Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Fusion Duck for any Holiday

Duck is a great holiday choice. It is very rich so large portions are not needed, with a bevy of sides one duck can feed 4. I am talking duck here, Long Island fatty duck, if you get a smaller duckling it will feed two to three.

This prep has become my favorite, it is a combination of  Asian and Italian style that imbues the duck with savory herbal flavors.

Purchase the duck two days before you plan to roast it. When you get it home remove the giblets (eat the lovely liver) and rub all over, inside and out with an Italian herb mix, dried herbs are perfect for this (and always in season.) Place duck in a plastic bag and add one cup good balsamic* vinegar and one cup dark soy sauce, along with a cup of star anise. Squeeze the air out and seal the bag and put in a pan or bowl. Refrigerate for 24 hours.

Remove duck from bag and place on rack and leave uncovered in the refrigerator for the skin to dry.

When ready to roast lightly salt the skin and cavity, hit with a grind of black pepper and place on a rack with a roasting pan containing some water underneath. Prick the skin all over and place in a 425 oven for 30 minutes. Lower oven to 250, but do NOT open the door. Roast for 3 hours. Check the skin, if further crisping is required up the oven temp until you get the brown you want.

Make sure you let it rest for about 20 minutes before carving.

The low temp allows much of the fat to melt and you will get a succulent tasty meat.

Though the flavors are Italian and Asian this duck is particularly good served with saurkraut.

MMMMMM duck.

*Much of what is sold as Balsamic is fake. Trader Joes' does not have one real balsamic. They take red wine vinegar and add color and flavor. The fake stuff may be passable in a salad but not in a dish like this. Look for REAL balsamic, if caramel color is added it is a fake.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Jeannie's accidental chocolates

My Aunt Jean just died. I don't know that chocolates are the best tribute, but she loved chocolate and recipes are what I do.

When I was a young child Jean was a mythological figure. She lived in Paris with her husband and sons, she spoke french and the only photos of her I had seen showed a very fashionable woman. Geographically none of my family were close and we did not see each other often. I will never forget those rare occasions we saw one another.

I have a memory of her and in it I see very detail. I can tell you what she was wearing, how unsuitable her shoes were for the long walk we took, how her hair looked; and how enchanted I was coming face to face with my Aunt Jean.

She knew how enthralled I was and suggested we go for a walk. I poured out my young heart to her. My mother was married to a very abusive man whom I hated and Jeannie learned all of the unhappiness of my young life.

What I learned from Jeannie...I learned that none of this had anything to do with me. I was reminded how much my Mother loved me and was doing the best she could under the circumstances. I learned a bit of the adult world and how hard it was and how choices had to be made. She asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up...At the time it was a combination Astronaut and Veterinarian. She told me that I could be all that and more, that childhood was short, but life was long; and only a fraction of it would be spent being a child. She told me to stop hating, that if I could not love someone it was best to let them go, because they never got hurt by my hatred, but it would make me feel bad. As a result of out day together; I learned to respect my mother, honor that it was her life and as wrong as I thought she was, she always did the best she possibly could by her children. As a kid you are defined by family and those relationships, but I began to see who I was separate; and imagine myself grown up and happy in the larger world.

When we returned my mother noticed I was happier and for years we referred to Jean and our walk. Most of our relationship after that was via long handwritten letters and phone calls. In my entire life I only saw her two more times.

Jean loved chocolate, we had that in common and I melted a big pan of dark in anticipation of making some form of candy. When you are distracted and sad, melt chocolate, it's very comforting.

I rooted around in the refrigerator looking for something to inspire me and I found some prunes that I had put to soak in Cassis about a week ago. I could not remember for what I had originally intended them so I pulled their plump bodies out of the Cassis dried them on a rack and stuffed them with roasted almonds. One by one I dipped those succulent plums into the chocolate.

They were incredible and the best I can do.

Jeannie's Accidental Chocolates

24 Prunes soaked in 2 cups of Cassis (French Cassis of course)
24 Roasted Almonds
1/2 pound of Dark Chocolate melted

Soak prunes in Cassis for a week or so, remove and dry on a baking rack in the refrigerator. Stuff each prune with an almond (or a cashew for that matter) and one by one dip in the chocolate. Refrigerate on a parchment lined baking sheet until fully chilled. Eat or store to serve later.

While eating call up someone you love and tell them so. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sweet Potato (Yam) hash

I admit that for a long time I had a fear of sweet potatoes.  I had tasted them as that sickly sweet mushy pie and my mother had taken them directly from a can, glazed them with additional sugar product and added marshmallows. Even the idea of a sweet potato fry filled with with dread.

Since they are a nutritional powerhouse I finally got over my fear and am so glad I did. All weekend and today I did this dish at Farm Market Demos and gave a real boost to the farms selling the ingredients. I also did it for a dinner this past Tuesday, it was a multi course tasting menu and the plate with the sweet potato has came back clean from all 4 diners. This dish can be a hit as a side dish with fish, and just as easily a breakfast or brunch dish.

2 nice sized sweet potatoes peeled (any type from yellow to the pictured purple)
1 small appled (russet is nice, but any type will do)
1 large onion finely chopped or 3 leeks

Olive Oil
A good dousing of black pepper

Get out your cheese grater and shred the sweet potatoes and apple. Dump them in a pan that has been drizzled with olive oil. Saute at medium heat for about 10 minutes and throw in the onions. When it all begins to brown give it some salt and several grinds of black pepper, don't be shy, sweet potatoes love black pepper. Let it develop a little more crunch and color and serve.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Pork Belly Dinner Party

One pound of meat. 4 people and a dinner party. If you don't mind making an effort you can make a party that will wow your guests and put you in league with the finest restaurant chefs.

Pork belly is often seen at Asian restaurants and more recently in fine dining. It is adaptable to many low, slow cooking methods and the results are typically succulent and crowd pleasing. One simple pound of belly will more than easily feed 4 people who will revel is it's succulent richness.

You will need to make a visit to your local cheeseshop to get parmesean rinds, or if you buy your cheese with the rind on, make a collection in the freezer until you have about 8 ounces worth of rinds. Some stores will collect them for you if you ask and the price is little. 

1 lb of pork belly, skin on cut into small cubes.
8 oz parmesean rinds
20 cloves of garlic pureed
Kosher Salt

Day 1: Cut your belly into small cubes, bit sized and rub them with garlic and salt, place in a bowl covered and refrigerate.

Simmer your rinds in a gallon of water with a few cloves of garlic and onion chunks, when the broth is reduced by half throw in the pork belly and turn to a simmer, add more water as needed and slowly simmer for two hours.

Remove pork belly with a slotted spoon, cover and refrigerate.

Strain the solids out of your broth and refrigerate overnight.

Soak 1/2 lb of white beans in water overnight. 

Day 2:

1/2 lb of white beans (soaked)
2 cups cherry tomatoes split
2 leeks
Salt and Pepper to taste

Remove your broth from the refrigerator and carefully remove all the wonderful solid fat from the top. SAVE IT! We will be using later.

Add your beans to the cheese stock and bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, after an hour add in the leeks and cherry tomatoes. Add more water as needed adjust seasonings. When beans are tender soup is done and you are ready to serve. Keep warm until serving.

Balsamic Vinegar
Fresh Sage
4 medium potatoes sliced in chunks.

To complete your dinner party make some salads and vegetable antipasto and begin your meal with vegetables.  Then serve your soup which will have the entire house filled with a wonderful smell.

To finish the belly put in a skillet on warm and slowly render more fat and bring to brown. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and fresh Sage leaves.

At the same time brown your potatoes in the reserved fat when they are tender and crisp you can serve the potato with the belly and your guests will rave. These dishes are a guaranteed dinner party success.

The best part...pork belly, potatoes and beans cost so little that you can splurge on the wine. Chianti Classico would be a nice choice.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Chopped Liver or Pate'?

It's all in the attitude....and the preparation. this is not a Kosher recipe, it is however delicious.

Even the humble chicken liver can be made into a spread that will rival those expensive duck and pork preparations at the deli or gourmet store. This creamy rich spread will make you feel like a million bucks and can be served at a holiday party with pride.

1.5 lbs of chicken livers
2 large onions
1/4 lb of butter
Salt and Pepper
Sherry or port
A little oil for cooking

Chives, or red onion for garnish.

Rough chop your onion and brown it in a pan, while the onion cooks wash and trim your livers. remove connective tissue and bits of fat with a pair of kitchen scissors, salt well on both sides. Remove brown onion from the pan and get it very hot and sear the liver. Leave without stirring and then carefully turn. I like them a little rare in the center, but you can cook to well done and it will still taste great.

Deglaze the pan with a splash of sherry or port and put everything save the garnish in the food processor. Pulse, scape, pulse again. The butter will melt into the liver and the texture will become creamy and velvety. Add a little pepper and taste, then add more salt if needed. Spread generously on small toasts or black bread and garnish.

Serve as a first course or a passed party food. Only you will know the while thing cost about two bucks.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Lobster Risotto plus Vinho Verde (Green Wine)

Trust me when I tell you any night of the week can be a romantic night if you have the right food and wine. Don't wait for Valentine's day or even the weekend. Lobster prices are at an all time low right now. I often get them from my fish man in Chinatown but Fairway had lobster in the tank today for 4.99 a pound. When was the last time you saw a lobster at this price? I grabbed one. About a pound and a half the creature was.

Like so many things the lobster did not reveal itself to me until I began to prepare it. I did a two minute boil in heavily salted water with a splash of vinegar. This does not cook the lobster through but makes it easy to crack and get out of the shell which is all you want for this recipe.

I cracked her (roe inside) pulled out all the meat and put the roe sack in very salted water and refrigerated it all.

So I had this shell, and shrimp heads in the freezer, what could prevent them from becoming a stock. Into the pot they went along with an onion and a little more salt. I let it all simmer and do it's thing for a couple of hours and then strained it and reduced it to one measly cup, but a flavorful cup it was.

A risotto it had to be.

  • The meat from one lobster prepped and chopped
  • 1 cups aborio rice
  • 4 T. olive oil
  • 4 finely chopped shallots
  • 1 finely chopped garlic clove
  • chopped parsley
  • Large pinch of good saffron
  • 1 cup white wine (Vinho Verde)
  • 1 cup lobster stock
  • 1/8 pound butter
  • A good splash of cream
  • salt
ALWAYS remember when cooking risotto the liquid is an estimate, it may take a little more or a little less, you just keep stirring and watching.

Crush the saffron into the wine and warm in a pan.

In your risotto pan saute the shallots until they softens and add the garlic. When it becomes tender add the rice and the time to stir has begun. Slowly add the lobster stock and the wine as you stir, wait until the rice absorbs the liquid to add the next bit. You keep this up until the rice is chewy tender, but NOT mushy. Incorporate the butter and cream and lobster and taste for salt, salt if needed and serve. If you were lucky enough to have the roe, garnish with the roe and parsley.

We had a Vinho Verde which is a wonderful little white from Portugal. I am not the biggest white wine drinker, but this one packs a flavorful appeal and with lobster...a great pairing. The sweetness of the lobster and the richness of the cream and butter along with the nice acid of the wine and that slight apple flavor.

Lobster Risotto on Monday is the way to start your week.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Saturday October 10th Inwood Farm Market

As part of my Greenmarket support I will be at Inwood this Saturday October 10th at 11 a.m. I will be doing 3 dishes with the food in season.

For those of you in NY, just take the A train to the end of the line. From Broadway and 211th take a left on 211th and the market is at the top of the hill.

If any of you have never been to Inwood you are in for a treat. It is one of the most beautiful parts of Manhattan. Green space abounds. Bring a backpack for your veg and go for a walk in the woods after the demo.

Fall vegetables are really wonderful to cook with and this Saturday we learn how to not be afraid of root vegetables. If you know what to do with a turnip it can be pretty awesome.

Speaking of fall I got an e mail from a reader complaining about the price of leeks. She has been craving potato leek soup but the price of the leek is too dear. I played a bit and came up with a Spanish onion version that is very soul satisfying.

3-4 cups of diced unpeeled potatoes (1 lb.)
8 Spanish onions peeled and very thinly sliced
2 quarts water
1 Tablespoon salt (give or take)
1/4 pound butter
olive oil
3 tablespoons minced chives or parsley

Melt half the butter and some olive oil in a large pan and slowly saute the onions until they are soft and begin to caramelize and turn pale brown. Add the water and potatoes and salt, cover and simmer for about an hour. Test to see if the potatoes are done and then take a masher or immersion blender and either mash to desired texture or blend, but not too much, unless you really want a puree. I like it a little chunky. Stir in the rest of the butter and top with the chives or parsley and some freshly ground black pepper.

Good enough for your Parisian friends.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

End of Summer Tomato Salad

Last night I was with a friend from Italy and we are two of the most different people you can imagine. We had a blast and laughed over the many differences.

I can throw a toothbrush and a razor in a backpack and go anywhere and he travels with an entourage of suitcases.

My closets have been converted to pantries and my wine refrigerator to a meat curing cube and he has more clothes than I can imagine wearing in a year.

The evening just reminded me how much I love the simple pleasures and made me think of one of my favorite meals. Simplicity in itself the base being just sliced tomatoes, but with a crust of bread and a glass of wine it is heaven.

As we soon will leave the season of abundant ripe tomatoes I encourage you to head to your garden or a Farm Market soon and try this for yourself. Reduce the number of anchovies if you must but don't eliminate them from this dressing. They provide a depth of flavor that makes the salad a meal.

I had variations of this all over Rome and Napoli so feel free to vary it yourself. With these good ingredients you can't go wrong.

  • 1 cup pitted green and black olives, roughly chopped
  • a nice handful of chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 20 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 1/4 cup capers
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated
  • A huge handful or 4 of fresh basil, chopped.
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup really fruity peppery extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 4 large ripe tomatoes sliced
Stir all the ingredients together save the garlic. Get your cheese grater and grate the fresh garlic into the dressing and give it another stir.

Slice the tomatoes and arrange on a platter and use a spoon to mound this dressing over the slices. Serves two as a meal and 4 as an appetizer.

IF for any reason you have leftovers chop the tomatoes and store in the frig, the next day warm and toss over makes a killer fresh pasta sauce. I will say the only time I had leftovers was when I did 8 large tomatoes for two persons, and even then...not too much left.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Maple Glazed Sausage and more Greenmarket appearances

Maple Glazed Sausage

We were taken to a fast-food cafĂ© where our order was fed into a computer. Our hamburger, made from the flesh of chemically impregnated cattle, had been broiled over counterfeit charcoal, placed between slices of artificially flavored cardboard and served to us by recycle juvenile delinquents…Jean Michel Chapereau

I will be posting a schedule of upcoming Greenmarket Food Demos because these farmer’s mean a lot to me personally. When I first moved to NY I literally worked for food and came to know these and other wonderful, generous hardworking people who toil daily to satisfy our appetites for the best possible food. Our local farmers and artisan vendors feed us so well in NY. To those readers who live elsewhere; seek out your local markets and give your taste buds a treat they won't forget.

This dish is a great breakfast accompaniment on the non-pancake days or savory antipasti that can be served alongside some soft cheese and grilled vegetables. If you are in NY Grazin Angus makes a beautiful beef Italian, but this simple preparation is also good with Tamarak Farms Kilbasa, and Flying Pig Farms pork Andoule. If you have really good sausage made with naturally raised meat and REAL maple syrup you can't go wrong.

1 Link Sausage Per Serving
1 Tablespoon REAL Maple Syrup per Serving
A big handful of Fresh Sage

Full cook sausage links and remove to a board, slice sausage links into thick coin sized pieces and return to the pan. Drizzle with syrup until fully coated and the syrup begins to reduce. Toss in your sage and stir just until the sage sticks to the sausage. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Friday, September 18, 2009

NY Greenmarket Appearance

An announcement and a recipe.

This Sunday the 20th of September beginning at 11 a.m. I will be at the New York Greenmarket with Fusion On The Fly live creating multiple dishes out of fresh market ingredients. Show up at 77th and Columbus and taste some food with me. No reservations required.

We are so lucky that at most Greenmarkets in NY we have such wide choices of food from the freshest vegetables and meats to handmade cheeses and fresh pasta. I will only be adding seasoning and olive oil (both of which are available at the flea market across the street.)

I will be doing a variation of Green Beans Franca and something with her delicious smoked trout.

While I will not be making Ed's 5 pepper tacos I will be using some of his wonderful fruit in another dish.

One of my newest favorite 'Salads' is one of the simplest and most refreshing ways to enjoy summer.

Asian Cucumber Salad

Dipping Sauce
1 tablespoon hot chili oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Whisk together

Cut cucumbers into coin sized slices and using your best chopstick skill dip them in the sauce and eat. This dish will make you grateful for the last vestiges of Summer and there are so few calories you can eat as many cucumbers as you like.

Friday, September 11, 2009

I Like Fat; A home cook's chicken confit recipe

I like it a lot. I like pancetta, bacon, pate, liver and all sorts of fatty meats. When confronted with goose or duck I eat the crisp skin and the fat first. Even in it's pure form I can find no fault with it be it butter, lard, or pure olive oil.

I won't touch margarine, hydrogenated versions or the questionable vegetable oil, but all natural fat is pretty much fair game.

There are multitudes of recipes for the classic preparation of duck confit on the web, besides which, I can't improve on Julia Child's step by step instructions. Unfortunately many home cooks don't have sufficient quantity of duck fat laying about but butter, I bet you've got butter.

This dish will wow your dinner guests and you may be surprised you made something so very good. It can be started a few days before the party and is very easy to finish just before serving. In addition you will have a good quantity of flavorful butter left over that will make you very happy for weeks afterward.

Keep in mind that there is no such thing as too much butter...

4 chicken thighs with drum attached (recipe can easily be doubled)
2 cups kosher salt (more if needed)
8 cloves garlic
4 tablespoons mixed Italian herbs
1 Jalapeno whole (choose a hotter pepper if you want more heat)
2 tablspoons crushed peppercorns

Mix all the seasoning as well as 4 tablespoons of the salt in the food processor to form a paste. Rub the chicken all over with the past making sure to get some under the skin. Make a bed of the remaining salt in a pan large enough for the chicken to lie flat. Place the chicken on the bed and fully cover with the rest of the salt (use more if needed). Place a plate on top of the chicken and refrigerate for 24 hours.

For the next step you will need 3/4 pound melted butter and 8 heads of garlic split in half as well as 8 strips of fatty bacon.

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and rinse under cool water to remove excess salt. Pat dry with paper towels. You will see the salt left in the pan is very wet as the chicken has lost some of it's moisture, this is a good thing as we are replacing it with fat.

Place the open garlic on a casserole and place the dried chicken skin side up on top of the garlic cloves. Layer the bacon on top of the chicken.Pour butter over the chicken until not a bit of skin or chicken does not have a good layer of fat on top of it. The chicken should look like it is drowning in a pool of fat. Place in a 225 oven for 3 hours.

With a spatula carefully remove the chicken and place on a plate to cool. It will be VERY melty and tender so be careful. Strain the fat into a large tall container so that the fat will rise and any broth or solids will pool at the bottom. Cover the chicken and place both in the refrigerator until the next day. Resist the urge to pick.

If you want a real treat you can now crisp the bacon and make the best BLT you have ever had, or cover and save the bacon and use it on a bed of crisp greens. It's a delicious side treat.

Now comes the pleasure part.

You have all this lovely butter filled with flavor and chicken that cannot wait. Place the chicken in a nonstick pan over a low medium flame and warm and crisp it.

How you serve it is up to you. I can be taken off the bone and crisped and served over a bed of lightly dressed greens.

My favorite however is to get some of that lovely fat out and fry cubed new potatoes alongside the chicken. To serve this crisp chicken along with potatoes flavored in the fat is so decadent that you may eat all vegetables for the next few days. It is worth it.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Congee recipe aka Jook, a dieter's best friend

Many Americans if they have any idea of what congee is think of it as some poor gruel, gross and inedible. They could not be more wrong.

Congee is a VERY versatile soup base and because of it's thick texture it tends to fill one up with few calories. It takes almost any addition, you can stir in and becomes rich with flavor.

If adding vegetables it is also a very low calorie choice. 9 cups of the stuff comes in at just over 200 calories and if adding mostly veg you will not get fat.

Basic Recipe
  • 3/4 cup long rice
  • 9 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
Cover, bring to a boil, stir, turn down and simmer for about 90 minutes. Stir occasionally. You will have about 8 cups of basic Congee when finished. You can season the whole pot or try some of these stir in's if you want to eat it about two cups at a time.

If you want your basic porridge to have a warmer color throw in a little turmeric and paprika when cooking it. If you want the base to be more flavorful you can use chicken, beef, veal, duck or any other stock you have.

I love to take a couple of cups of the basic, add about a tablespoon of miso paste, a splash of soy sauce and top with a poached egg.

It makes a great lunch with a crushed tomato, fresh basil and a little Parmesan cheese.

Literally any vegetable chopped and added to Congee will taste great. I made a corn/cabbage chowder with shredded cabbage and one ear of fresh corn and a little miso.

For a big meal load it up with vegetables, add some sesame oil, some chili oil and some soy.

Shredded meat, leftover meatballs, onions, garlic can use whatever you have in the frig to give you a flavorful meal.

For a dieter on a budget...Congee. Don't be afraid to go Asian.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Why I 'Fringe' and Fringe Survival Pasta

The NYC Fringe Festival is a lot like street food. It is cheap and all over the place.

You don't go to a street cart and expect an awesome dining experience, you go only with the expectation that you will get something.

Maybe you will meet a great vendor, maybe there will be an ingredient that sparks your taste buds or maybe you will find something awesome and awe inspiring. This will happen ever 5 years IF you are a dedicated street eater.

At the Fringe I hope for something...maybe there are a few songs in a musical that make my toes tap, or a really talented cast member that has been thrown into a stew of really bad ingredients, but the discerning can find that talent.

Sometimes it is a director who has great vision for a cast that lacks talent, and upon rare occasions it is a fully satisfying experience.

I admit that much of what I will see has to do with time and location. It is very hard to choose based on the blurbs, some great shows will have lousy websites and some lousy shows great websites. You never know until you show up.

Treat the Fringe like your life, show up and see if there isn't something that will enchant.

This dish is my fringe staple. When you are running around in the Village trying to cram in 4 shows in 6 hours you need sustenance. I came up with this dish one day when I was going on a hike and it is so good I have repeated it several times. It is really high fat (Sorry Doc), but you don't become tempted to sneak bite of dried fruit when your attention should be on stage.

This recipe is per person, or per 4 ounces of pasta, so make times 4 if you are doing a pound and feeding your fringe friends.

4 ounces cooked pasta
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup heavy cream
3 ounces shredded cheese (any kind, Cheddar, Jack, Mozzarella, any shredded cheese or blend)
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes halved
Basil, parsley, whatever fresh herb you have
Salt and Pepper

Put sauce ingredients in a warm bowl, reserves some pasta water.

Toss cooked hot pasta with sauce and add pasta water as needed to get the right thickness, give it several grinds of black pepper and a few dashes of salt. Eat this super rich fatty combo and go fringe for a few hours.

I put 26 shows on my schedule and will do my best to give quick updates on what might be worth your time.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Beet, Brie and Bacon Tart

I finished my vegetable week rather uneventfully with a lot of salads and fennel just sliced. I ended up getting very busy and did not create any amazing new dishes....until today.

I started to make a pie. I have a lot of Ed's peaches in my house and they are ripe. I made a single crust thinking I might do it open faced with a little infused cream. When I opened the refrigerator the beets from the CSA complete with great looking greens staring at me. In the recess of my mind I went to France, the south to those rustic summer tarts of many wonderful vegetables. The thyme called my name and to the garden I went for some tarragon. Ingredients began to tumble out at me and the following tart was born, and it is superb.

1 pastry crust
3/4 cup of heavy cream
4 medium beets, roasted or boiled and thinly sliced
All those lovely beet greens chopped fine sauteed with water squeezed out
2 chopped scallion (green part too, not just the white)
8 ounces of brie thinly sliced (I put it in the freezer and sliced while assembling)
2 medium potatoes thinly sliced
Big handful of thyme and tarragon
Salt and pepper
3 slices of bacon pan fried and crumbled (save fat)
1/2 stick of butter

Warm your cream on the stove top with the tarragon and thyme stalks in it. Keep it on a super low flame for about 10 minutes then remove and let rest with the herb. Do not worry if it develops a skin.

Chop and saute your beet greens with a touch of salt. Squeeze water out and keep in a colander.

Fry the bacon, reserve the fat and crumble the bacon on a plate.

Layer your beets in the bottom of the pastry shell. Top with 1/2 of the sliced brie. The greens go on top of the brie, the onion on the greens, the bacon on the onion and the potato on the bacon. Now, drizzle that lovely bacon fat on the potato slices and top with the remaining brie.

Remove the herbs from your cream and pour the cream over everything. Lightly salt and give those potatoes a a grind of fresh pepper. Now dot with butter, yes butter , bacon fat and cream. Julia Child will be proud of you.

Bake 375 for about approximately 70 minutes. It will smell so good, you will be tempted but let it rest for a couple of hours so it can be cut into wedges. Serve with a salad, and if yours is as good as mine excuse yourself from your guests, bring the laptop to the kitchen counter and share the recipe. Actually I was egged on to post by my guests...'Make sure you write it down before you forget it."

I have hungry mouths clamouring for a second piece.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Something good

i got a little creative today, no recipe emerged to share, but the spark of a couple of things emerged that I will work on developing.

The spinach leaves from the CSA were really huge. So I used them like grape leaves and made a stuffing of rice and pine nuts and baked them in a lemon sauce. These were really good, and if you have a grape leaf recipe go ahead and adapt it. I'm afraid none of my measurements were precise enough to give you a recipe.

Another experiment gets an A for taste but... It was really messy.

I hate fake meat. Nothing worse than tofurkey or fake sausage. Soy is so genetically modified and then when processed into fake meat, it becomes the opposite of health food. But that said, I have had a couple of really good bean and mushroom burgers that were not attempting to taste like meat, but they were formed for a bun or round roll. With that in mind I made a red bean and almond burger, I topped it with sauteed onions and mushrooms and put it on a roll with a goodly amount of mayo. My patty fell apart, so it needs work. Nonetheless it was a good little sandwich.

I dined on all kinds of fruits and salads and chopped veg all day and came in at under 2,000 calories. My waist is liking this vegetable week.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Locavore's Dilemma

Right now I have the sublet of a CSA farm share, yes in NY you can even sublet a farm share. I am trading the fruit for guaranteed delivery because my sublet is on the other side of town, far, far from West Harlem. It is worth it. My sublet is provided by Stoneledge Farm.

While today's haul was meager, there was purple basil, purple peppers, a few zucchini, some potatoes, the largest spinach leaves I have ever seen, and an eggplant. This is what Community Supported Agriculture is about, you share the bounty, when there is bounty and you share the risk. The rains have been difficult for our local farmers and a lot of blight has been spread with some crops rotting on the vine.

Nonetheless I won't go hungry. I have food growing out my back window, including some of the best tomatoes on earth and great herbs and I have my local farmer's at the Green markets to count on for just about everything else I need. Other than olive oil from Greece, and dried pasta from Italy, most of what I eat in the summer comes from within miles of the city. That is the goal of the locavore, to consume what can be grown and sustained locally. (clearly I drink less wine, we have almost no good local wine and what we do have is priced out of my range).

The Dilemma? Winter. I am so grateful for Argentinian Farmer's and those glimpses of summer in another part of the world. I can only go so far on root vegetables. The solution to this has been used in Holland for Decades now, Green houses. We will pay through the nose to get those greenhouse tomatoes in the winter, but there are not many enterprising folks in this area who will take this one on.

Corporate American farming is evil and those profit graspers care nothing for my health, so I will care nothing for their bottom line and avoid them. Whole Foods and Dean Foods are at the center of this axis putting out 'natural' lines which are anything but and working very hard to lower the standards of organic certification so they can move more junk through.

Right now, this summer I am able to eat locally and am grateful to be able to do so.

3rd veg day.

Not surprising I woke up hungry. I had a big bowl of Asian noodles in a vegetable broth topped with poached egg. Then the heat did in my hunger for the rest of the day and I ate 8 zucchini that I had grilled and brushed with vinegar. I had them, warm at room temp and later cold. They are about 3 calories each. That, along with fruit and some cucumber and tomato was it until dinner. I felt completely justified in indulging in noodles yet again, this time with a tomato basil sauce and a generous portion of chopped green olives stirred in.

I still stayed under 1700 calories. My nutrition was good, but a bit low on calcium, but for one day I am not going to worry.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Day 3 vegetables...

I ate well today, I heated up a very generous portion of the vegetables Anna for breakfast with some very good coffee and some fruit.

For lunch I dined very simply with some cucumber tomato salad.

It was a hot day in NY so I had little appetite for dinner despite a serious gym visit. I made a salad. A head of romaine, a head of Radicchio, a bag of Trader Joe's organic spring mix and dressing. This salad filled my largest mixing bowl. My favorite thing on top of a salad with vinegar is poached eggs and lardons. I was tempted, I had some house-cured pancetta that I could have easily crisped and tossed with those greens and eggs, but when I pushed them aside I came across a container of pitted black olives so I used those for my salt fix. In my entire life I don't think I have ever had a salad this large.

My nutritional chart checked out, my A and C were off the charts and everything else was in a healthy range.

I may make an effort to pack in a few more calories tomorrow. I typically consume about 2,600 a day and this is a big drop, but I look good.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Vegetables Anna

Bragging is a bad thing, but I am going to boast anyway.

I made one of the most delicious foods I have ever made, crisp on the outside, creamy on the inside. Based on Potatoes Anna, I switched up the layers to use some very good vegetables. In my nod to Dr. Itzkovitz I line my cast iron skillet with parchment paper to lower my iron intake. But you can bake it directly and it will be browner and crispier for it.

Thinly slice
2 medium potatoes
1 peeled eggplant
2 medium zucchini
3 medium onion
1 large apple

Have handy
Olive oil

Rub the bottom of your largest cast iron skillet or parchment with olive oil. Layer your thinly sliced potatoes slightly overlapping the slices. Next onion, then zucchini, then apple, more onion, and now...hold back the last of the potato and use whatever you have next mixing up the layer. Now top with the last bit of potato.

With each layer you want to add a light bit of salt and pepper. Once layered, dot the top with butter. Bake at 350 for about 90 minutes. Let rest and put a plate of the same size as the skilled against the skilled. Flip it. The top will be brown and crisp and the layers creamy goodness.

I had one thin wedge and want more, but I am full.

Even though the calories consumed today were relatively small, I had the most wonderful first course and it filled me.

Squash blossoms stuffed with grated fresh mozzarella, a beaten egg, fresh peas, a few bread crumbs and a ton of fresh basil. Franca Tantillo, one of my favorite farmer's gave me a bag of them at today's market when I bought some green beans and fresh peas. I dipped them in a light batter and fried them til they were golden. The wonderfulness of them still lingers. So you can see why I was full.

My daytime eating was comprised of fruit, a few triscuit and for breakfast some leftover soba noodles and vegetables that I beat an egg into and made a torta out of. Roughly 1,700 calories including the glass of wine I am having now. I may do a bit of popcorn before bed.

Already fat loss on just two days without meat. Dr. Atkins...oh sorry, your dead. Probably from too much meat.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

1st Veg Day plus basil mushrooms

What impressed me most about the first veg day was the fact that my nutritional needs were met so fully. Vitamin D and E were not completely met by diet, but I had a day on the Jersey Shore that gave me plenty of D from the sun. The E will balance out over the next few days.

Peaches, plums and fried rice comprised breakfast, I scrambled an egg in the rice and threw in bits of various vegetables. I had to sustain for a train ride to the Jersey shore.

It took lunch along and it was pretty simple, cheese and whole grain crackers and a roast tomato and Mozzarella salad, along with a few more plums. Perfect for a hot day.

I had an unexpected dinner guest so it was garden, pantry and frig for ingredients. I had SO much basil, a bunch of mushrooms I had intended for a risotto, green onions from the farm share and a bit of cabbage leftover, along with a baby zucchini. So this was to be dinner.

2 cups raw mushroom
1 bunch scallion
1 cup shredded cabbage
1 zucchini (small) cubed
Soy Sauce
Red Pepper flakes
Romain lettuce leaves
1 cup basil leaves chopped

Grind the mushrooms in the processor and put them into a very hot pan with a bit of oil and let them brown, stir brown again and let the water that has been release evaporate. Toss in the zucchini cubes and just barely let them become tender, Season with soy sauce and red pepper and then the cabbage, just until it begins to wilt, about a minute. Turn the heat off and toss in your basil.

Bring the mix to the table in a bowl surrounded by lettuce leaves and make wraps at the table.

For those who worry about the protein content I managed 66 grams of protein today. I had approximately 1800 calories and am quite full and satisfied. Mmmmmm mushrooms!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Beans are your friends

Dear Readers,

I cannot begin to tell you the amount of e mail I got about my proposing a week without meat. There is a page on Facebook...

as well as e mail chains being sent around to promote this. I have heard from Peta and other organizations who want to formalize the events.

People are asking for shopping lists, what the rules are, can they eat fish etc. etc. etc.

Let me tell you what this is about for me, and if you participate what I hope it will be about for you.

Consciousness. Grocery store meat is factory farmed in ways that are not good for animals or the people that consume them. By giving it up you become conscious of what you are eating, you put aside meal crutches and pay attention to what you are consuming. Think about how hard the farmers work, meet them at the markets and find out about the food you eat.

When I was in Istanbul I arrived during Ramadan. During this period Muslims do not eat until Sunset. Not being Muslim I had breakfast in my my apartment and discreetly carried some water in a backpack but skipped lunch and broke fast with my Turkish brothers at sunset. The enormous appreciation for the food and the complete awareness of where it came from right down to thanking the lamb for giving us his life so that we may sustain ours had an impact. After 11 hours of not eating, I appreciated and thought about every bite. What goes into growing lentils, lemons, beans? How many people worked along the way to make our feasting possible?

As we broke the bread I appreciated the bread makers who had worked all day long near hot ovens without even a sip of water.

Forget the Boca Burgers, and don't worry about meat substitutes. If you are participating, don't think about what you are not eating. Appreciate what you are eating. I will beginning tomorrow share a daily diary, including recipes, preps, calorie content and nutrition breakdown. Don't worry, I will get enough protein.

And now to beans. I love them. I have loved beans ever since I was a child in New Orleans and had my first Red Beans and Rice. They are creamy, dense, fibrous, nutritious and easy to cook.

Haul out your crock pot.

Put a touch of oil in the bottom and toss in two large chopped onions and some garlic. Turn it on high. Go get ready for work. Now that you are out of the shower you can smell the onion. Toss in a pound of beans, red, black, white, pink, any color you like, and 8 cups water, give it several good doses of salt turn to low and put the lid back on. Go to work, school wherever you go.

Come home to a pot of melting tender beans.

I happen to love them hot from the pot folded in a tortilla with a bit of cheese and some raw sweet onion and cilantro.

I set some aside for a cold salad with corn and tomato, the rest I tend to have in the morning with melted cheese and a poached egg.

A humble pot of beans is as sustaining as the most expensive filet and you can't put a filet into a crock pot and walk away from it....unless you are into cremation.

Monday, July 27, 2009

A week without grocery store meat! Can we do it?

In America, the cow is on trial. The charges include dietary wrongdoing, pollution and misuse of natural resources. - Molly O' Neil.

As a BIG fan of the vegetables I tend to buy meat very carefully. I know better than to trust retailers like Whole Foods because when they say grass fed they mean grain finished feedlot beef. In other words they lie and are trying to change the definition of grass to include corn. I kid you not. They are not about high quality, but high profit.

How about August 1 to 7? Show the makers of factory meats that the consumers have power and buy NO GROCERY STORE MEAT. Not a can of tuna, not a pound of bacon, or some ground chicken or whatever your food crutches are, and instead put that significant chunk of change towards local produce. Go to the farmer's markets, they will have an abundance of great food that will make you seriously happy. If you eat meat, make sure it is REAL meat, not factory meat.

One delicious option...Cucumber tomato salad.

1 medium cucumber cubed
2 medium tomatoes cubed
2 oz feta crumbled (Bulgarian Feta is best)
A little salt and pepper
Olive oil
Apple cider vinegar

Chop, toss, hit with a little cider vinegar and a drizzle of oil. Salt and pepper to taste. It is that simple and a crisp fresh salad that will make you forget burgers for a few days.

Summer Vegetable Dressing
has a tang of fresh ginger and can be used on salad and as a veg dipping sauce. I love it with lightly steamed green beans.

Spinach is a great summer veg and Farmer's markets of then have a great source. Many farmers replant a few times so there are always tender leaves.

Dave's Patty pan prep is one of the most widely read and shared recipes from my site ever. Dave is now famous and I would tell you more about him but we have never met. The prep is also great for eggplant or most any vegetable.

Green Beans Franca
is another post that got more readers in one day than any other. It does contain bacon, and IF you have a natural bacon source go ahead. Otherwise cut the bacon or eat it on July 31.

The Goat Cheese and Leek pasta sauce is one of my personal favorites. If you start to crave that meat, make this and it's goodness will wash away cravings.

This wonderful vegetable pesto named after Joy Behar was linked to ABC's website for a bit. Talk about e mail. View devotees are very into sending e mail. I think I got close to 500 about this recipe. Make without the pancetta and shrimp, Pesto does not need it and Joy will forgive you for modifying the recipe. The reason I share this again is that you can do it with many dishes...just take the meat out and if it has enough of a flavor profile, you will be very happy.

This drunken pasta is awesome and can just as easily be made with green beans as eggs.

And for those of you who have summer gardens....Raw "pasta", I know you have enough veg to make it.

And when you finally feel vegged out...Mac and Cheese.

Send the factory farmers who try to fill out bodies with chemicals and antibiotics a message, just say NO! Give it a week, and tell me if you haven't lost 3 pounds?

I am giving permission to anyone and everyone to take this idea, copy, share, post, link, and spread the word of the week without meat. Do it on Facebook, twitter, print a few copies and take them to the farmer's market.

The money you save...hmmmm. Maybe you can buy a few things for a food bank. There are a lot of folks having tough times now.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Georgian Royal Estates Mukuzani 2005

When many of us think of Russian wine, we think of those sickly sweet thick reds that to my palate are as detestable as Boone's Farm or Mogen David.

Georgia and Crimea are out to change our image and more and more wines from those regions are hitting the American stores.

I love sophisticated, dry well aged reds. I also love a good fruit bomb, a great Syrah or Malbec is often a bit of both. I found a wonderful spicy fruit bomb that is under 6 a bottle, a price that is happy making. With it's deep purple color and balance on the tongue, it has much more flavor than it's price would indicate.

There are many Mukuzani on the market make sure you pick one that says DRY, even their semi sweet can be pretty syrup-like. I have found the years vary enormously in quality and this particular 2005 is worthy of a case purchase. We are going to be having it with some home made pizza in a few minutes and the two sets of noses and taste buds in my house tonight agree....this is a damn fine 6 buck wine.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A bevy of cucumbers

I got an e mail from a reader who calls himself Greenman, it sounds like he has a green thumb, which is a very good thing. He is facing what many of us with gardens overabundance. There are times when one vegetable will take off more than any others giving us more than we can eat, and share. When one thinks of cucumbers one thinks of salads. Their clean crisp taste is a delight in salad, but one can only eat so many salads.

I went to the Farmer's market early this morning and have been playing in the kitchen and behold the cucumber... a very versatile vegetable.

#1 Cucumber Pea soup

This preparation reeks of fresh summer flavor and is incredibly simple.

In a pan place
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups finely chopped cucumbers
2 cups fresh or frozen peas

Bring to a boil. Turn off heat, let rest for about a minute and then puree in the blender. Adjust seasoning if needed and serve either warm or cold with fresh mint and chive. I was so happy with this simple soup it became my breakfast.

#2 Cucumber Thai noodles
3 cups shredded cucumbers (use a mandolin and make them into long noodle shards or a cheese grater for short ones)
4 tablespoons peanut butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fermented fish sauce
1 tablespoon chili garlic paste
1/4 cup chicken stock
1 lime cut into 4
Flax seeds/chopped peanuts/green onions to garnish

Shred the cucumber into long pasta like tendrils and DRAIN for at least an hour in a colander over the sink. It helps to lightly salt and toss the cucumber so that the maximum water comes out.

Take all the sauce ingredients and blend with a whisk or in a food processor. Toss with cucumber and top with the flax, peanuts and onions, divide into 4 servings and give each person a wedge of lime to squeeze over the noodles.

#3 stuffed cucumbers with a Tahini butter

4 cucumbers
1/3 pound ground lamb
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup cooked rice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 small onion chopped
1 tsp cumin
1tsp corriander

1/4 cup butter
1 tablespoon tahini

Lop off the top of the cucumbers and scoop out with a spoon. Mix all your stuffing ingredients in a small bowl and pack down into the cucumbers. Place cucumbers into a pan with a touch of water on the bottom and place into an oven set at 375 for 30 to 40 minutes until stuffing is cooked and cucumber is tender.

Melt butter and stir in the tahini, blend with a whisk until it is full integrated and drizzle over your stuffed cucumber. If you have a little greek yogurt in the house, put a blob on each one and serve.

I had all these dishes today and am not sick of cucumbers, in fact I am marinating some for a salad tonight.

Anyone who has an ingredient they have no idea what to do with...when I have the time there is nothing I like better than playing with my food. Write me and I will see what I can do.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Pork burgers...Fusion on the Fly parties

One of the types of parties I love to do are Fusion parties.

The host pays for my services but saves on food, the guests act as sous chefs and get a cooking lesson and a meal.

Each guest is asked to bring at least one item. It can be something they see at the Farmer's market and don't know how to prepare or anything else that appeals to them. It has to be an ingredient, not a finished food and no coaching or categories are assigned. They are cautioned to remember that they have to eat what they bring, but beyond that anything goes. I use standard pantry items and possibly additional ingredients provided by the host.

4th of July I did one of these events and the host announced it would be an outdoor cookout on a rooftop with a very nice grill.

So what showed up.

Hot dog buns
A pineapple
5 lbs of onions
A very large pork shoulder
Feta Cheese
Big bag of pre-washed spinach

What would you make?

Fortunately we had pre-made some chips and dips so everyone got a chance to look over the ingredients without starving.

I ran to the kitchen for a food processor and an extension cord and set to grinding the shoulder with a good bit of the fat for flavor. I knew a whole shoulder would never cook quickly enough in time for these good folks to eat. I had someone core the pineapple, and thick slice several onion and the fennel.

For a salad I grilled the fennel, pineapple, and onion, a quick rough chop when they came off the grill they were tossed warm with the spinach and feta and a light vinaigrette. The salad was great and I would happily serve it again.

We took the ground pork and with some salt, pepper, cumin and coriander made nice thick oblong burgers to fit the hot dog buns and topped the burgers with chopped fresh onion and cilantro. They were good. I had a cheesecake I had done ahead for dessert.

I love parties like this, I never know what I am going to make and many times I record and repeat's that good.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Fancy Food Show 2009

I got this letter in my e mail from a reader....

PLEASE answer this online and not via e mail.

Do you use Crisco for frying?

Do raisins belong in a chicken salad?

Which mayo is better Dukes or Hellman's?

While I could certainly give an answer to the first two I had never heard of Dukes, until today at the Fancy Food Show in NY.

So reader stay tuned til the end of this column and I will address your questions, but first a few Fancy Food Show paragraphs.

I think it is time to change the name of this show, Fancy is no longer what it is about. In the past the introduction of new products was often an exotic show. To be able to get things from around the world was awesome, and sometimes it still is, but the majority of crap at this show is neither fancy, nor terribly good.

Do we need another potato chip? Puffed or otherwise?

Do we need 100 new jams that all taste of either corn syrup or too much sugar?

Do we need yet another BBQ sauce that tastes like Kraft?

Do we need another soft drink?

The answer is no, we don't. This show has become more about junk food than products used by Chefs. In order to find the gems I had to work the show for 3 days and at times I felt like a pig pursuing truffles. There were so few for all the sniffing around I did.

There are however some good things out there, and those I want to tell you about.

I have had a lot of truffle oil over the years but the best I have tasted was made by FungusAmongus the flavor is light but true and used as a finishing oil for a are talking great food. Actually everything in the product line I tasted was top quality.

Speaking of truffles I rolled my eyes at Susan Rice truffled popcorn, but my eye roll was premature.
This is one of the most perfect snacks I have ever had, a perfect pairing, if you see it in an upscale market, grab it.

I love my friends at Aux Delices and both their white and black truffle butter are absolutely hands down the best. The won best of show last year and they deserved it. I tried a lot of truffle butter and some of it was very good, but no one can beat them.

I had some fun with the ladies at Nueske's today, Wisconsin ladies can be a hoot. Their bacon took an award this year and it was well deserved. It is hands down some of the best bacon I have ever had in my life. Apple wood smoked and just the right balance of fat and lean.

After 3 days I had Fancy Food Fatigue and did not want to taste further, but I am glad I did. Redwood Hill Farm is making an awesome Raw Milk Feta, it is aged for 60 days so it is a much mellower taste than the fresh feta. This is perfect grated onto a bit of toasted bread that has been rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil and served with figs and Malbec. I can state this with assurance because that was my dinner tonight along with a nice big salad. I am a happy camper now.

And onto the questions.....

I would use Crisco for nothing. Not a product I like. The taste can ruin delicate foods and make fried ones greasy. I like peanut oil for frying, but the truth is I very rarely fry food, so something better could be out there. Many southern cooks and grandmothers like bacon fat, and it can be pretty good. For potatoes nothing beats duck or goose fat.

As far as raisins in a chicken salad, I suppose if you like raisins then you should put them in your chicken salad. It was all the rage for a very short time when I was in Minneapolis as a youth. Someone put raisins in her chicken salad at a church pot luck, and then my friend Scott's mother used them. Back then grapes were not available year round and among the pot luck set this was considered 'very creative'. Personally I don't like them in much of anything and think that outside of Moroccan food they should never be inflicted upon guests.

Duke's is what ties this whole thing together. Before the e mail I had never heard of it. I tend to make my own for most foods, certainly when I cater I make it. Though they have no distributor yet Duke's was at the food show. Duke's beats the hell out of Hellman's. Hellman's contains sugar and you can taste it, it gives it that slight miracle whip thing. Duke's has no sugar and a bit more tang. If I were just using it on a sandwich or something at home...Duke's.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

NY BBQ Festival and Elaine Stritch in Full Monty

To go from vegetables and greens to blocks filled with the smell of roasted pork and beef was a big change for me. I must admit the smell was intoxicating and I wanted to taste everything. I came close to doing so.

We have to mention Blue Smoke and Dinosaur Bar-B-Que for being willing to put their goods alongside the big boys of BBQ. Unfortunately it only highlighted that what we accept in NY is a pale imitation of the real thing.

Ubons is something special, Now they do serve it with a red sauce which is not something I usually enjoy but the one they make is vinegary and spicy, not sweet and cloying like the sauces with a corn syrup base. The real secret of Ubons is the rub. It contains a LOT of citrus with just the right amount of everything else and their Boston Butt is lightly smoky, falling apart tender and succulent beyond words, even without the sauce. Leslie and her mother were so kind and gave me a cup of the rub to take home.

Best in Show was Ed Mitchell of The Pit this is worth a trip to North Carolina. No culinary school for this master of the BBQ, he learned from his mother. As a kid he had no sisters and he was forced into the kitchen. Now grateful for the training he knows what to do with a hog.

The whole pig is pulled right off the BBQ and the skin set aside to go back on the BBQ to dry and crisp. The sauce is vinegar based and not at all sweet, just enough spice to tickle your taste buds. The proper way to make a sandwich is plenty of pulled meat, some crispy skin and Cole slaw. I was truly in BBQ heaven.

Comatose I packed some prunes and almond in my back pack after the festival was over and got on the train to New Jersey for the opening night of Full Monty with Elaine Stritch.

As expected Stritch makes magic doing a real character. Anyone in the tri state's worth the trip.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

What I've been eating

I've gotten a few e mail complaining about the lack of new recipes and the truth is that I have barely been cooking.

Dinner these days has been Arugula, probably more than anything else. It's wonderful spiciness is in the markets and growing right outside my bedroom window and I have been powerless to resist a salad and just a bit of something with it.

For lunch I have had a lot of Asian noodles in broth, or peanut sauce with a breakfast of a duck egg and some rye toast I have not been eating foods exciting to write about. But to me the first plate of stone cherries of the season holds more allure than a steak or even a pasta at present.

I've been recording and cataloguing recipes from my travels and diary so that I can remember how to make all the things I have collected over the decades. Heading to the theatre often and grabbing the odd bit of street food, or slice of pizza. This type of eating has it's own rewards. I have been delighted by the simplicity in my diet and the shedding of extraneous fat both on my plate and on my body. A bowl of broccoli with a bit of nutty rice IS a meal in the right company and frame of mind.

One of the random bits that was truly wonderful I will share.

1 big bowl of arugula dressed with rice wine, soy sauce and tossed with a bit of crispy bacon broken into bits. Placed on a flat pan I put a few spoonfuls of ricotta on it and under a hot broiler it went to warm the cheese. The arugula wilted just enough and the cheese made for a melty creamy counterpoint to the sharp salty dressing. A glass of Greco and a crust of bread it was quite satisfying.

For dessert, raspberries with a thick sour yogurt scooped on top.

Life needs to be simple every now and then.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

fusiononthefly on Twitter

But I promise no updates as to my comings and goings and bathroom habits.

I am going to use it to alert people to great sales on food items in NY. Where to go for a good price or that special something delicious as well as any really worth theatre I see. While I use the web to post (no cell phone) I will try to make some posts as I travel so that you might find something truly tasty in your home city.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Freedom in meal planning -curry recipe

There is a great freedom in not planning your meals around meat.

When I was a kid we centered our meals around meat, at the very least we had ground beef and for holidays chunks of beef or a ham, eating well meant steak. That was the way I was raised, it wasn't a meal unless it was meat.

When I first moved away from home my budget was tight, but I knew how to make a chicken last so that I could eat meat every day.

I am not a vegetarian, but I now have much more freedom because I have no commitment to meat. I can just as easily plan a meal around vegetables or basil. I get inspired by Farmer's Markets more than butcher shops.

I often have anchovies, pancetta, or some stock I would use, but they are flavorings, not the star. tonight I am serving a lasagna stuffed with ricotta and olives.

If you like the allure of heady spices and have some greet tomatoes in your garden this preparation will make you very happy.

4 to 6 servings

4 to 6 nice sized greet tomatoes chopped
2 small zucchini cubed
12 green onions sliced half way up the stalk in 1/2 inch segments
2 cloves roughly chopped garlic
2 cups fresh arugula
Olive oil
Curry powder Madras blend
1/2 cup Greek style yogurt

Toss your vegetables and garlic with olive oil and curry powder. You want to coat with curry and the smell should be super fragrant, but not overpowering. Indi makes a great Madras blend which is far superior to the jar mixes in the grocery.

Put veg on baking sheet and roast in a hot (400) oven for roughly 30 minutes. The zucchini should be soft, but you don't want mush. Have Arugula in a bowl, top with the roasted veg and toss on the yogurt. Mix as if it were a salad, the yogurt will coat everything and the heat of the vegetables will wilt the zucchini. Serve with basmati rice.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Risotto Carbonara

Many years ago I saved up my Lire for my first trip to Italy. I had no particular agenda but I was determined to see Venice. I landed in Rome and spent a few days wandering the streets and tasting some of the most wonderful food I had ever had in my life. I was on a serious budget so breakfast and lunch were at a bakery of coffee bar, but what bakeries and coffee bars they were. The pleasure of a bit of bread with fresh tomato, salt and olive oil cannot be underestimated. The Italians know and love food.

In Venice the prices rose and my first day all of my meals were from the same bakery, that along with fruit from a street vendor made me very happy and gave me the fuel to explore this incredible city. The next day I decided to throw lire to the wind and eat at a serious Venetian eatery. I had my first risotto, the creaminess, the bit, the mushrooms, and peas and bit of truffle were beyond my culinary comprehension. Back in Minneapolis, even with Julia Child and Betty Crocker as my teachers I had imagined nothing this exquisite.

Young and bold I went into the kitchen, found the Chef and asked if he would show me how to make Risotto like that. Fortunately he spoke some English and told me to be in his kitchen the next day at 7 a.m.

My first day I was handed a knife, I diced the shallots, sliced mushrooms and took a break with the crew for some coffee and toast at 9. Because I was American they gave me an egg as well. I chopped, diced, stirred and stayed until 10 that night. On my third day they gave me the stock, the rice, the spoon and a place in the line. I was to make Risotto. That night it was to be with mushrooms and peas. I had a series of spoons to taste with along the stages because I had to learn when it was perfect. Risotto is an art, not a science and each order was done individually.

In the middle of a very busy night a waiter came into the kitchen and told the chef that an American had ordered his Risotto Carbonara, it was said with derision. They guys in the kitchen scoffed and I am sure cursed the customers in Italian. This was NOT a Venetian dish. While I am sure it has been tried somewhere they had never heard of such heathen.

"Ci." The chef came over to me and handed me some chopped pancetta to crisp and an egg yolk with cream beaten into it and guided me to make sure I did not serve scrambled eggs. We both tasted and I think he was surprised at the creamy goodness of it. As the restaurant closed he asked me to make a large batch for the staff meal. It was a hit, who knew an awful American customer could ask for the wrong thing and still get a good meal.

I spent 5 days watching and absorbing and being well fed in that kitchen and was shocked beyond all measure when they handed me an envelope with cash in it on my last day. They paid me to learn, I was in shock and thrilled beyond measure.

I took not only money but a wealth of information about what makes the Venetian food so exquisite and the ingredients for a bastard dish that is delicious, Risotto Carbonara.

1 cup Abborio Rice
1/2 cup finely diced pancetta
A Good splash of olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup finely diced shallots
3 cups stock (chicken works best, but any stock can work)
1/2 cup cream
1 egg yolk
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
A good dash Romano cheese grated
A few dashes of salt

Saute the pancetta until crisp, remove with slotted spoon leaving behind any fat it renders. Add a splash of olive oil and saute the shallots until soft. Add the rice stirring for about two minutes until you begin to smell the toasty rice, then stir in about 1/3 of the broth. Continue cooking ans stirring until the liquid is absorbed. Bit by bit stir in the remaining rice and cook until liquid is absorbed. When the rice reaches that creamy stage with a bit of bite stir in the peas and pancetta and cheese, beat your egg and cream and turn the heat to LOW. Gently stir in the butter til melted and the yolk and cream mixture, it will gradually thicken, beware of high heat or the mix will scramble. Plate and garnish with a bit more grated cheese.

The origins of Carbonara are muddy, but we know it came from the hill cities outside of Rome, but in the hands of a Venetian...Make it and taste for yourself.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

No garlic, no onions, no pork and a Puttanesca 2009

I had a week of challenges. I subbed at a restaurant with a large catering division and put out food for 160 people in 3 hours. After completing the prep for the next day I learned that I would have to tone down the onions, garlic and portion sizes. So we adapt. If I go back I have a better sense of what they need and we got the food out in time 2 days in a row, a very good thing.

It led me to begin thinking along the lines of Italian food that naturally contains no onions or garlic and I was very fortunate that I was thinking along those lines.

I arrived at the house where I was to cook for a large group of guests for the weekend and after prepping for the first meal the hostess came to the kitchen and told me she had just found out one of her guests could not tolerate garlic or onions and not to serve pork. Of course both her Italian menu for Friday and her Spanish for Saturday featured not only the intolerable ingredients but a suckling pig. Her staff ate very well and I scrambled to redo the menu.

The antipasto was no problem, Orange and fennel, roast asparagus, etc. Not a problem there but she had asked for a Puttanesca sauce for the pasta course. What could I do, I roasted the cherry tomatoes, melted some anchovies in white wine, chopped the olives and threw it all together with some capers and a splash of some good olive oil. I grabbed a taste, acceptable and we served. The remainder of the pasta sat in the pan while the Pollock was served and after they had their sorbet I, starving at this point grabbed the now cold pasta and a fork.

Wow...what a difference time had made. The olive had permeated the pasta and the juice of the tomato released with that faint salty anchovy taste, this was really good.

Don't rush to serve this hot, let it rest and have with a glass of Rose on a warm spring night.

1 lb pasta
1 cup white wine
8 anchovies chopped
2 cups of green olives, pitted and divided
1/2 cup capers
2 cups cherry tomatoes roasted til the skins burst with a touch of salt and oil.
Your best olive oil
2 cups chopped fresh basil

Warm the anchovies in the wine, they will naturally dissolve. Cook the pasta and toss all the ingredients together with a good dose of your best olive oil until combined. Go have some vegetables and come back in an hour. Eat like you have all the time in the world and savor every flavor.

Friday, May 1, 2009

A few of my favorite things

The process of making fish past is a bit like the old fashioned way of pressing grapes. (pictured.)

Everyone who cooks has some tips and tricks that wake up the flavor of food. Sometimes it takes only a little bit of something to balance the flavor and tittilate the taste buds. For a job I was doing for the short term (we'll see) I was told to cut back on the onions and garlic, I do admit I rely on the heavily but there are many other ways to get a taste kick.

Hot Peppers: All kinds from the jalapeno the the habanero taste terrific to me. I love the heat. For most however it just takes a few shakes or grinds to bring up the flavor of a dish. If you have a soup that's a little bland, just a touch of hot pepper can help wake up the other flavors.

Fermented Fish Paste/Shrimp paste: No kidding, if you have never tried this give it a shot. It adds umami that newly discovered taste sensation without MSG or any nasty ingredients (read the labels of course). I've snuck a bit into pasta dishes that were otherwise traditional, and fish paste rocks. Anchovies can do much of the same thing, but the fermentation ads it's own dimension.

Salt: Often when friends ask me to taste something they ask what it needs and the answer is often salt. Get a nice sea salt and don't be afraid of it. Mashed potatoes, gravies, rice....multitudes of dishes can be improved with just a little salt.

Butter: If a sauce does not quite have that rich mouth feel or the fish is a little dry, use some butter. Never margarine, any anyone with taste buds who has tried 'I can't believe it's not butter' knows that the name is a lie. Your first bite and you know it is a science project, not food. Believe me, don't use it, even in baked goods.

Olives are another umami sensation, if you are doing a simple vegetable toss with a few olives and olive oil and it becomes worthy of a trattoria. Play with your food and try an unconventional ingredient in a traditional dish and wake up your palate.