Are any there Iranian comedies? Maybe they just don't get shown abroad. "Chicken with Plums" has a few amusing moments, but don't worry, it's really a deeply sad parable. A violinist pines after a long lost love, remaining indifferent to his loving wife and children. And worse, he can't enjoy his favorite dish, the Persian standby, chicken with plums. 

But you will...and so easy to make.

Traditionally, dried plums or prunes are used for this recipe and you can certainly use them, but now that it's plum season try fresh. Raid the market, shake the tree. If the plums are very sweet or very sour, adjust the honey accordingly. 

1 1/2 fresh pitted plums, or dried 

2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 whole cloves

the juice and zest of one lemon

2 cups chicken broth, or water is ok 

4 whole chicken legs

one onion peeled and diced

olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350.

Heat the olive oil in a casserole.

Brown the legs and onion.

Remove from pan.

Add the other ingredients, except the plums and bring to a boil. 

Add the plums. 

Return the onion and chicken to the pot. 

Cook, covered for an hour.

Serve with Persian rice, couscous, plain rice, or quinoa. All are good. 

Tonnata Sauce from "The Dinner"

Herman Koch's "The Dinner" is a best selling book about parenting. But it's no explanation of fun ideas for family meals. Rather it's a chilling story of family dynamics, politics, modern eating pretensions, and murder. The setting is Holland but it could be anywhere. A Dutch film by the same name was made recently and Cate Blanchett is supposedly going to direct an English version.

Two brothers and their wives go to a fancy restaurant to eat delicacies while discussing a matter of extreme delicacy. The loathing the narrater has for his waiter and how he describes the meal and all the current culinary obsessions in detail is very funny. Some of the foods they enjoy are pink champagne, sweetbreads and chanterelles, vitello tonnato, "homemade" blackberries with chocolate shavings and many more.

We're not going to make vitello tonnata because I live in California and you can barely find the veal to make the dish. I use pork tenderloin. Although Marcella Hazan might spin in her grave, I use the tonnata as a sauce to make a lunch or picnic dish of roasted pork tenderloin, hardboiled eggs, and an array of vegetables. I served this as a Mother's Day lunch while the dads took the children away...Bliss.

Tonnata Sauce

2 tins tuna, high quality, preferably Italian

extra virgin olive oil

gourmet mayo (this would make Marcella Hazan jump right out of her grave)

3 to 5 anchovies, optional 

3 tablespoons capers

3 tablespoons lemon juice and zest of lemons 

salt and pepper

Blend the tuna, capers, lemon juice, zest and anchovies til smooth. Add the mayo and blend until just combined. If too thick you can add olive oil. Season, being careful about the salt.

Pork Tenderloin

Rub with olive oil and salt and pepper.

Roast at 450 for 20 minutes.

Vegetable ideas:

radishes

small tomatoes

eggs, boiled and peeled and sliced or quartered

snow peas, lightly blanched

asparagus, lightly blanched

Bell pepper slices

Belgian endive

carrots, peeled and sliced

cucumbers, peeled and sliced

celery, peeled and sliced

Place everything on a platter or individual plates and let diners serve themselves the sauce.

This makes a great sandwhich spread as well!

'Tis the season for apricots, so I include this simple recipe inspired by a mention of Apricots a la Portuguese in Allegra Goodman's The Cookbook Collector. Part of the story is about a young woman who collects cookbooks but doesn't actually cook nor live her life fully in other ways.  

1/3 cup water

1/2 cup port

1/4 cup honey

1 cup dried apricots or if using fresh, pitted

A sprig of fresh or a light scattering of dried thyme

Pepper to taste

Add the ingredients in a saucepan and cook briefly until the apricots are tender and a syrup has formed. The dried apricots will take longer to soften. You can remove the fresh apricots from the sauce once they're tender and boil the remaining syrup a little until it is thick. Cool. Serve alongside pates or cheese with crusty bread or crackers. It's also good as a grown-up dessert sauce for ice cream, pudding, custard, or pound cake. 

Marble Pudding

Marble Pudding

Kids love unusual, inaccurate, and funny names for food. Toad in the Hole, Welsh Rabbit, and Marble Pudding.

There are no marbles in marble pudding so a trip to the dentist isn't imminent. Marble just refers to the interweaving of two colors and flavors. Marble cake is a combination of chocolate and vanilla doughs. And marble pudding is the layering of vanilla and chocolate pudding.  With a nice sprinkling of chocolate chips on the top.

First make the vanilla pudding:

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1/2 cup sugar

A pinch of salt

2 cups whole milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

Equipment:

2 whisks

A saucepan

Measuring spoons

Measuring cups

A pretty serving bowl or individual serving bowls

1) Boil ½ cup sugar and 1 ¾ cup milk in the saucepan. 

2) Reduce the heat.

3) Add the cornstarch to ¼ cup of the milk and stir until dissolved.

4) Add the dissolved cornstarch to the milk and sugar.

5) Heat until thick, stirring constantly.

6) When thick, taste to assure that there is no cornstarch flavor.

7) Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.

Chocolate Pudding

1) Use all the same ingredients but include 2 ounces or more bittersweet chocolate chips.

2) Melt the 1 ounce of the chocolate chips in the microwave.

3) Repeat the vanilla pudding instructions except add the melted chocolate to the warm milk mixture and blend.

4) Add vanilla and cool.

5) Place in a bowl or bowls alternating chocolate and vanilla pudding. Decorate with chocolate chips.

I go again to the appetizing novel  "The Suitors",  this time for a tomato and olive tart.

This recipe is based on one from Martha Stewart which I use all summer long for brunches, picnics, and potlucks. This is perfect If making or rolling pastry intimidates you. 

1 1/2 pounds ripe summer tomatoes

Nicoise, greek or other black olives

1/4 cup olive oil

2 cups fresh bread crumbs

fresh or dried basil

2 eggs

salt and pepper.

Pre-heat oven to 450.

Take two cups of fresh breadcrumbs, ideally Olive Bread, although a French or Italian loaf will do. 

Toss until coated with good olive oil.

Press into a springform or tart pan or indivdual tart or springform pans.

Whisk ricotta with 1/2 cup or more grated Parmesan, 2 large eggs, salt and pepper, shredded fresh basil or a teaspoon of dried.  

Scoop the cheese mixture onto the bread crumb crust and gently spead.

Slice ripe summer tomatoes, allowing them to drain slightly. 

Place  prettily over the cheese and then place the olives. 

Salt and pepper and spray or brush some olive oil over the top. 

Bake for 25-45 minutes depending on the size of the pan you use.

After removing from the oven let sit for ten minutes, then carefully unmold. 

Serve warm or room temperture with a garlicky salad for a simple lunch or as part of an array of summer dishes. 

Dine with Madeline

I like to give literary-themed parties for my daughter.  This year I threw a Madeline Party. It's a particularly easy party to do, even if you can't cook! It's even simple enough to create anytime you watch a Madeline movie or read some of the classic Madeline books with your kids. 

My menu was:

Crudites with Ranch

Mini Croque-Monsieurs

Strawberries

Brie and Baguettes

Laughing Cow Cheeses

Mini Quiches from the frozen food section of the grocery store

Madeleines from Trader Joe's 

And macarons from Trader Joe's

Bottled French Lemonade

Champagne and pate for the grown-ups 

For the croque monsieurs, I made a bechamel, but white bread with slices of ham and some grated gruyere, tossed under the grill until melted would do just fine.