Gael Greene's "Power Luncheon for Women" is the culinary equivalent of Quincy Jones' "We Are the World." For the past 24 years, Gael has orchestrated formidable star power to raise money and support for Citymeals-on-Wheels. In so doing, millions and millions of dollars have helped feed New York's elderly and elevated the level of awareness of their plight to mythic proportion. Yesterday the event was held at the newly refurbished Pierre Hotel (now owned by the Taj Group from India). The meal was first-class and an extremely generous offering, made no doubt, by one of the world's great hoteliers, Raymond Bickson.
The event was full of power and heart. More than 400 women (and a smattering of men) gathered to praise the efforts of Gael Greene and Marcia Stein, who has been the executive director for years. Instead of singing we ate, and talked to women we never met before. Instead of planned seating, we each drew a number out of a big silver bowl and hoped for the best. But it is always the best when you make it so. I had the pleasure of sitting next to Ann Marie Borghese who, with her husband, bought the Hargrave vineyard on Long Island and created an exciting new venture, the "Borghese Vineyard & Winery." Next to me was a woman research scientist (a zoologist!), next to her an executive with American Airlines, next to her a lawyer who loves the organization, next to her Francine LeFrak, and so on. Gracing the stage were more formidable women, including glamorous Gael in her signature sailor's cap, Kathleen Turner, the screen icon and Citymeals board member who was a 2010 honoree (along with Diana Taylor, former chairwoman of the New York State Banking Board), Paula Zahn, and most importantly, on screen, some of the elderly who benefit daily from the hot meals and hugs delivered by the volunteers of Citymeals.
This event was first organized by James Beard, Gael Greene, Donald and Barbara Tober and other notables in the food world who fittingly decided to help "feed the forgotten." In the beginning, it was Joseph Baum and Michael Whiteman who were "the angels" who hosted the luncheon at the legendary Rainbow Room atop Rockefeller Center. Decades later, I am happy to say that the event is as elegant as ever and continues to inspire.
The mission statement reads: "Citymeals-on-Wheels provides a continuous lifeline of nutritious food and human company to homebound elderly New Yorkers in need, helping them live with dignity in their own familiar homes and communities." Simple and powerful.
So why not make a simple meal today and then make a simple contribution? It will taste doubly delicious.
In honor of the wonderful scallop dish served at the luncheon, I will share one of my favorite recipes from Radically Simple.
Seared Scallops on Sweet Pea Puree
This is one of the most beloved recipes from my original Recipes 1-2-3, but I've updated it with dry vermouth and a garnish of trendy pea shoots. It is a dish for any time of the year because frozen petits pois, always available, provide the base of the lovely buttery puree.
10 ounces frozen petits pois, thawed
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
20 medium-large sea scallops
3 tablespoons dry vermouth
handful of pea shoots, mache, or microgreens
Put the peas in a saucepan with water to cover. Boil 2 minutes. Drain well and save 6 tablespoons cooking liquid. Put the peas, 2 tablespoons butter, and the cooking liquid in a blender. Puree until very smooth and thick. Add salt and pepper. Return to the saucepan. Keep warm. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet. Season the scallops and sear over high heat 2 minutes per side until golden and just cooked through. Spread the warm pea puree in the center of 4 large plates. Arrange the scallops on the puree. Add the vermouth and the remaining butter to the skillet. Cook over high heat until syrupy, 30 seconds. Pour over the scallops and top with pea shoots. Serves 4