I am so excited to tell you about a new series that we will be hosting here on the Philly Burb Moms sites every Friday afternoon! Zareen Fidlon writes a wonderful cooking blog called Cooking with Z and every Friday she is going to share some of her wonderful Easy Entertaining tips to get you ready to host your weekend guests.
We wanted to let you know a little bit about Zareen, so she was kind enough to agree to an interview with us. Here’s what she had to say:
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family, Zareen.
I currently live in Chester County although I was born and raised in Bala Cynwyd, Montgomery County. My family includes my wonderful and supportive husband, who is my partner in everything including business (for the last 8 years we have run an advertising agency together), my sassy and full of personality 4 year old daughter and my loving and analytical 6 year old son. Oh and a cat, a fish, a hermit crab and a 26 year old frog. I love to cook for and with my family. My husband is also my loyal dishwasher. We have a deal – I cook (he doesn’t like to) and he does the dishes (I don’t like to). Works for me! My son is my sous chef and taste tester. He also loves to pick out recipes for us to make together. My daughter is my part-time sous chef… as long as we are making something sweet.
2. When did your interest in cooking begin?
I always loved to bake but didn’t really get into cooking until I first got married. I had gotten all these great kitchen gadgets, pots and pans, cookbooks etc for my wedding that I had a blast trying out. Then I had a car accident and was laid up at home for weeks. I basically spent those weeks watching the Food Network and noted tons of recipes. I couldn’t wait to get better and try them all out. And it took off from there.
3. Why did you decide to start blogging about your cooking experiences?
I love to cook and create and share my cooking and recipes with my friends. My son often serves as my sous chef and he really wanted him and me to open a restaurant in our home. The blog is something fun where I can create, cook and share and according to my son the next best thing to my opening a restaurant. I also got the encouragement to start Cooking With Z from my best friend and blogging expert Mommies With Style (AKA Whitney Wingerd), who was at my house one day when I was cooking and said you should do this, let’s set it up now, and she did, and Cooking With Z was born. And for that I thank her because I absolutely love it! While my blog is new, I am not new to blogging. I have been a contributor to Mommies With Style for the last few years.
4. Where do you find inspiration for your recipes?
My inspirations come from so many different places. I basically love to create and eat. Sometimes I will pick a seasonal ingredient and work a bunch of dishes around that. For example, this summer I did a lot with peaches. I am constantly looking at different recipes on-line for inspiration and quite often will take parts of different recipes to create what sounds good to me. Another way I often arrive at inspiration are my cravings. A couple of years ago, we were wine tasting in the Finger Lakes and one winery we visited was making homemade tomato sauce in the backroom. The aroma got to me and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The day we got home I created my own version of tomato sauce and meatballs. I will also look to see what I have on hand and throw a bunch of things together and see what I get. It is so fun to play with different flavors and ingredients and see what works.
5. What are some of your favorite dishes to make?
I have so many and they usually vary from season to season. I make a lot of soups because they are usually really healthy and perfect to keep in the fridge for lunches and because they can be so easy you can pretty much make them from things you have in the house. This summer my favorite dish has been this honeydew and green tomato salad from Epicurious. It is so delicious and refreshing. It makes an awesome side dish and is incredibly easy and fast to prepare. It also served as the inspiration for my chilled cucumber and honeydew soup. Once you try something that works there are so many variations you can create.
Honeydew Melon & Tomatillo Salad
adopted from Epicurious
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons raw green (hulled) pumpkin seeds
- 2 tablespoons plus 1/4 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoon finely chopped seeded fresh jalapeño pepper
- 12 oz. Tomatillos – chopped into bite size pieces
- 1/2 honeydew melon – chopped into bite size pieces
- 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
Toast cumin in a dry small heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly. It will darken a little – about 1 minute. Place the cumin in a small bowl. Add in vinegar, jalapeno, ¼ teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper and 2 tablespoons olive oil.
Add pumpkin seeds to skillet that the cumin seeds were in and heat, stirring constantly, until they are lightly puffed about 2 minutes. Transfer seeds to a small bowl and stir in 1/4 teaspoon oil and a little salt.
Toss dressing with tomatillos, melon, and cilantro. Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds.
6. You are going to start contributing easy entertaining tips and recipes for us on Fridays. Can you start us off with one of your favorite easy entertaining tips or recipes?
Absolutely. My favorite rule of thumb when entertaining is that I try to prepare and prep as much as I can beforehand. I always include dishes that can be mostly prepared in advance. This way when your guests arrive you can spend your time relaxing and enjoying each other’s company. Your attention can be focused where it should be – on your guests. You can easily put together a quick appetizer spread so you can concentrate your time on dinner. A cheese plate is quick and easy and everyone loves it. Make sure to get a variety of cheeses – hard, soft, creamy. Dress the plate up with fruit, dried or fresh, or a combination and put out some fresh bread and/or crackers. You can purchase some store bought hummus, put it in a bowl, and dress it up with a little pesto, chopped sundried tomato, or olive oil and toasted pine nuts on top. I am currently loving Edamame Hummus (which I pick up at Wegmans). I serve the hummus with Stacy’s Pita Chips. And then you can just make one or two simple appetizers to go with it. Here’s a simple appetizer that I have had in my repertoire for years:
Fig and Goat Cheese Tartlets
Frozen Tartlet Shells (recommended Athens Mini Tartlet Shells)
Log of Goat Cheese
½ cup Toasted Walnut Halves
Thaw the tartlet shells according to package directions.
In the bottom of each shell place about 1 ½ teaspoons of the goat cheese. Top with a dollop of the fig jam.
Top each tartlet with a toasted walnut half.
To toast walnuts: Place walnuts in a dry pan over medium-heat. Shake the pan constantly so as not to allow the walnuts to burn, until walnuts are light brown and toasted. This will take only a couple of minutes.
We are delighted that Zareen will be providing us with ways to make delicious, easy foods for our families and friends starting next Friday! In the meantime, you can find Zareen whipping up more yummy eats at Cooking with Z!