Monday, June 30, 2008

Dave's Patty Pan

After the last Zucchini post Dave sent a request for more things to do with Patty Pan squash. I happen to love this little vegetable for it's adaptable taste and beautiful shape.

I adapted S.O.'s father's eggplant preparation for this and it came out beautifully.

1 lb. Patty Pan
5 tablespoons Olive oil
12 cloves garlic finely chopped
4 tablespoons white, red wine, or apple cider vinegar
Black Pepper

Cut each squash in half through the ridges to preserve the shape. Brush cut side with olive oil and put face down on a cookie sheet. Lightly salt. Bake cut side down in hot oven (400) for 15 to 20 minutes until tender.

Meanwhile back at the stove top saute the garlic in the olive oil until it just begins to barely brown. Add the vinegar and a couple of grinds of black pepper. Remove the squash to a bowl and pour over the sauce. Toss and toss again, remove to a platter making sure you get each tiny bit of garlic and vinegar on the squash. Serve warm, or let soak in a bit and serve as a room temperature anti-pasta. If you have leftovers have it cold. This is so delicious you may become addicted. I have half a pound left to serve for a dinner tonight. I really only intended to taste and ended up eating half a pound of vinegary nuggets.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Dumbing Down of the American Palatte

My first day at the Fancy Food Show in NY held few
surprises. Overall the products on display had less flavor, less oomph
than ever before. Sweet seems to have overtaken almost all other

Jalapeno Pretzels...a promising snack...third ingredient SUGAR. More dessert than Jalapeno.

Health drinks that advertising as sugar free had so much Stevia to sweeten them that they tasted like syrup.

Habanero salsas that tasted of corn syrup rather than Habanero.

were so many offenders that I cannot name or mention them all. Suffice
it to say that product makers are becoming less and less creative with
flavor and more and more reliant on sugar. It's offensive.

A few notable exceptions were just pik't
grapefruit juice, a delicious fresh squeezed product. Their orange was
made with such sugary sweet oranges however it was undrinkable. I can't
imagine what hybrid produced oranges with absolutely NO tang whatsoever.

Fabrique Delices Charcuterie does some beautiful all natural Pate among many other cured meat produces. Absolutely delicious.

Sweet Riot...the name is awful but they make delicious chocolate nibs covered in dark chocolate. They were among the least sweet entries at the show.

the ingredient labels on anything you are seeking to buy, especially
new products. If you see sugar (and it's not dessert), corn syrup or
any variation thereof put it back on the shelf. Save your tastebuds for more worthy savories.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A return to vegetables: Broccoli

Jessica Seinfeld is a big fat liar. Kids like vegetables if you prepare them nicely, even broccoli. Let's stop hiding our broccoli in a brownie and put it out front and center where it belongs. I put this on top of the plate of spaghetti prepared for young child whose mother claimed he would ONLY eat noodles with butter. He ate every bite of the broccoli.

Olive oil
Garlic (I like a lot so I use about 8 cloves roughly chopped)
A touch of red pepper flakes
Any grated cheese (really anything from cheddar to Romano)

Chop those beautiful florets off from a head of broccoli. Warm you garlic in the olive oil until it is a bit on the toasty side. Toss in a pinch of red pepper flakes to warm the oil. Salt the Broccoli and saute 'til it is as tender as you like. Remove to a warm plate and sprinkle with a touch of the cheese, or use a little more oil and garlic and toss over a plate of spaghetti.

Healthy and delicious..what more can you ask from a food, even if you are a fussy 7 year old.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Fuct TV Dinner (Matthew Shepherd's pie)

Fuct gets a recipe because quite frankly they need the publicity so if you click on the title you go to their webpage and can have the chance to see them.

They are a very talented group or to my mind a wonderful profusion of great ingredients that could use the help of a chef (director) to take them to the next level. Their show has a promising opening in that they completely get your attention and make you believe they will go anywhere for a laugh, and sometimes they do. It is however a promise that could be much more fully realized. There is a lot of intellegence and if they are willing to take a few more emotional, physical and intellectual risks they will be the caviar of comedy troupes ie fish abortions.

Less reliance on beer and more reliance on strong writing with great endings will move them into prime time.

For now they get a tv dinner. It's a nice meal, you can make it home, ahead of time and pop it in the oven to warm. Maybe not as fresh and exciting as you like, but still fully satisfying.

Makes 4
1 lb ground lamb
1 large onion
1 finely chopped carrot
1 cup finely chopped celery
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
5 finely chopped cloves of garlic
A dash of freshly grated nutmeg

The topping
5 Large potatoes boiled and mashed
Heavy Cream
1/4 lb butter
1/2 pound goat cheese
1 cup finely chopped green onion or scallion

Brown the lamb with the onion, when almost done add the garlic carrot and and celery. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg, when it tastes right add the peas and chopped olives and set aside.

Mash your potatoes and make creamy with the butter and enough heavy cream. Stir in the goat cheese and scallion.

Divide the lamb into 4 small ovenproof dishes. Full cover with the mashed potato mixture.

Pop in the frig, go see Fuct at the Cherry Lane. Come home hungry and a little drunk, pop in oven for 30 minutes. Consume at a rapid pace. Take a Rolaids. Go to bed.

If you don't eat them in a couple of days, freeze. They freeze well.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Good Fortune Zucchini

A reader sent me an e mail describing her various methods for using zucchini and asked in the most wonderfully endearing way..."What else can we do with it". She has a profusion of zucchini in her garden and while they are small the fewer she uses now the more she will have later and it seems her neighbors are tired of grocery bags filled with the stuff.

This happens to be one of my favorite vegetables so I am going to give you a few recipes over the next couple of weeks that will expand your culinary choices.

1 baby Zucchini per person
1 clove of garlic per person
2 tablespoons of Romano cheese per person
Plenty of olive oil
A dash of salt and pepper

Thin slice both the garlic and the zucchini. Saute the garlic in the oil until it is soft then add the zucchini. When it softens and wilts hit it with a touch of salt and pepper and half the cheese, stir. Serve and top with the remaining cheese.

This is a simple and delicious preparation.

I made it for S.O. the first time I cooked for us...what can I say, we're still together. May this dish bring you good fortune as well.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Annie Golden Bread

I choose Annie Golden for the day after the Tony's because she has something that many Tony winners would envy, a piece of the heart of everyone she knows. To have Annie Golden in your life is to have a source of love and laughter that never dims.

She is a nurturing family woman who has had a lot of rough paths in life but she paves each path with rose blossoms and carries burdens on her narrow shoulders as casually and without complaint as most of us carry a backpack.

I am lucky enough to know Annie Golden the performer, the consummate singer/songwriter whose show Velvet Prison still elicits rapture from those who have seen it.

Movies, television, Broadway and now...a bread?

This bread has been fed to Annie many times and never had a name, people call it the bread, the wonderful bread and always ask before every party...are you going to make that bread?

The bread like Annie is quite adaptable, different cheese, different formulations of the the dip, even different bread recipes all work.

Play with the recipe, change it. Think of it as a live performance, it never has to be exactly the same, it just has to be good.

The bread:

2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 tablespoon white sugar
2 cups water
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons olive oil
5 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon salt

Since I realize that not everyone bakes bread on a daily basis I am going to go step by step here.

1.. In a small mixing bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in the warm water. Cover with a towel and set aside for about 15 minutes. When you come back it should be foamy.

2.. In a large mixing bowl, combine the yeast mixture with the milk, the olive oil, 4 cups of the flour and the salt; stir until well combined. Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. When the dough has pulled together but is still sticky, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and supple, about 8 minutes.

3.. Lightly oil a large mixing bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and put in a warm place to rise until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.

While the bread is rising get your butter garlic mixture ready and grate your cheeses.

Take a mass of garlic, a head is not too much and saute it in a stick of butter until it is lightly brown and the butter is reeking of garlicky goodness. Chop 10 anchovies and throw them in the butter. (Pesto also works, play with it.)

The cheese; whatever you've got. 3 to 5 cups and some pine nuts if you have them, a few chopped olives are good too.

Literally the cheese can be any mixture of ends, rinds, bits of cheddar...mix it all up. I keep the bits in a bag in the freezer just for this bread. They ALL work, they all taste good.

Get your biggest springform pan out and put a sheet of parchment in the bottom, oil the sides.

Oil your hands and pick the dough a ball at a time, roll in your hand, dip in the butter and place into the pan, keep doing it leaving about 1/2 inch of space between the balls. Got a layer? Take big handfuls of cheese and throw it over the whole thing. Pine nuts and olives, throw then in now too.

Hungry yet?

Do it again.

At the end you should have about 3 layers of cheese and bread.

Cover and set aside for an hour or so until it is springy.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake for about 50 minutes until is is puffy and golden and just a touch crisp on top.

When you serve it to your guests let them grab the balls by hand and tear the bread apart. It will give you a chance to tell them the story of a little girl from Brooklyn singing in a rock band in the East Village who got discovered by Milos Forman and cast in the film Hair.

Not just a bread, her story would make a great movie.

Now go back up and click on Annie's name. I hid a link in her name that will be a special treat for those of us who love her.


Friday, June 13, 2008

Meat and Potatoes...Romain Fruge'

As we move toward the Tony's we salute those who are not always celebrated. I choose Romain Fruge' because he represents the backbone of the theatre, known, but not a big star, he represents the staple, the meat and potatoes of the theatre.

I hope he's not a vegan.

I have seen him in many shows and while he is best known to audiences for The Full Monty, the two that most impressed me were Floyd Collins, and Love, Valour, Compassion; both seen by pure chance.

After sitting through 'Dream True' one of the absolute worst things ever produced in the theatre from top to bottom I found the name Tina Landau a bit frightening.

I was in Chicago teaching a seminar on the weekend and at loose ends for the evening hours. I did as I always do and looked to see what was playing in the area. Floyd Collins was at a theatre close by and had tickets available, but when I saw that Tina Landau was the author, I almost passed; but I thought it could not be worse than 'Dream True' nothing could be; and I could always leave.

As Tina revealed her talents so did Mr. Fruge' his plaintive isolated performance was deeply moving and he sang the score beautifully.

More recently I had gotten on my bike for an excruciatingly long trip and biked from Manhattan to the Berkshires. After a long nap and a visit to the Normal Rockwell Museum I went looking for something to do and what else...went to the theatre. Again Mr. Fruge' was in the cast, playing Gregory Mitchell and really blew me away. When I got on my bike to ride back to the B&B I had emotional power moving my legs.

The next morning I must admit to loading the bike onto a bus to get back to Manhattan.

Meat and Potatoes Fruge' aka Dinner Hash

1 lb of cube steak (You know the stuff that is scored because it can be so tough, antibiotic, hormone free, free range grass fed preferred.)
1 lb onion
1/4 pound butter
1/2 pound potatoes
Soy Sauce
Worcestershire Sauce
A few dashes of Cayenne Pepper
Olive oil as needed
Sour Cream to garnish

Get a pair of sharp kitchen scissors and cut the beef into slivers just a little bit wider than fettucine. Place in a bowl and using roughly equal parts, toss it with several good shakes of Paprika then soak it in Soy sauce and Worcestershire. Put in the refrigerator for at least an hour so it soaks in. Have a glass of wine while you wait.

After a glass of really good wine and a few olives it's time to cut your onions and potatoes. I like to slice the onions thinly and the potatoes like a frite approximately the same size as the meat strips.

Put half the butter in a wok or a heavy bottom skillet and saute' those onions until they are soft and beginning to carmelize. Set aside. Now put in the rest of the butter with a touch of olive oil, turn up the heat a notch and push those potatoes around til they are creamy crisp, like a good home fry. Salt 'em a little bit while you stir. A little pepper wouldn't hurt at this point.

Hungry yet?

Add a little more oil and get that pan steaming hot. Lift the beef out of the marinade and drop, stand back, it will splatter a bit. Resist the urge to mess with it. You want it to crisp and brown a bit before you move it around.

When the beef is fully cooked toss in your potatoes and onions.

Open a bottle of kick ass Cab and toss it around a little before putting on warm plates and topping with a good dollop of sour cream.

Serve 4 hungry working actors and will power them through a 3 hour performance.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Fried Oysters Tony Meola

An actor you've never heard of? No, Tony Meola
is a sound designer whose work you probably know. He created that wonderful
magical sound of the original Lion King. He is currently represented on
Broaday with Wicked. The best way to tell if it's a Tony Meola show (other than reading the playbill) is to look for shows with no visible microphones and wonderfully balanced sound.

He also loves fried oysters so this dish was created with love and respect for Tony.

As Many Oysters as you can afford
A good pile of flour

A nice skillet and plenty of olive oil.

the seasonings with the flour and don't skimp. We want flavor kids.
Coat the oysters in the flour. Put 'em on a plate on the bottom shelf
of the refrigerator and go do something else for 15 minutes. Coat 'em a
second time. Get the oil in your skilled nice and hot. Carefully place
the oysters in the oil. While they begin to fry prepare the sauce.

Sauce for one dozen oysters:

Honey lime sauce.
Olive oil
4 cloves of finely minced garlic
Juice of one lime
1 tablespoon honey
Salt and Pepper

Soften the garlic in the heated oil then add the lime juice, honey and seasoning.
Once you have browned the oysters on both sides place on a heated platter and drizzle with the sauce.

This is a dish worthy of Tony...and that's a tall order.

is the first year the Tony Awards will have sound design as a major
category. We've all seen the clunky shows with visible mike cords and
unbalanced sound. Maybe this award will raise the standards so that the
hacks don't get the work.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Pasta Linda Lavin

As we count down to the Tony awards I am going to name dishes after some of my favorite folks in the theatre. We gave Patti Lupone a pasta and now Linda Lavin has earned her place in culinary and theatre history.

If any of you saw her performance in The New Century you know her for comic brilliance. Her performance in Broadway Bound won her a Tony but she also did a kick ass Gypsy. June Havoc (Rose Hovic's daughter) saw her in that show and sent her a note, I could go on, and I am tempted to, but I will restrain. Let's just say that in the theatre whatever project she takes on she is a force of nature. I have been fortunate enough to see her in 10 shows.

No pasta can capture all of that, but it can at least taste good.

This is for 4 appetizer servings or 2 main portions.

I love Gobetti for this dish but you can also use fusilli or penne if it is not readily available.

Pasta Sauce Linda Lavin
1 finely minced red onion
1 finely minced garlic clove
1/4 cup diced parsley
1/8 cup minced fresh dill
2 anchovies diced
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup smoked salmon chopped
1 tablespoon salmon Roe per serving

Chop everything ahead like you see on the cooking shows. Saute the onion in the butter until soft and add the garlic til it just begins to brown. Then pour in the cream and let it reduce for a few minutes. Toss the diced anchovy into the cream and turn heat very low. Cook pasta and throw a spoon or two of the pasta water into the sauce if it overly thickens.

Toss the pasta in the sauce, add the smoked salmon parsely and dill until well distributed and serve in warmed bowls garnished with Salmon Roe

When you see Linda in the theatre you never go unsatisfied, when you eat this pasta you never go hungry.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Fusion On The Fly

Some of you may have noticed the web site name change. As more and more of you send me e-mail I realize that my original conceit was a little off base. I chose "Learn to Taste" because I hoped that I would inspire some non-cooks to fiddle with seasoning and use my suggestions as a jumping off point to make something new.

The readers I attract are largely foodies. You folks know your stuff. We have our food so let's play with it.

I realized yesterday when Katie sent me the request for the recipes containing mint that we do it all the time. The tomato mint sauce on the Italian Zucchini roll is from Yemen but ultimately the dish will be recognized as Italian.

Italian food is it's own sort of fusion and it was Italians hired by Queen Isabelle who are the founders of what we think of as classic French cuisine.

As long as there have been travelers and traders our food has evolved.

A great example is the humble meatball. Poor Sicilian grandmothers came to America and could finally afford meat. So they created dishes they thought their rich northern relatives were eating and an entire cuisine was born. Many immigrants have a grandmother who made a meat filled sauce with sausage, meatballs, and more. What many don't know is that same woman lived on beans and anchovies back in Sicily and when they did make a sauce it would have been pretty meagre in comparison and topped with stale bread crumbs because cheese was a luxury item. Caeser Salad which we commonly pair with Italian food was created by an Italian Chef in Tijauna with what he had in the kitchen that night...fusion at it's finest.

I live in NY where the best of the best is available in the markets and the restaurants. I shop and I cook and when it's good it often has the flavors of many worlds. Fusion was not invented in California by some super chef, it was invented by our grandmothers and theirs before them.

Fusion On The Fly...Grandma cooking with attitude.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Rolled Zucchini AND Mint Walnut Dip

I love mint and in my garden it grows in profusion in the summer. Mint and basil are two of my favorite Summer herbs.

I first had the Mint Walnut dip in Yemen and loved the taste of it. We had it with flat bread and fresh vegetables for dipping. The contrast of the cool mint and yogurt with the hot pepper is delectable.

3 cups fresh mint leaves
3 hot chilies with seeds (jalapenos are great and widely available)
1/2 cup walnuts
2 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
A good dash of salt

Puree all of the above in a food processor then mix with 1/2 cup of thick Greek style yogurt. It is so delicious. It goes beautifully with a Rose and a summer night.

Zucchini Rolled with tomato mint sauce.

The Sauce
4 chopped Roma tomatoes seeds peel and all
1 cup fresh mint leaves diced
2 cloves garlic finely minced
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and Pepper
Stir and set aside

The Rolled

3 zucchini sliced lengthwise in thin long strips. Use the short exterior cuts in a salad
Olive oil

Lightly salt the zucchini and saute for a few minutes on each side in olive oil until they are soft and can be stuffed and rolled.

The Filling
1/2 cup smoked mozzarella shredded
1/2 cup Ricotta cheese
1/2 cup chopped black olives
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 cup dried apricots finely diced and soaked in wine for about an hour anchovy per Roll

Schmear each zucchini strip with the filling divided evenly leaving about an inch on each long end free. Place one glorious salty anchovy in the middle and slowly roll the zucchini, secure with a toothpick and place seam side down in a baking dish.

Pour the sauce over the top, cover and refrigerate for a day.

The next day allow to come to room temperature then bake at 350 for 45 minutes until cheese is melted sauce is bubbly and the whole thing is warm and wonderful. Serve over rice.

I am so glad Katie asked for a mint recipe because these are two of my favorites and it will remind me to make them for my S.O.