atsusiestable@aol.com or by telephone at 321-1871.

With the holidays approaching, I asked Naye for a few Thanksgiving recipe suggestions. I hope you enjoy them!

SUSIE NAYE'S GINGER PEAR CRANBERRY SAUCE

Makes 2 cups.

1 cup water

3 /4 cup sugar

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1 pear, peeled, cored and sliced

2 cups of whole cranberries

zest and juice of one lemon

Combine the first three ingredients in a saucepan. Stir until sugar dissolves and then boil for five minutes. Add the sliced pear. Reduce heat and simmer for three minutes. Add cranberries, lemon juice and zest. Simmer without stirring until the berries pop. Remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup amaretto liqueur. Cool.

CAULIFLOWER PUREE

Makes four average servings. Double or triple for a Thanksgiving crowd.

1 medium head cauliflower florets, chopped

2 small Yukon Gold potatoes, quartered

1 garlic clove, quartered

1 small shallot, sliced

2/3 cup chicken broth (or vegetable broth)

1/2 tsp. salt

white pepper to taste

freshly grated nutmeg to taste

2 Tbs. heavy cream

1 tsp. unsalted butter

Simmer cauliflower, potatoes, garlic, shallot, broth, salt and nutmeg in a small saucepan. Keep it covered until cauliflower and potatoes are very tender, about 15 minutes. Drain liquid off and reserve mixture.

Puree mixture with an immersion stick or mixer. Add cream and butter until smooth. Pile into a small casserole dish and either bake or microwave until hot.

BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH HONEY, MUSTARD, DRIED CRANBERRIES AND GOLDEN RAISINS

Naye recommends cutting the brussels sprouts after they are cooked into different-size pieces as they look more interesting that way piled into the dish. Serves 6 to 8.

2 lbs. brussels sprouts

2 Tbs. butter

1/4 cup honey

2 Tbs. Dijon mustard

1/4 cup dried cranberries and 1/4 cup golden raisins, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes to soften, and then drain

1/2 tsp. coarse salt or to taste

1/2 tsp. freshly-ground black pepper, or to taste

Using a sharp paring knife, trim the stem ends of the brussels sprouts, removing any wilted or brown leaves. Cut a shallow X in the stem end of each sprout to keep the leaves from separating. Soak the sprouts for 10 minutes in a bowl of lightly-salted cold water.

In a saucepan fitted with a steamer insert, steam the brussels sprouts over several inches of boiling water, covered overhigh heat for 8 minutes, or until almost tender. Drain and rinse with cold water until the sprouts turn bright green again.

When they are cool enough to handle, cut some into halves and some into quarters.

In a skillet, melt the butter and cook the sprouts for 1 minute. Mix the honey and mustard together in a small bowl and add them to the pan with the cranberries, raisins, salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until the brussels sprouts are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife.

BROCCOLINI WITH MUSTARD VINAIGRETTE

Broccolini is a cross between Chinese broccoli and broccoli. It has thinner stems than regular broccoli. This broccolini recipe is from ``Kosher by Design Entertains'' by Susie Fishbein. The dressing that accompanies it can be made up to a week in advance and kept in the refrigerator. Serves 6.

1 shallot

2 tsp. Chinese mustard or 1/4 tsp. dry mustard powder

2 Tbs. Dijon mustard

8 springs fresh thyme, remove the leaves and discard the stems

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup olive oil

1 lb. broccolini

Place the shallot, Chinese mustard, Dijon mustard, thyme leaves and vinegar in a blender or food processor. Pulse to blend. Drizzle in the olive oil and pulse to emulsify. Set aside.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Drop the broccolini into the water and cook for 4 -6 minutes, until it turns bright green and can be pierced with a fork; do not overcook. Remove broccolini from the boiling water pot and put into a bowl filled with cold water to prevent further cooking. Drain and pat dry with paper towels. Put on a plate and drizzle with some of the dressing. Serve at room temperature.

JEWELED TONED ORZO

This is a perfect side dish that goes well with poultry, from ``Kosher by Design Entertains.''

2 Tbs. margarine

2 large onions cut into 1/4-inch dice

1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice

1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice

8 ounces fresh sliced mushrooms

1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries, such as Craisins

1/4 tsp. sea salt

1/4 tsp. ground white pepper

1 Tbs. canola oil

1 (16 oz.) box orzo

1 1/2 tsp. chicken or vegetable bouillon powder

In a large pan, over medium heat, melt the margarine. Add the onions, peppers, mushrooms and dried cranberries. Sauté until softened, about 6 to 8 minutes, making sure not to let the vegetables brown or burn. Season with salt and white pepper. Set aside.

Meanwhile, in a medium pot, heat the oil. Add the orzo and toast until golden, stirring often. It now should be all different shades of brown and have a nutty aroma. Add a few inches of boiling water and bouillon over the rice. Cook until the orzo is al dente, about 8 to 9 minutes. If the water boils out and the orzo is too hard, add more hot water 1/2 cup at a time, stirring to make sure the orzo is not sticking to the bottom of the pot. Stir often until the orzo is done and the water has evaporated.

Combine the vegetables with the orzo. Serve hot or at room temperature.

8 to 10 servings.

SUSIE'S PRALINE AND YAM CASSEROLE

Makes 6 to 8 servings of the most delicious yams.

4 red yams or sweet potatoes, cooked, peeled and mashed

1 cube plus 2 Tbs. butter

2 eggs

1/2 cup hot milk

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 cup chopped pecans

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

1 tsp. vanilla

Mix the yams with a cube of butter. Add eggs and beat well. Add hot milk and 1/2 cup brown sugar. In a saucepan over low heat, melt the remaining 2 Tbs. butter. Add the cream, the remaining brown sugar, pecans, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Simmer uncovered and stir for five minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour yam mixture into a shallow Pyrex dish or attractive baking dish and then pour the topping over the yams. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes in a preheated 375 degree oven.

SUSIE'S ORANGE BISCOTTI WITH PISTACHIOS AND DRIED CHERRIES

Makes about 36 biscotti cookies that are a tasty dessert.

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/8 tsp. salt

1 stick of unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

grated orange zest from 2 medium oranges

1 tsp. vanilla extract and 1/2 tsp. orange extract

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups unsalted shelled pistachio nuts

1/3 cup dried cherries that have been chopped in the Cuisinart with 1/2 tsp. sugar

Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl; set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the butter, sugar, orange zest and vanilla. Using an electric mixer set on high speed, beat until well combined. Mix in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Reduce the speed to low, add the pistachios and dried cherries and mix in. Add in the flour mixture and mix just until incorporated. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, about one hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a large baking sheet. Divide the dough in half. On a lightly-floured surface and using lightly-floured hands, make into two long logs 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Arrange the logs on the prepared baking sheet, spacing them 5 inches apart. Bake until light brown and firm to the touch, about 30 minutes (the logs will spread during baking). Remove from the oven and let cool slightly on the baking sheet. Leave the oven set at 350 degrees.

Using a spatula, carefully transfer the logs to a work surface. Use a serrated knife and cut on the diagonal, into slices 3/4-inch thick. Arrange the slices, cut-side down, on the baking sheet and bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

PUMPKIN ICE CREAM PIE

Susie's hint is to make two and keep one in the freezer for any last-minute holiday company.

GRAHAM CRACKER PIE CRUST

1 3/4 cups graham crackers (about 20)

1/4 cup almonds

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 cup melted butter

Whirl the first three ingredients in a Cuisinart until finely ground. Add butter with the motor running. Press into a 10-inch or deep-dish pie plate. Add filling and freeze, loosely covered.

PUMPKIN ICE CREAM FILLING

1 cup canned pumpkin

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ginger

1/4 tsp. freshly-grated nutmeg

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

1 quart high-quality vanilla ice cream

Mix the above ingredients well and then fold in vanilla ice cream. Pour into graham cracker crust. Freeze until ready to serve.

Eileen Mintz can be reached by e-mail at eileenmintz@comcast.net or by telephone at 232-1984. December's column will be about baking for the holidays.

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