Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Thinking Caviar

I was reminded that when one thinks of Eartha Kitt one thinks of caviar and champagne, not anchovies and pasta. As the New Year approaches one hopes that caviar will make an appearance at parties, even if it is the humble (but delicious) Salmon Roe.

The simplest pairing is a blini with a touch of sour cream and some chives. Nothing more is needed but a glass of crisp champagne to hail a New Year. If you can make a pancake, you can make a blini.

2/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
pinch of sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 large egg plus 2 large egg yolks
1/3 cup of heavy cream
5 grinds of black pepper

Whisk together. Batter may be a bit lumpy, don't worry. If it is super thick, thin with a touch of water. Get your pan hot with a little peanut oil and drop a tablespoon at a time on the pan or griddle. Cook for about 2 minutes until brown on the bottom, bubbly on top. Turn and cook for another minute.

These are enough blini for a party so if you are making fewer cut the recipe in half.

I won't wish you a happy new year...that's too much pressure to put on a person. How can one expect an entire year of happiness? I wish for you that any bad times you have, will help you know the good times when they are there. Appreciate the good times.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Eartha Kitt, the most exciting woman in the world

"I am Eartha Mae," she announced as I walked into her hotel suite. "Eartha Kitt is a character I play and I am happy to talk about her, no one enjoys her as much as I, but I could not be her all the time, it would be exhausting." And thus began my afternoon with Eartha Kitt.

I was working for a small weekly in San Francisco called "Spirit of the City." The publicist at the Venetian room very kindly granted my request for an interview.

Fascinated by all of the exotic locations she had visited I began by asking her about Paris and the early years. She told me many stories and at one point ran over to the desk to get a piece of paper. She asked me where she should eat while in San Francisco.

I confessed that I didn't have the budget for Filet and Champagne and had no where to refer her to. She laughed, "When I first arrived in Paris I knew nothing of caviar and champagne and had no budget for either. My favorite meal was one of my first. After a long day of rehearsal I was very hungry and I wandered into a cafe. They brought me the wine of the house and I pointed to a dish and ordered it, Pot au Feu, I was so surprised when they brought me a boiled chicken with vegetables. I think it was the first time I had tasted leeks and the chicken and broth were so delicious. So many times it is the simple food I crave, tell me where you eat."

So I did, I told her where to get a great Mission style burrito, good Chinese food and one of my favorite Italian Restaurants. She wrote them all down. Food, travel and politics were the topics of the day, almost no time spent on the questions I had written down. Listening to her keen mind go from topic to topic was far more interesting than anything I could have imagined.

After almost three hours she looked at her watch and told me that she had to eat a little bite and then get ready for her show. The tapes had run out but she ordered fruit and tea and invited me to join her. We continued to talk until she had to go take care of her transformation into Miss Kitt.

Towards the end of her run she got my telephone number from the Hotel publicist and called me. She thanked me for the food recommendations and told me how much she had loved the anchovy sauce at Basta Pasta. It was a special I had told her about, and though it was not on the menu the day she went in, the Chef made it for her at her request, and she loved it. This led to a conversation about how anchovies can so wonderfully enhance so many dishes.

The last time I saw Miss Kitt was a few months ago at the Carlyle, she was in strong voice and delighted to be performing. We sat me at a front table and she played with and flirted with myself and a friend. For almost forty years I was in her audience and at every show she always went around and thanked everyone for coming.

With Basta Pasta's indulgence....

Anchovy Sauce Eartha Kitt
4 cloves garlic finely chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 pound butter
2 tablespoons capers chopped
8 anchovies
Juice of a half lemon
10 basil leaves chopped
Black Pepper
Parmesan grated.

Saute the garlic in the olive oil til soft, add the butter and the anchovies and let the fish melt into the butter. Stir in remaining ingredients. Drizzle on fish, chicken or toss with pasta. Top with freshly ground black pepper and a sprinkle of Parmesan.

I made this on Saturday and served it with a simple wine. We raised our glasses to Eartha Mae Kitt, the most exciting woman in the world.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Judy Merrick's Retro-Noir Cocktail Sauce

Judy Merrick gets a nod for her spot on homage/parody of a Film Noir tramp/goddess. Currently appearing in End Time's Naked Holidays as Santa's second wife Wanda. She plays the kind of dame whose just a little beat up by life, the kind who could get all crazy for a guy who would take her out and buy her a shrimp cocktail and a glass of champagne. She plays it so well, so authentically that we have to make this sauce from a fresh tomato, nothing canned, and no catsup for this dame.

Juice of one lemon
2 fresh ripe Roma tomatoes
2 T. Worcestershire sauce
2 T. Horseradish
1 T. pepper sauce
1 tablespoon celery seed
Put all ingredients into the food process and pulse until pureed.

This is a fresh, zesty and lively sauce, for a fresh zesty and lively performance. As for the rest of the show. Despite the provocative title (that has literally nothing to do with the show's content) it was pretty bland. Nothing went far enough, was edgy enough or dangerous enough to qualify as comedy or parody. But sometimes a single dame can make everything worth it. A toast to Judy.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Wines for Maggie

Maggie has recently begun the transition from white to red wine, she doesn't want to drink anything to heavy and nothing dry.

For the red newbie here's a list of friendly wines to try before you move onto Bordeaux.
Beaujolais, and I am not talking about the new stuff that comes out every Thanksgiving, but the Beaujolais Village and the Beaujolais Cru, they are more developed than the 'New' with more complexity but are never super dry or intimidating.

Gamay Noir is another selection that many white drinkers come to favor for it's simple fruit, light body and ability to be served chilled.

California Pinot Noir can also be a wonderful choice for those new to red. It tends to be light in style and can easily be served with salmon or other flavorful fish.

A Chianti may have a bit more heft but with Italian food it's fruity charms can be considerable. The bright acid is appealing to many who favor the pale stuff.

Taste, enjoy and let me know what you end up loving.

Forensic Recipe Reconstruction/Pumpkin Sauce

It is no secret that I have spent much of my time learning from my elders. I began with my own grandparents and have sought out the old men and women all over the world that hold the food traditions of their region in their heads and hands. So many things are not in cookbooks but are integral to the taste of the dish as made by these cooks.

One thing that I love to do is help people get into writing tastes and flavors they remember from those who had passed on. I call this service Forensic Recipe Reconstruction. By asking a multitude of questions, not only about the tastes and textures of the finished dish but the heritage of the person who prepared it I can often re-create the dish and put the steps on paper, much to the delight of the descendants.

I had one recently that was almost too easy. I got a phone call from a young man who had lost his grandmother. He was trying to re-create her fried chicken, he had watched her make it at least 100 times, he had written down the herbs and spices she used. Each time he made it it was ALMOST what he wanted and his frustration was palpable. After I asked him a few questions about his grandmother I asked him if he ever saw a coffee can near the stove.

"Yea, it would go from the stove to the refrigerator after breakfast every day."

Fry the chicken in bacon fat, not vegetable oil.

He did and called me back overjoyed. THAT was grandma's chicken. He had learned every step except what fat she had used.

Another query was not so simple.

A young man called needing his Mother's recipe for 'sauce'. To his mind her Tomato Gravy was the best in the entire world, the only thing she made for him and her meatballs beyond compare.

The sauce variations are so personal I warned him that this would be the hardest recipe to re-create and I could easily fail. We might never know.

I got all the information from him I could including approximate cooking time based on the fact that she would leave work at noon to make this sauce. I looked in her cupboards for clues and they were almost devoid of seasonings, I opened a drawer and found a plethora of receipts from grocery stores. I asked if I could take them too look for clues. He agreed.

As I went through the receipts the answer became clear. In addition to all the frozen meals, twice a month there was a receipt for Ragu and chopped Gilroy garlic, along with Swedish meatballs from Ikea. Based on the shopping times I could see that the sauce simmered for no more than 90 minutes.

I went shopping, dumped it all together and invited him to taste. He almost cried, saying that I had it exactly. After he cleaned his plate I told him the 'recipe'. He was infuriated, claiming that I had ruined the memory of his mother and I shoulda kept my mouth shut. He never paid his bill and later sent me some hate mail.

The following is a successful recipe reconstruction from a Perugian Grandmother who made a pumpkin sauce for ricotta stuffed Ravioli. After a couple of tries I got the sauce down and made the grandson happy. This is really a delicious fall recipe.

1 1/2 cups pureed pumpkin
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
20 fresh sage leaves finely chopped
2 cloves fresh garlic finely chopped

Mix together and warm, pour over ravioli or double recipe and use as a sauce for an all cheese lasagna.

Instead of cheese to garnish try a few roasted ground hazelnuts.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A link to one of my recipes in the Daily News


As requested this link is being re-published, along with the original if horrific photo taken by the Daily News Staff photographer. I look like I am wearing a crooked fat mask of my face, but when standing next to a pasta covered in caviar who is looking at my face. I loved making this dish.

I got an e mail asking for a recipe based on Tom Cruise...I am not sure how to do that. It would have to be crazy and uninteresting at the same time. Maybe fruit cocktail topped with Miracle Whip, or Bologna on Wonder Bread.

I will consider naming some more dishes after special or interesting people.

Do follow the link and if you are looking for something very special for a holiday dinner this dish might suffice.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Wines for the New Depression: Trapiche Falling Star Merlot

This simple wine is Merlot blended with Malbec Argentina's premiere grape,

it is very low cost and a delicious party wine.

I first had a glass of this at a Spanish restaurant for 8 bucks a glass. For 8 bucks I felt ripped off. It was a nice fruit burst, but not an 8 buck a glass wine.

For 5 bucks a bottle it is a great party wine, I guess it is all perspective. When you are entertaining on the cheap, it works well and it pairs with a lot of party foods.

I kid you not this wine with Lipton Onion Dip and Chips is it's own form of heaven.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Sausage Rice on the Side

Okay, the photo is not very appetizing. Talk about a dish that needs some parsley, or a sprinkling of paprika, but as we all know sometimes the best things come in ugly packages.

I got an e mail over the weekend from Melissa who is doing a dinner party and more than half of her guests will be vegetarian. She wanted a side dish recipe that would include meat both for her and the other carnivores in the crowd.

This is just a simple variation of the New Orleans Dirty Rice that is so popular.

1/2 pound Italian Sausage (I get the spicy)
1 minced medium onion
1 minced clove of garlic
1 1/2 cup rice
3 1/4 cups water

If the sausage is in a casing cut the casing away and add to the water. Put on a glove, this part is messy. Mix the sausage into the water, like soup, you want the sausage to fall into little bits and not clump up. Once you have a mushy mess stir in the rice, onion and garlic and put on the stove to boil. When it comes to a big boil turn down to a low simmer, put the pot on the rice and leave alone for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave alone for 5, then get a fork and fluff and serve.

When I get in one of those moods I have been known to make a pot and top with some stewed okra and tomatoes and eat a big ole bowl. The New Orleans of my childhood may not exist anymore but with a bowl of this mess, you can believe the South will rise again.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Lemon Chicken Recipe

The month of December is an eating month and we tend to overindulge in the rich and delicious foods of the season. This lemon chicken recipe is elegant enough for holiday entertaining but easy enough for a Tuesday night at home. The light bright flavors are a great way to wake up your palate.

1 chicken thigh or breast per serving (boneless and skinless, partially frozen)
Juice of one lemon per serving
1 finely chopped garlic clove per serving
1 tablespoon of capers per serving
1 splash of white wine per serving
A sprinkling of flour

*If you like a sauce that has a hint of sweetness a touch of honey can be added.

When the thighs are partially frozen they are easy to slice. Try to get 8 slices out of each thigh with a serrated knife. Put between two sheets of plastic wrap and hit with a hammer a few times to thin. Once you have beaten your meat lightly salt, pepper and dust (do not drench) with flour. Sprinkle the flour as you would the salt, very lightly.

Heat some olive oil in a large pan and saute each slice just until cooked, approximately 4 minutes. Remove to a warm platter.

Turn heat HIGH, toss in the garlic and when soft, throw in the lemon juice, splash of wine and reduce. Throw in the capers and pour over the chicken and serve.

If you have a crisp Rose left over from the summer it would be beautiful with this dish.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Holiday Recovery Meal

The season of indulgence has begun. Whether it is too much onion dip at Sam Jones Holiday Christmas Party or just that general overstuffed feeling at Fusion on the Fly we have the recipe for the cure.

Seafood and Vegetables. Get some Tilapia, Salmon, or whatever fish you like and freeze in individual 4 ounce fillets. Buy a few ginger root and keep in the vegetable container of your frig. Stock some parchment paper in your pantry. Get a bag of frozen spinach and keep in the freezer and make sure you keep some garlic on hand. I am sure you have lemons or limes on hand for cocktails so you are ready to proceed.

Slice the ginger thinly and make a bed of it on a piece of parchment paper. Place the fish on top, sprinkle with salt and pepper and top with lemon or lime slices. You can add other seasonings or herbs if you like at this point. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and seal the edges of the parchment.

Bake 400 20 minutes.

The fish will be infused with ginger and citrus and you can serve it with some spinach sauteed with a bit of garlic. It's that easy, and you will feel better the next day when you have a bit too much of that delicious creamy brie and the office party.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Holiday Entertaining Artichoke and Olive Dip

Home entertaining, potlucks, parties; we are all in the entertaining mode this month. This Artichoke and Olive dip recipe is one of those ever popular, no fail dishes. It tastes great right out of the oven, at room temperature and even cold. Everyone but the Vegans will enjoy it and Peta be damned I don't worry too much about the vegans unless one is paying me to cater a party.

1 cup Gruyere cheese grated
1/2 cup Parmesan grated (hold back a bit)
1 cup sour cream
2 8 ounce blocks of cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 cloves of garlic finely chopped
1 14 ounce jar of artichokes drained and chopped
1 cup of olives chopped (black or green, but get real olives, not canned)

Mix it all together, use a spoon or put on a glove and squish it around. Put it in a baking dish and dust with the last of the grated cheese. Put in a pre-heated 350 oven for 30 minutes. It should be bubbly and delicious. Serve with pita bread, corn chips, or crackers.

Friday, November 28, 2008


Despite my best advice I know many of you went ahead and let Madison Avenue dictate your food tradition with the inevitable turkey. Now you have leftovers and want recipes that will make your turkey leftovers exciting. 

First, make sure all the meat is carved off of the bone. Throw the bones in a large stock pot with some garlic, onion, celery, carrots, salt and herbs and simmer all day. The house will smell incredible and you will have the basis for several good soups once it is strained. 

Now have your turkey sandwich, that's what you really wanted anyway. 

For dinner tonight mix half your leftover potatoes and all of your stuffing together. Make into small patties and press the patties into some panko bread crumbs. Warm some of the sliced turkey in the gravy and crisp the patties in a nonstick skillet with some olive oil. Serve with the warm turkey. 

TWO DAYS LATER: The stock is made and you are sick of the bird. Can you freeze it? Yes....layer the sliced turkey with chilled stock and freeze in airtight containers. A month from now you can have more sandwiches or some curried turkey salad. 

Oh no...still more potatoes...okay..

Take the rest of the mash and stir into some turkey stock. Now saute some leeks in butter and puree in a bit more stock and stir into the potato soup. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. Have with a salad, you really are NOT in the mood for heavy food right now. 

For the dressing take the cranberry sauce, add some oil, vinegar and mustard. It's really a good dressing. 

Now get to the gym, Mithras is coming.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Eat Your vegetables

It is the advice given to us by most of our mothers. The sad truth is that if your mother was anything like mine vegetables were viewed as a punishment rather than a pleasure. Often overcooked from cans or frozen vegetables were what I HAD to eat in order to get dessert.

Nutrition wise vegetables are our best source of almost everything. With obesity, especially among children at an all time high we really have to teach our children well. No one ever got fat from too many green beans.

Hiding vegetables in other dishes is the wrong approach. If you disguise your cauliflower in macaroni and cheese then you will teach your children to eat Mac and cheese, not cauliflower. Those cookbooks should be thrown in the garbage. Instead take a fresh approach to the vegetable word and try things. Those of us without kids can benefit from a new approach to our green friends as well.

Kids often don't like bitter. Steaming brings out the bitterness in veggies. Roast, saute, sauce a little bit. Vegetables should be a delicious delight, not a torture course.
Kid Friendly Green Beans
Take 1 lb of green beans (have your kids snap the ends off, they will love it)
2 ripe Roma tomatoes diced
Olive oil
Pre-heat oven to 425. Cut beans into thirds and toss with a touch of olive oil and salt. Throw in the tomatoes and give another toss. Add some pepper if you like. Put 'em in the hot oven for 5 to 10 minutes depending on desired tenderness. I like them crisp, but you can make a touch softer.
They are really delicious.

No kidding.

Figure Friend Mini Meal

4 M requested some figure friendly recipes and after that post on lard I decided to honor her request. Not that the lard is not good, but you can't eat it every day. The truth is that at least once a week I have my Veg day. No meat, no lard, no pasta, just fruits and veggies. After last weekend I decided that today should be that day.

After a breakfast of pineapple and banana I needed a substantial lunch. I went to the Vegetable man on the corner and picked up some of the thinnest, freshest looking asparagus I had ever seen. At the grocer I got a bag of pre-washed baby spinach.

The asparagus I cut into one inch pieces and drizzled with a touch of olive oil and some salt. I put in a pre-heated 450 oven and roast for 5 minutes. That's it. The best of spring freshness in minutes.

The spinach went into a hot pan with a touch of olive oil and 4 cloves of garlic chopped and cooked until just barely tan. A sprinkle of salt and it cooks in a minute. I piled both on a plate and went to town.

Followed by one of the last Tangelos of the season. The entire meal was less than 200 calories and packed with nutrition and really good.

Here is to your figure M.

Bulgarian Shopska Salad

I mention Shopska Salad in my bio and several of you have e mailed me asking for the recipe. It is very similar to Greek Salad and many others of that region. It was all settled by the Thracian's and vegetarian food predominated in that world. The Bulgarians continue this tradition with meals beginning with vegetables and salads. There may be several courses of just vegetable dishes followed by a tiny bit of grilled meat or sausage. Bulgaria has some of the most beautiful farmland and produce seen anywhere in the world so eating vegetables is always a delight.
4 medium ripe tomatoes (never refrigerate tomatoes, it ruins the flavor and texture, they will ripen in a basket on the counter)
1 medium cucumber
1 sweet pepper
1 medium red onion
1/4 pound Bulgarian feta cheese
Olive oil
Lemon or Lime juice
I prefer the finely chopped version so I cut all the veggies into small pieces and stir together with the crumbled cheese. I add a touch of oil at a time and the juice of a lemon. It can be eaten right away or stored in the frig for up to several days. You can add parsley, black olives, even chopped watermelon and it is still a good thing.
Speaking of Bulgaria, they produce some very interesting wines. Not many are currently imported but if you in Eastern Europe skip Sofia and head to Plovdiv or Melnick and really get a chance to enjoy the Bulgarian cuisine and wine.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Restaurant Secrets to the Side Dishes

Get the following and stock your pantry.

Drinkable deep red wine (inexpensive Cabs are good)
Butter (a lot of butter)
Heavy Cream
Sea Salt
Black peppercorns and a good grinder

The number one mistake home cooks make is too little butter and salt. Thanksgiving is not a low fat day.

4 cups fresh cranberries
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup red wine
1 teaspoon salt

Heat to medium and cook just until the cranberries pop, serve warm or cold. You can stir in some nutmeg, cinnamon, lemon or orange zest, but this basic savory cranberry sauce will make everyone happy. The wine gives it a depth of flavor that pairs beautifully with the berries.

Baked mashed potatoes.

3 lbs Yukon Gold, Idaho or red potatoes scrubbed well
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup butter

BAKE those potatoes until they are fork tender. (boiling is how you get the watery glue ones, don't do it. Also, keep the peel on.)

Lightly mash with a potato masher, keeping them lumpy. Stir in the butter and cream with a lot of salt and pepper. (if you want to add baked garlic, truffle oil, sour cream, etc. do it at this step.)

Pack into a casserole and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, salt and dot with 1/2 cup of butter. Throw them back into the oven for up to an hour while everything else finishes. They will be piping hot and brown on top.

Baking gives you a drier potato capable of soaking up more butter and cream which is really what these potatoes are all about.

So what's the turmeric for?

Your gravy, or any other dish that needs it. Sometimes you get a grey gravy, it is good, but not too appealing to look at. A few dashed of turmeric will warm up the color and give you a golden hue. A little wine in your stock can give your sauces and gravies depth of flavor. Don't neglect the salt either.

Remember Alton Brown's recipe if you are determined to make the bird. Please feel free to put questions in the comments section and I will do my best to post the solution.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Roasted Root Vegetables

Many folks look at those odd irregular shaped vegetables underneath the pretty ones and have no idea what to do with them.

Buy them all, they are delicious, the pretty ones pictured above and the ugly waxy ones. They will reveal themselves as the sumptuous delectable creatures they really are.

This recipe will heap a 9x13 pan before they cook down and easily serve 10. If you are serving fewer people this Holiday make the basic and I will help with the leftovers. If you are serving more, throw some more veg in, double it or just add your favorites. It is very adaptable to quantity.

2 yams (sweet potatoes can be used if authentic yams are not available in your area)
1 large rutabaga
1 large celery root
3 yellow or white turnips
2 large apples
3 large Spanish onions
3 large carrots
11 shallots
2 large white potatoes
4 beets
4 parsnips
3 sunchokes
2 heads of garlic
1 ginger root
At least 1 cup of good olive oil
Plenty of salt and pepper

Peel everything and coarsely chop, big chunks, little chunks, uniform or not. I like to vary my shapes and sizes so the caramelize at different rates giving me a new taste sensation in each bite.

Toss with plenty of salt, pepper and olive oil.

Roast alongside your goose, pork or even the turkey if you must. They are quite adaptable to a long slow roast with an occasional stir. I usually go 4 to 5 hours in the oven. They are done wen fork tender but amazing when brown and slightly crisp.

If you have leftovers mix two cups to two cups of any stock for a great roast root vegetable stew.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A few of my favorite wines

Thanksgiving wines are always a controversy. Those who swear by Turkey tend to also swear by Zinfandel. I love Zinfandel, I am going to a blind Zinfandel tasting on Sunday hosted by Snooth .

If I meet the Zinfandel of my dreams I promise to let you know.

I did attend the 2008 Grand Tasting sponsored by PJ wine as a benefit for Action Against Hunger last night and had a great time, and found some great wines. I can't possibly write about all of them, but there are a few worthy of celebration...and with the holidays coming you will want to have some things on hand for casual entertaining as well as a few special wines for those amazing dinners you plan to cook.

The first is Garnacha de Fuego ($6.99), I did not try this wine for ages because it had the ugliest label I have ever seen. Based on that I assumed that it was swill suitable for the 99 Cent store. Brian at PJ sent me to try it and I am so glad I did. It has a depth and flavor that are surprising. It is a great wine to keep around the house for casual entertaining and Tuesday dinner. You can serve it at a party with confidence, just decant (yes, the label is that ugly).

My new favorite Chateauneuf du Pape comes from the house of Roger Perrin. It was no surprise to me as they also make my favorite budget Cotes du Rhone. We tasted the 2006, which is quite lovely now, with great dept and finish, but if you have a cellar or some cold storage put it in the basment for a couple of years and have it for Thanksgiving and Christmas 2011. Yes, I plan my drinking ahead that much sometimes.

If you want a special wine for this year, try to Magrez Tivoli-Cuvee D'exception-Medoc. For around $30.00 you can have a wine as sumptuous as the food you are preparing. Your guests will never bring Yellowtail to a party again.

For around $14.00 you can try the Can Blau Monsant, What I love about Monsant is the acid kick that cuts through food with a high fat content, pate, goose, etc. I also love the low tones and great finish.

You don't have to kill your budget to drink well this season.

This Olive Tapenade recipe is easy to make and great to keep on hand for casual visitors. Get a few good crackers and some Mushroom Brie or other spreadable cheese and you are ready for visitors who stop by with good wishes, or gifts.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Green Bean Casserole

At a recent dinner party my wonderfully Italian friend Maria announced that she wanted to host Thanksgiving this year. I started running through the dishes I had planned on in my head, goose was out with her small convection oven, bread was out, roasted root vegetables were a no go...

I hesitantly expressed some reservations and got the immediate response.... "What matters is everybody be together, no? To be thankful, to be together is enough, besides I can make a pasta."

She is of course correct. So maybe I have a pasta this year. I will still play in my test kitchen and share the recipes with you folks. There will be wine, and everyone will be together and that is quite enough.

I have been getting e mail about family fights breaking out over Turkey. Hosts wanting to establish a tradition away from the marketing of Butterball and their ilk with the heavy breasted, antibiotic and hormone pumped birds, but finding family resistant, and even anger at the suggestions they veer away from turkey. I have had pleas to share the 'best' way to make a Turkey. Use Alton Brown's recipe, really, he explains it better than I can. You will have the traditional tastes and do the best possible turkey for the home cook.

I will still post the alternatives for those joining the turkey boycott, but today we attack the classic green bean casserole. I tried several variations before coming up with this green bean casserole recipe. Throw away those cans of mushroom soup and move into a version that will have fans of previous versions applauding.

1 lb mushrooms diced
I recommend shitake, saute in butter until they just begin to crisp and set aside.

4 large Spanish onions peeled and thinly sliced
Saute in a mixture of butter and olive oil until light brown and set aside.

2 lbs of green beans, stemmed and cut into thirds.
1 cup ground hazelnuts
2 cups heavy whipping cream
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon white pepper
salt to taste

Cook over medium heat until it thickens but does not boil, mix in mushrooms and stir in green beans. Place mass in buttered casserole top with onion and bake 350 for 20 to 30 for slightly crisp up to an hour for soft beans.

You will never go back to Campbell's Soup and Durkee Onion Rings again. It's that good.

...and remember, the important thing is for everyone to be together, no?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

No MORE Turkey

Instead of killing a Turkey, I want to kill the 'tradition' of Turkey that Americans have latched onto, some even calling the day Turkey day...

I am sharing two accounts of the first "Thanksgiving" feast. First of all the feasting went on for days and all manner of foods were consumed. Secondly even if by some chance they consumed a wild turkey, that bird bears no resemblance to the plastic tasting artificial creatures that now grace our tables. It would likely have been stewed, not stuffed and roasted.

We all like idea and look of the Turkey, but honestly how many people panic at the thought of cooking one. How many are dry and not very good?

You can brine, salt, or deep fry all in the hope of having a moist juicy bird but most of you will fail.

Why bother?

The point is to celebrate the harvest before the scarcity of winter sets in. Be thoughtful, be thankful. Think about the farmer's who provide this bounty.

I know many personally...every thanksgiving I am thankful to David of Berkshire berries for the eggs, honey, real maple syrup and his wife Mary for her great low sugar jams.

To Franca at Berried Treasures I am grateful for the most wonderful, crisp, minerally, snapping green beans I have ever had in my life, along with a host of other good foods.

To Mike at Flying pigs Farm for the best bacon I have ever tasted along with natural lamb that puts all others to shame.

And of course to Ed and Carol of Treelicious for growing the snappiest apples, the most savory nectarines and a whole slew of other good fruits and vegetables.

These and other farmers who feed me throughout the year make me grateful and thankful, and my day is a tribute the the hardworking folks who put food on my table year round. When people casually refer to the day as Turkey day, I get offended. So this year I boycott the bird.

My first suggestion....Roast Goose. It has all the appeal of being brown and crisp and looking great on the table and it is really hard to mess up. Most cooks will get a moist delectable bird each and every time.
Purchase a nice goose (about 12 pounds) 3 days before Thanksgiving. If your local store does not stock them ask them to order one for you.

1 gallon apple cider
4 cups dark soy sauce

Mix in a large strong garbage bag and dump the goose in. Rotate in the refrigerator for two days, in a pan in case it leaks. Remove from bag and let the goose spend 24 hours on a rack in the refrigerator to dry the skin.

Poke holes in the skin and lightly salt and pepper. You can stuff and place on a rack above a large roasting pan with a couple of cups of water.

Roast 1 hour at 375

Prick the skin again and reduce heat to 250 roast an additional 4 hours.

Check, if it is nicely browned you can remove at this point. If you want a little more brown and crispy check to make sure there is still some water in the fat reservoir below the duck and turn heat up to 500 for 15 minutes, turn the heat off and let rest in the hot oven for an additional 10 minutes.

This will give you the look of a beautiful bird on the table with no dry breast meat that one must smother with gravy to choke down

Save that fat to fry potatoes and use those bones in a stock pot for some GREAT soups.

The following are the only two written accounts of the first season of thanks that currently exist.

Our corn [i.e. wheat] did prove well, and God be praised, we had a good increase of Indian corn, and our barley indifferent good, but our peas not worth the gathering, for we feared they were too late sown. They came up very well, and blossomed, but the sun parched them in the blossom. Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.

They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty. For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercising in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion. All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides they had about a peck of meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ropa Viejo Recipe, a food for the New Depression

Barbara in Wisconsin wrote me because she was getting bored with her leftover pork preparations. Whole pork legs are often on sale at her local market and her kids have begun to complain about the BBQ pork sandwiches that are inevitable after a Sunday roast.

Barbara, I have a way for you to use your leftovers that is so tasty you can invite company over to share them. We have a wine for the new depression to serve along with your Ropa Viejo.

Begin by shredding all the leftover pork, up to 4 cups, store until you are ready for the 'leftover' dinner. For those who have no leftovers this can also be made with beef or whatever you find on sale, just cook and shred.

2 cups strong stock (any kind)
2 carrots thinly sliced
11 garlic cloves sliced
3 onions thinly sliced
2 sweet peppers sliced
1 jalapeno chopped fine
4 Roma tomatoes chopped
Salt and pepper
Olive Oil
Limes for garnish cut into wedges
Sliced Ripe tomatoes
1 cup good pitted olives (not from a can) sliced
Fresh Cilantro if you have it.

Saute half the garlic with the carrots in olive oil, when they begin to brown throw in the stock and the tomatoes. Cook for about 20 minutes. Toss in your shredded meat and heat all the way through. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

In another pan Saute your onions and peppers in oil til they are soft and beginning to brown, throw in the garlic and cook for a few minutes more.

Warm your tortillas in the oven.

Remove your meat to a warm platter, cover with the onion mixture, surround with the fresh tomato, lime wedges and olives. Serve with the warm tortillas. Throw everything into a tortilla with the meat mixture, give squeeze of lime juice,top with chopped Cilantro and dive in.

Your barbecue fatigue will end immediately.

Since I am confident that you will enjoy this enough to serve guests I am including a wine for the New Depression. Falling Star Merlot/Malbec, another budget entry from Trapiche.

The double burst of fruity juice wins. This wine is refreshing enough to work with the garlic/salt flavors without overpowering the lime and tomato. Decant and your friends will never guess this wine can be had for under $5.00. An excellent entry in the Wines for the New Depression.

Tomato tip: purchase a few days before you plan to use and store on the counter, they will ripen further and have a better flavor.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Wines for the New Depression: Trader Joe's Zinfandel

This is Tader Joe's house label Zinfandel. It is available for a limited time only. It is made wholly of organically grown grapes and quaffable in a very good way. I call it Zinfandel lite.

It does not have the heavy dense fruity head you might find in a Rosenblum but it does have a nice juicy taste and a bit of the spice one associates with these wines.

With a bit of Chinatown duck it was quite tasty, a bit of acid to cut through the fattiness and a nice finish on the palate.

Trader Joe's second entry in the Wines for the New Depression series is a nice Wednesday night wine.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Foods for the New Depression: Harriet Levy's Nut Goodies

I think I learned to make these when I was about 6 years old. They are so easy they have become a Christmas tradition in my house.

While they are way more expensive than store bought crap candy, they are also way more delicious. The New Depression is about entertaining at home and sharing your life and table with friends and family. What is more depressing than being with family?

That didn't come out right, but you know what I mean.

Gather round the table and get the pans out, this candy for the new depression will rock your socks off.

1 bag DARK chocolate chips
1 bag butterscotch chips
2 ounces of unsweetened baking chocolate
Melt over low heat stirring a lot

Stir in...
1/2 jar of Smuckers salted peanut butter
1/2 bag of mini marshmallows
3 cups of salted peanuts (shelled)

Stir until the marshmallow melts enough to be streaks and dump in a greased 9x13 pan. Spread til mostly even and chill. Cut into small squares and serve. Both kids and adults love them. I love them, my waist does not love them, but every once in a while...why not?

Just to answer some of the questions I am getting in e mail.

Yes: I will have recipes coming up for Thanksgiving
Yes: I will have more foods next month
Yes: I will continue with the wines for the New Depression

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Wines for the New Depression: Trellis Sonoma Cabernet

This one is an entry from Trader Joe's. A lot of wines at Trader Joe's are weak, watery and not worth the 5 dollar price tag. I have learned to track the code of the floor people. If they tell you a wine is 'popular' that means it is probably detestable and popular only for it's price tag.

Ask them for good solid old vine California wines and there are some good deals to be had.

Trellis Cab is everything one could ask for in a California Cab under 20.00, and it is under 6.00. It has a rich smoky flavor, nice extraction and solid but soft tannins.

It sent me right back to a Sonoma Barbecue where my friend Amanda (the BEST at finding good inexpensive wines) and her husband Tim did ribs, tamale stew and corn on the grill. A delicious afternoon topped with a lovely California red. If California Cabs are your favorite I encourage you to try this wine.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Wines for the New Depression 3: Colombelle Cotes de Gascogne

This charming entry came from The Chelsea Wine Vault comprised of 60% Tannat with 20% each of Merlot and Cabernet. Much more than I expected from it's 5.99 price tag. It's the wine they would serve at lunch in Toulouse; the house wine you like well enough to learn the origin of; the wine your friends serve at a really good party.

Full and fruity on the palate, each sip is a delight. I paired it with a simple meal of bread, cheese, and olives, along with a little more of the garlicky eggplant. It's charms were consistent all the way through to the chocolate and fruit, by which time we had to move to port having emptied the bottle.

Ultimately, this is a romantic wine. Share with a friend and double your pleasure.

Just a note about wines...prices will vary depending on what part of the country you are in. I can't guarantee you will get the exact same price in Northfield Minnesota. Even in NY we have price variance. On the East Side everything is priced higher than on the West.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Foods for the New Depression: A chicken in every pot

When I first moved to San Francisco I had a sixteen dollar a week food budget. Rice, beans, lentils, eggs, vegetables and a chicken a week were most of my diet. Twice a week I would shop in Chinatown buying my essentials. If I had a dollar left over I would head to the Cala foods spice rack where they had an excellent selection of dried herbs and spices for 99 cents each. I would often manage one bottle of local wine that I would divide into 5 small glasses and have a glass with dinner many nights.

As difficult as it is to believe I ate well. I know at least 100 different things one can do to a chicken, all delicious and many that I return to on a regular basis.

While I entertain a lot I am still thrifty when it comes to food. I seek the sales and deals all over town while I am out and about. I buy from local farmers and try to eat organic whenever possible, but even within that framework I seek deals.

I would roast my chicken on Sunday nights and eat the wings and drumsticks with all the crispy skin and a big bowl of rice and vegetables. The breast meat would make 3 days of chicken sandwiches for lunch. The thighs were often Monday's dinner with noodles and vegetables, or on the rare occasions I could squeeze in some sour cream as a paprika laden stew with lots of onion and dumplings.

The bones went into the soup pot and two more meals would come from soup. In this new depression a chicken in every pot is not a bad idea. This preparation is well seasoned enough for a special meal and the bones and scraps retain some of that wonderful spiciness that will make the soup delicious.

The Marinade
Juice of 10 limes (10 for a dollar in my neighborhood)
1/8 cup salt
1 head of garlic
1/8 cup turmeric
1/8 cup cumin
1/8 cup coriander
1/2 small Spanish onion cut into chunks
Puree it all in a food processor or blender

Take your chicken and cut the backbone out (save for soup pot), set aside the liver in the frig covered. Snap the chicken open and flat and put into a shallow pan. Put on a glove and pour the marinade over the bird and rub it under the skin and into the flesh with your hands. Work it in there. Place skin side down overnight. In the morning place skin side up wiping away excess liquid and let the skin dry for added crispiness. Keep uncovered all day in the frig.

Pre-heat the oven to 450. Put on a rack with a couple cups of water underneath and put in the oven for 15 minutes, turn the heat down to 300 and roast an additional 45. Test it for doneness, skin should be crisp and juices clear.

Serve with a wedge of fresh lime, some olives, rice and vegetables.

I recommend carving in the kitchen and saving those bones.

Take the neck and all the giblets except the liver and place in a pot of water along with the juice from under the rack (why do you think we put that water in there?) You should start with roughly two gallons of water a chopped onion, a chopped carrot and some garlic and salt. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer all night long. If you are afraid of stove top cooking while you sleep simmer in the oven or crock pot.

Before you leave the house strain the broth. It probably reduced by half, if not reduce it on purpose. Refrigerate.

When you come home the fat will have risen to the top. Skim it off and save it for fried potatoes or onions.

Take your gallon of stock and bring to a boil, reduce by half then simmer and throw in 3 cups of split lentils, and 4 chopped tomatoes. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. The lentils will cook quickly. Taste and adjust your seasonings. Then go into your refrigerator and scrounge.

Ah...a little leftover rice from last night, brilliant.

A cup of peas from Friday, okay.

A little bit of spinach left in the bottom of the bag from the salad, it works.

Whatever you've got throw it in. If you have a good flavorful base it will all taste good.

You spotted that liver, take it out and lightly salt it. Your soup is simmering uncovered so you make a nice salad and take that liver and sear it in a pan with some oil, keep it rare and take off the heat. In the hot pan throw in some balsamic and olive oil, hit with a dollop of mustard. Take your hot dressing and toss your salad, reserving a bit of the dressing. Slice your liver and place on top of the salad and drizzle with that last bit of dressing.

Depression era foi gras, crisp greens, good bread, and a really good soup.

Serve with a bottle of Astica and toast the new depression.

Wines for the New Depression part two: Coastal Vines Pinot Noir

One sip of this wine and I was immediately sent back to the Paris of the 1980's when the franc was cheap. It was my first night in town and I was lost and it began to rain, soaked to the skin in a neighborhood I did not recognize I spied a cafe and went in. The waiter took one look at my soaked through clothes and took me to the back and made me remove them. He gave me some clean kitchen whites to wear sat me at a table and brought me a carafe of wine. It was thin and light but with all the flavor of something more substantial. The wine was like the ghost of a wine, I recognized everything one would in the living but it glided past my tongue like a spirit, yet somehow still warmed my body. Soon I was eating a boiled chicken in broth with wonderful bread and the wine was perfect, romantic even, as the tiny bits of acid washed down as easily as the chicken broth.

Soon I met the chef; who to this day is a dear friend. It was the start of something very good and substantial.

As is this wine.

White wine drinkers will love it Red wine drinkers will find nothing to object to. Rose drinkers will chill it and it is happy to be chilled. At $4.94 college students will pair it with Ramen noodles and romantic evenings.

Thusly it qualifies as a worthy choice for the new depression.

Last night I paired it with garlicky eggplant and pasta with mushrooms. We sat on the back steps of the house on pillows enjoying the Indian Summer.

Thanks to my friends at Acker Merral and Condit we have several more wines to introduce.

Politics are filthy and the markets are crashing, so what's important? Time in your life with the people whom you love is what we will all remember in twenty years. So have a glass of wine and see where it takes you.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Astica, a wine for the New Depression

I love deep, rich, complex wines that reveal themselves in layers on the palate giving you new subtleties with each bite of food.

This is not one of those wines.

It is however perfectly delightful being exactly what it is. It is a burst of fruit and acid on the tongue, it doesn't linger and posses earthy qualities. It is what it is.

I always thought that wine snobs were being pretentious when the used the term 'drinkable', but some wines are just that...wonderfully drinkable and evocative in their own way.

This wine is a sunny day in Buenos Aires sitting in a cafe waiting for your significant other to return from a shopping trip. It is a house wine, a cafe wine, a dinner wine on a simple Tuesday.

With Jambalaya the burst of fruit contrasted beautifully with the spice. With chocolate it washed away the deep dark tones with it's bright flavors. At 4.32 a bottle (From Acker Merral and Condit) it was the perfect wine for the evening. And thus, my first wine for the New Depression entry, drinkable and under 5 bucks a bottle.

*Just a note for those of you who buy wine in NYC, you really should know this store. It may not always have the lowest possible price, but for service and knowledge they are head and shoulders above any other store in NY.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Sugar Free Apple Crisp ala Lydia

My friend Lydia is supposed to be avoiding sugar, but it's apple season and at some point one must be spoiled with a good apple something.

Not be be discouraged I put aside my white flour and sugar and proceeded to play. The results were worth it. A friend picked the apples but I think they are an early version of Gravenstein. Any apple will work (except that noxious red delicious), so use what you have.

4 large apples peeled. cored and sliced.
1 teaspoon Stevia
2 tablespoon whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon or nutmeg or allspice

Toss together in a bowl and set aside.

The Topping
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup almonds
1 cup cold butter cut into chunks
1 teaspoon salt

Grind almonds in food processor and toss in the flour and butter and pulse.

Dot apples with pats of butter then sprinkle topping on apples and bake for one hour at 350 until apples are juice and bubbly and topping is brown. Serve warm with coffee or brandy.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Omaha Steaks...The Madonna of the Food World

In my business I get a lot of tastes and samples in the mail. From Omaha Steaks I received a big sampler with at least 4 of several items they sell. I got hot dogs, burgers, steaks, stuffed potatoes, stuffed sole, pork chops and one of the worst knife sets I have ever seen in my life.

What a huge dissapointment.

They make the claim that their grain fed beef is superior in taste to grass fed, this may give you the idea that the steak is on par with Morton's, or Ruth's Chris. The beef tastes like grade z grocery store meat, it is almost without flavor. Their pork so lean that 3 seconds overcooking will give you sawdust, their prepared items completely bland.

They have a flavorless product line at souped up prices packaged all nice.

Every year I hear from folk who want mail order food as a gift item. I will keep looking because Omaha Steaks gets an F in flavor. They do get an A in marketing, they have great ads, brochures, website etc. I guess this makes them the Madonna of the food world.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Incredibly Versatile Pesto

I like to have a taste of Summer all year long. I am fortunate enough to live in a house with a garden so I have the ability to pick fresh peaches off the tree every August, eat tomatoes off the vine and have fresh herbs from Spring to late Fall.

I can and freeze in order to preserve those brilliant tastes into the bleak winter months. Pesto can be a brilliant burst of flavor that can push even a cold February night away.

There is no one pesto, there are as many recipes as there are Italian women. All of them are good.

Some favor the burst of basil, others are heavy on the garlic, some much more cheesier. There is nothing wrong with any of them. Play, taste, and adjust until it is perfect for you.

In various combinations
Olive Oil

Pine nuts are traditional, but almonds can be delicious as can walnuts. You can add sun dried tomato, a splash of lemon juice, a hot pepper to give it a boost, but always use a good quality olive oil. Flat olive oil can bring down even the best ingredients.

You can even leave out the basil and make a pesto with Tarragon or Sage. Sage Pesto is great for pastas like gnocchi, and Pumpkin or Mushroom Ravioli. For those of you who have never made a Sage Pesto I include the recipe, but feel free to change it. Play with your food.

  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 2 cups fresh sage leaves, firmly packed
  • 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves (or Tarragon, or basil, they both blend well)
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 head of garlic peeled
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Juice of one lime
Put it in the food processor or blender until it is creamy. Freezes beautifully and in addition to working wonderfully with pasta it is also a great rub for Poultry or Pork. Try rubbing under the skin of a chicken, salt the skin and let rest in the refrigerator on a rack for 24 hours. Rub the skin with olive oil and roast.

If you do not have a garden of your own hit the Farmer's market this weekend. They still have herbs along with the last of the summer vegetables and the first apples of the season.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Duck, Two Ways

Actually one fusion recipe that began as two.

I love duck and every style and cooking method I have tasted has had something to offer. I have tasted it in Vietnam (very fresh) France, Spain, and in Italy the most wonderful duck balsamica (I totally got that recipe, I watched a wonderful Italian lady in Peruga make it step, by step).

I got a Moulard at a Chinatown butcher and had him quarter it for me and had two thighs sitting in my freezer staring at me. Moulard has less fat than Pekin so won't stand up to the long roast but more fat than the Muscovy so it can't be served rare.

I took the two thighs and put them in a marinade of 1 cup dark soy sauce and 1 cup apple cider, and a big handful of star anise and let them sit for a couple of days. By Sunday I was sort of in the mood for German style with potatoes. Would it work with an Asian marinade?

All I could do was try.

2 Duck Thighs
1 Cup Apple Cider
1 Cup Dark Soy Sauce
1 BIG handful of Star Anise

Marinate for two days. The morning of the roast remove duck from marinade and put skin side up in the refrigerator uncovered so the skin will dry and crisp.

3 medium apples peeled and sliced
1 large onion peeled and thinly sliced
Olive oil

Cook the apple and onion in the oil until it is soft and pliable. Add a dash of salt and pepper.

Take your duck and a little peanut oil, heat a pan very hot with the oil and place the duck skin side down to sear, I put a cast iron skillet on top to push down and even the skin against the pan for a good browning.

While the duck sears place two mounds of the apple confit in a casserole and surround with new potatoes.Place the seared duck thighs atop the mounds and place in a hot oven (400) for 70 minutes uncovered.


I like a lot of different wines with duck. Last night we paired it with a Chateau Petrus 2004, which is not the same as the world famous Petrus, but it is a very good, much more reasonably priced Bordeaux.

Avocado Crab Fritters

Katie is a regular reader who today sent me the most beautiful photos of herself and her daughter along with a recipe request. She wants to use up some avocado and does not want another guacomole recipe. How could I resist two such beautiful women? I pulled the fritters out of my files. I used to make these in San Francisco and they were more popular than crab cakes. San Francisco has abundant crab, but it is never cheap.

If crab is too dear these can be made with any other chopped white fish. They need to be eaten when fresh and hot and not surprisingly pair well with salsa as a dipping sauce.

Enough peanut oil for deep frying
1 cup crab
1 Avocado chopped into small pieces
1/2 cup finely diced chives
1/2 cup finely diced parsley
Roughly 1/2 cup Mayo
1 egg white stiffly beaten (peaks)
2 tablespoons of flour
1 dash of baking powder
Bread Crumbs (Panko are nice)
Mix everything together save the Mayo, then add just enough to fully bind the ingredients. Take a small ice cream scooper and make mini meatball sized fritters and roll in the bread crumbs.

Have your oil heated to 350 and slowly and carefully place into the oil moving with chopsticks until they full brown and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a draining rack. (Paper towels can cause the steam to collect and make a soggy fritter.)

Delicious on their own or dipped into a bit of salsa. While summer may be over on the calender I would serve these with a crisp Rose' from the south of France. A Tavel perchance?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A GREAT Burger

With the collapse of Wall Street, not everyone is eating filet these days, but a burger. What non vegetarian can say no to a delicious burger?

I make no secret of the fact that I despise ketchup. Most of is is high fructose corn syrup with tomato flavor. I feel that it masks the flavor of meat because of it's cloying sweetness.

This recipe is for 6 good sized burgers but it is easy enough to cut in half. Just keep the proportion in mind if you want a bigger burger, have it. I find 1/4 pound a bit small but 1/2 way too big. 1/3 is my portion size.

First take one medium sized tomato per serving and slice into 6 slices. Put on a cookie sheet brushed with olive oil and sprinkle on a bit of salt. Put into a low oven (325) for about an hour. You want them to slightly roast and dehydrate, not turn to mush, but even if they do turn to mush, scoop them on with a spoon. It will be alright.

6 Brioche rolls warmed and split
2 lbs really good grass fed ground beef
Worcestershire Sauce

1 tomato per serving
5 mushrooms and one half a Spanish onion per serving
olive oil

1/4 cup mayo
1/4 cup spicy mustard
1/8 cup soy sauce

Put on gloves and mix with your hands...I use 4 good dashes of salt and pepper per serving and two of the Worcestershire. You can add more or less according to your taste. Put a bit of parchment on your food scale and weight for exact proportion or eyeball it. 6 even patties. Set in the frig.

Mix the Mayo mustard and soy sauce and set in the frig, covered.

Saute your mushrooms and onions in olive oil until they become soft and caramelized. Hungry yet?

If you have an outdoor grill go ahead and grill these puppies, but for those without that take your largest cast iron skillet and rub with a little oil and pre-heat. When very hot place the patties one by one in the skillet and turn the heat down a bit.

NEVER press down a burger with a spatula, leave them alone for at least 4 minutes to sear, then turn over and cook til desired doneness. The food police say it has to be well done and if you eat grocery store meat it's a good idea, I like medium.

Place your tomato slices on the bottom of the split brioche, top with the burger, give them a good dollop of the mayo sauce and top with the mushroom/onion mix and serve.

I will keep budget options in mind for a while. If I know Washington this bailout will screw the taxpayers and make the rich more rich. We have to take care of one another.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Wine of the Day

Marc Bredif 2005 Chinon: This wine was a gift and I stuck in in the cellar and quite frankly forgot about until I went down to look for something else. I like Chinon, it is an often overlooked region that when good can be spectacular. This wine is tightly fruit focused with just enough tannin, extra dry and paired perfectly with Tuna steak. I am still savoring it. 100% Cab Franc and one of the best examples of it's class.

It would be tacky to look up the price of a gift (until of course I look to purchase some) but I can't imagine you will find it for much under $20.00 per bottle.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Josephine Pardys Macaroni and cheese

Josephine Pardy's is one of those remarkable southern women, always groomed to within an inch of her life and dressed in finery. In her own words..."I have lived, don't never feel sorry for me."

She is not a chef of the highest order, but she has a few tricks up her sleeve and one cold afternoon in San Francisco she shared a few with me. To this day I will make her Macaroni and cheese when I decide to care nothing about calories. It is the ultimate comfort food. You can pair it with anything or serve a wedge on it's own. You won't go hungry. Once baked you can freeze individual squares and warm for a wonderful treat.

1 lb macaroni pasta
1 lb cheddar cheese
1 lb Other cheese (mozzarella, jack, Swiss, whatever you've got, mix them up if you like. I have.)
1 can evaporated milk
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon black pepper
A bunch of shakes of onion powder
A bunch more of garlic powder (NOT garlic salt)
dash of salt
1/2 pound butter

I told you it was comfort food, and not low fat. Cook the pasta lightly (very al dente) drain and rinse. Mix milk, seasonings, 1 stick melted butter and 1/2 the cheese in a bowl. Toss in the pasta. Already you are hungry. Throw about a third of this mix in a greased 9/13 pan. Throw a third of the cheese on this. Another third of pasta and another third of cheese, the last third and the last of the cheese. Now take that last stick of butter and cut into slices and place atop the final cheese layer. Put uncovered in the oven (350) for 40 minutes.

Let it rest out of the oven for about 10 minutes before cutting. Cut and serve.

You will sing praises to Gods you never knew existed. Thank you Miss Josephine.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Green Beans Franca

Today was one of those amazing days in NY. The weather was warm and sunny so I set out on my rounds on foot. I walked down to the gym and did a decent workout and then proceeded to put in my time at the street fair on Columbus Avenue.

While there I found the spice lady. I can never remember if it is Cumin or Coriander that I am out of so I bought both, along with a few other kitchen essentials.

I hit the Farmer's market and got Ed's most delicious apples, eggplant, etc. At Franca's stand I picked up more gorgeous green beans, some tomatoes and some of her hot peppers. She and Ed have been feeding me for more than 20 years and I love them both. With a back pack full of the best food in the world I headed to a Be-In in Central Park, it was a lovely disorganized event. To change the world we have to change our minds and hearts and a Be-in is a good place to get your spirit together.

You would think that with all this walking I would have been starving, and I was. Yet still I managed to make vegetables my dinner. I lost several pounds after my surgery and as much as I wanted a bowl of creamy pasta with a mushroom sauce, I went for the green beans. No one ever got fat from too many vegetables.

2 lbs green beans
3 medium hot peppers cut into tiny pieces
5 slices of bacon cut into small bits
1 cup of halved cherry tomatoes or 2 Roma tomatoes chopped into bits
A few dashes of soy sauce
A couple of drops of Cider Vinegar

Cut the bacon into bits and lay out in a non stick skillet. Fry until crisp stirring as needed. Take out the bacon and reserve the fat. Toss in your hot pepper and cook until soft and almost creamy. Remove. Warm your tomatoes in the fat, or if you like them more saucy cook for a bit. Remove to a warm plate. Throw in the green beans and cook until they are the way you like them from crisp to soft, your choice. Toss everything back in plus the soy and Vinegar and stir over high heat.

Remove to warm plate and enjoy with a glass of Chianti

For dessert I am going to have an apple...and if you think that's not special then you have not tasted Ed's apples.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

More shopping than Cooking Amazing Ribs

I recently shared this recipe for the first time. I created it through years of trial and error.

I love ribs, of all types but I could never get past the horrific sweetness of most rubs and sauces. Of course most purchased in stores are High Fructose Corn Syrup based, but even a lot of homemade just had too much sugar for my taste.

I played and played and finally came up with what I thought were the best elements of all the rubs and sauces. The sweetness fades into the background when you hit the sharp tang of the vinegar sop and the warmth of the spices. You need a good spice store, and some time to shop but you won't regret having all these seasonings and peppers on hand. The subtle flavors they impart into so many dishes will make you happy you made the investment.

If you want the basics but a few fewer ingredients...adapt. They will still be good.

The Rub
ÿ 1/3 cup sea salt
ÿ 1/4 cup white sugar
ÿ 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
ÿ 2 tablespoons garlic powder
ÿ 4 tablespoons onion powder
ÿ 2 tablespoons Hungarian paprika
ÿ 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
ÿ 3 tablespoons New Mexico red Chile powder
ÿ 2 tablespoons ancho chili powder
ÿ 2 tablespoons jalapeno powder
ÿ 2 tablespoons ground black pepper
ÿ 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
ÿ 1 tablespoon dried thyme
ÿ 2 tablespoons crumbled dried thyme
ÿ 1 tablespoon crushed dried rosemary
ÿ 2 tablespoons ground cumin
ÿ 1 tablespoon coriander
ÿ 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
ÿ 1 tablespoon ground allspice
ÿ 1 tablespoon dried mustard
Rub the spice mixture onto the meat 24 hours in advance of cooking and let the flavors meld with the meat. Uncovered in the refrigerator is fine.

Cook the ribs on a rack in a slow oven 325 for an hour (longer for beef) before moving to the grill or wok for the finishing cooking.

If grilling use indirect heat and sop with sauce every 10 minutes.

If finishing in the wok, cook for an additional 45 minutes in the oven giving a sop every 15 minutes for the last 45.

Then cut the ribs into portions and place in the work sopping and sopping on a low heat until they are glazed and beginning to fall apart.

ÿ 2 cups cider vinegar
ÿ 2 cups apple cider
ÿ Juice of two limes
ÿ 1 cup tomato juice
ÿ 1/4 cup soy sauce
ÿ 2 tablespoons molasses
ÿ 1/4 cup mustard
ÿ 1 cup white wine
ÿ 1/4 cup salt
ÿ 2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
ÿ 3 tablespoons red pepper flakes
ÿ 1/2 cup light brown sugar
ÿ 1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce
ÿ 1 tablespoon white pepper
ÿ 1 tablespoon black pepper
ÿ 1 tablespoon curry paste
ÿ 1/4 cup olive oil
ÿ 3 tablespoons grated ginger
ÿ 8 cloves garlic WITH 11 anchovies (use the food processor and add some liquid to make a fine paste that can be beaten into the sauce.
ÿ 5 drops liquid smoke

I love these and the problem with my making them again to make sure I had my timing and measurements down was the fact that I now am eating ribs, lots of ribs. I even had some for breakfast with figs.