My Last Meal

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I’m not dying nor on death row. My last meal is something I’ve occasionally thought of, especially while enjoying favorite foods or dining at a fabulous restaurant. Or I’ll see a beautiful meal on a food blog and think, “That could easily be my last meal!”

It’s not a morbid thing in my mind. My last meal is a happy, celebratory thing, because if I could plan my last meal, then I’d also have the ability to eat and drink like there’s no tomorrow, cause there wouldn’t be. It would be a day-long meal of happy eating and drinking.

Upon rising, I would enjoy coffee, as I have for decades. My day never starts without espresso. Maybe with a croissant with butter and seedless raspberry jam.

Two perfectly-cooked soft-boiled eggs.

Chicago pizza. From Giardano’s, cause they deliver.

Next would be warm, boiled, fresh potatoes with unsalted butter and slices of Fontina or Taleggio or Morbier. Or all three.


Then mimosas with my two daughters.

An everything bagel with lox and cream cheese. And I’d eat the whole bagel.

A baked Brie with a cherry chutney, and good bread.

I’d stop for some fresh spring radishes spread with unsalted butter and coarse salt.

Lasagna. No, make that pastitsio. Or both.

I’m not big on sandwiches, but my last day-long meal would have to include a BLT. Good uncured bacon, garden-fresh summer tomatoes, and lettuce.

Chips with fresh salsa, spicy queso, and guacamole. And a Pacifico.

Paté. My mother’s recipe. Or foie gras, medium-rare, served on grilled bread.

Pasta Trapanese. Or maybe Puttanesca. Let me think. With a favorite pinot noir.

There would have to be a full raclette spread, with at least 6 friends.

Fire-grilled octopus. Maybe mixed with other fire-grilled seafood, but lots of octopus. And squid.

Then my husband’s burger, made by him, served on a brioche bun, toasted with butter. With lots of ketchup and mustard. Eaten with my husband.


A glass of Sauternes.

Roasted chicken, just out of the oven, cooked to perfection. I will eat it right out of the roasting pan.

Dim sum. All of it. Except chicken feet.

Last but definitely not least – a cheese platter, with all of my favorites old and new.

I’m not a big dessert eater, but I do love ice cream. I’d eat so much of it that I’d need a blanket to warm myself up!

And there would be lots of port. Or sherry. Or both.

So all of this is unlikely to happen, but maybe the point is, we can enjoy our meals like they are our last meals? Each and every one? Not to the point of gluttony, of course, 😬

The French have it figured out. Aperitif. Long lunches. Fabulous food. Wine. Hors D’oeuvres. Dinner. Often with friends. Definitely with family. Dessert. Dégustation.

A croissant or crème caramel isn’t viewed by the French as calories or with guilt, unlike us Americans. It’s about enjoyment and moderation. My mother, at age 91, still enjoys chocolate every day, and a cookie.

Let’s enjoy our meals. You never know – one will be our last.

Roasted Veg Vinaigrette

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Vinaigrettes are equally as important to me as their salad counterparts. With a proper choice of ingredients, one can really make a salad burst with flavor with a perfectly paired vinaigrette.

I’ve posted before on vinaigrettes made with reduced beet juice ( think salad of crunchy vegetables, lentils and goat cheese) and a vinaigrette made with a fresh pear (think baby greens with apples, bacon, and blue cheese).

I’ve posted on a vinaigrette made with strawberry vinegar, one made with pineapple juice, vinaigrettes with parsley or curry powder… the list is really endless because the possibilities are endless.

Recently I was inspired by a vinaigrette recipe made with roasted onion and shallot. And I got to thinking what I could add to that… because I can’t leave a recipe alone. This is one I created.

Beyond roasting the vegetables, which is left to your oven, the rest is easy!

Make a triple batch! You’ll love how versatile this is not only as a vinaigrette but as a marinade, or served with grilled leeks or asparagus.

Roasted Vegetable Vinaigrette

1 purple onion, peeled, quartered
1 red bell pepper, trimmed, de-seeded, cut into 8ths
6 shallots, peeled, halved
6 cloves garlic, peeled
Olive oil, divided
Salt
Pepper
Red wine vinegar
Tabasco sauce (optional)

Preheat the oven to a roast setting, or 400 degrees F.

Place the onion, red bell pepper, shallots and garlic cloves on a jelly roll pan or rimmed roasting sheet. Generously drizzle olive oil over the vegetables, about 1/4 cup. Season with salt and pepper.


Roast until vegetables show some caramelization and are tender. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool.

Place all of the vegetables and olive oil into a blender jar.

Blend until smooth, adding another 1/4 cup or so of olive oil.

Then add the red wine vinegar. I’m not offering amounts in this recipe, only because I like my vinaigrettes strongly vinegar-flavored. Most people I’ve cooked for do not.

If you want some zing, add some Tabasco sauce, taste away, and season more if necessary. I added more salt.

Make sure the vinaigrette is smooth. If you use cruets for your vinaigrettes, you are familiar with the problem with one little piece of garlic clogging the spout!

The salad I created to showcase this vinaigrette was simple. Butter lettuce, crab, avocado, green onions, and black sesame seeds.


It was a perfect pairing of tastes and textures.

I was lucky enough to have frozen crab legs left over from the holidays, so I used that crab. But grilled shrimp or scallops would also be divine.

Note: This recipe actually makes a fabulous dipping sauce if you omit the vinegar.

Crab Dip

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As much as I don’t want to admit this factoid, the crab dip I prepared for the blog is a Martha Stewart recipe.

What she calls “Hot Crab Dip” is out of the cookbook “Martha Stewart’s Hors D’oeuvres Handbook,” which was published in 1999.

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She might not have been a convict at the time the book was published, but my reluctance to ever buy any of her cookbooks was based on her attitude that I’ve witnessed on tv, not because she was a jailbird. I’m all for confidence and knowledge, which she definitely exudes, but it’s her haughtiness that turns me off. Something us Americans might call snottiness.

But somehow this hors d’oeuvres cookbook appealed to me and I purchased it. At the time I was doing a lot of catering, and most of my parties were of the “finger food” variety, not sit-down dinner parties. And honestly, the cookbook was inspirational to me, as much as I don’t want to admit it.

I think Ms. Stewart may have been the first to use serious food styling in cookbooks; food magazines had been doing it for a while. The photos in this book are stunning. And they’re a little misleading.

I remember talking to a bride-to-be about her wedding reception food, and she opened up bookmarked pages from this same cookbook. She showed me photos of little cucumber cups, carefully carved out with a melon baller, hollowed out cherry tomatoes, and my favorite – glasses filled with equal-length celery, asparagus, cucumbers, yellow runner beans, jicama, carrots, and green onions.
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It was certainly pretty in the photographs, but for 250 people I had to explain to the young lady that all of the prep work would take hours and hours. And hours. Wouldn’t she rather spend money on actual food than my time spent carving vegetables?

In any case, I’d never made a crab dip until I saw the one in this cookbook, so I guess I must thank Martha Stewart. Because it’s served warm, it’s a great dip in the winter time, and has always been a crowd pleaser.

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So here is the original recipe.

Hot Crab Dip
Makes 3 1/2 cups

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium shallots, minced
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
1/4 cup 1/2 and 1/2
8 ounces cream cheese, cut into small pieces
4 ounces sharp white Cheddar cheese, grated
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
10 ounces lump crabmeat, picked over for cartilage*
1/2 cup chopped parsley
2 slices white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon paprika

Have your crab meat prepared. I had to use frozen crab legs, thaw them, remove the meat from the shells, and then pat them dry with paper towels. Chop finely.


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F with the rack in the center.
Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until soft, about 2 minutes.
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Add 1 tablespoon of water and simmer for 30 seconds. (I don’t remember ever doing this!)

Stir in the cayenne, Old Bay, and dry mustard until well combined. Pour the 1/2 and 1/2 into the saucepan and bring to a simmer.
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Slowly whisk in the cream cheese, a few pieces at a time. When the cream cheese is fully incorporated, whisk in the Cheddar cheese a bit at a time.

(When you’re melting cheese like this, do it at the lowest temperature. It takes time, but you don’t want to “cook” the cheese, only melt it. And keep stirring.)

Stir the mixture for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the lemon juice and Worcestershire and stir to combine. Add the crabmeat and half of the parsley and stir.


Transfer the mixture to an ovenproof baking dish and sprinkle with the bread pieces.

Dot the top of the bread pieces with the remaining tablespoon of butter. Sprinkle with the paprika. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes, until the bread pieces are golden and the dip is hot.


Garnish with the remaining parsley. I served the dip warm with pita chips.
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As an alternative, use pre-made phyllo cups for a fancier presentation. Fill them up with the hot crab dip and serve!
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The phyllo crunch and the creamy dip is a lovely combination. And these are bite size! Just make sure to fill the cups at the last minute so they don’t get soggy.

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* Fresh crabmeat is difficult for me to get my hands on, and frozen crab is waterlogged, but what I won’t use is that nasty fake crab made from sweetened white fish, that is shaped in to rubbery pieces to mimic actual crab legs, shown below.

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note: Although the first time I made this I probably followed the recipe, I’ve never since included the bread topping. I used 3 tablespoons of butter, melted, mixed with about 1/3 cup of Panko bread crumbs and sprinkled the mixture on to the crab dip, followed by the paprika.