Monday, December 6, 2010

I must apologize for not updating this for a while. I have gotten all the e mails of concern that were sent and I do appreciate them. I made a transition from the Dominican Republic to San Francisco and time flew more quickly than I had realized.

One of the most wonderful things about being here is the fresh crab. It is crab season and I have been getting a lot of those delicious creatures. I take them into the backyard with a hammer and a nutcracker and go to town.

Via Facebook one of you asked me for a favorite crab recipe, they are all my favorite however ...I do love the crab cake.

I do not like a cake with too much bread in it so taking a cue from the Chinese dumpling I reconfigured the crab cake to be breadless and I think you will agree delicious.

1 lb picked and shelled crab
1/4 pound shrimp shelled and veined
1 large bunch of scallion chopped
1 garlic clove
4 egg whites beaten stiff
1 tablespoon mustard
Salt and Pepper

Grind the shrimp with half of the scallions and the garlic clove into a paste into the food processor. Mix the other ingredients into the shrimp paste and then the stiff egg whites into the mix.

Make into small patties (big ones will fall apart) and fry in a mix of butter and oil until crisp on the outside. Serve them with whatever sauce or dip you like. I prefer mine naked.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

What's in your refrigerator?

Last night mine had precious little.

I had an unexpected dinner was just one of those things. We were having a glass of wine and chatting and I said stay for dinner without thinking what I had in the house.

I have been pushing myself to get a bit thinner, my life has been on the sedentary side so I am keeping my pantry purposefully lean.

A big salad was no problem and in the frig I had exactly two slices of bacon and some cabbage. In the basket onions and garlic and some spaghetti.

What emerged was a dish I plan to make again and again. It was so simple and so simply delicious I know I will crave it. 

4 cups finely shredded napa cabbage (4 cups uncooked)
2 medium onions one red one white, halved and very thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic chopped
2 strips of bacon finely chopped, fat reserved
4 oz. of spaghetti
Salt and Pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

Crisp the bacon and reserve the fat, to this fat add the olive oil and saute the onions til creamy, then add in the garlic and cabbage.The cabbage will wilt and shrink to about 50% of it's volume. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook your pasta in boiling salted water and before draining reserve some of the water.

Toss the pasta in the cabbage and add just enough of the cooking water to make it blend well. Serve in warm bowls.

I served this with a Beaujolais Cru, which was turned out to be a great choice. Wipe all thoughts of  the Thanksgiving NEW Beaujolais from you mind. The Cru is a much more mature and finished wine.

The best news was that this lovely bowl of pasta was only 450 calories so I won't be needing those jeans with the elastic waistband anytime soon.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Goulash Soup

On my first visit to Budapest I ignored the Goulash and Goulashsoup on the menus at first. I in ignorance thought the hamburger meat sour cream mixture my mother had served over noodles was Goulash, and I did not much care for it.

One night in a small bar I saw most of the patrons seriously working on these steaming bowls that smelled divine. I told the waiter I would have what they were having and when he presented it at the table…goulashsoup. It was served with a really hearty Rye bread and a chunk of excellent butter.

After that it became a staple of mine and I found that it was like Gumbo in the south. Every chef made it slightly differently. I could not taste them all, but I did my best.

You need about 4 hours to make this but once started it requires little attention.

3 large onions finely chopped
3 cloves garlic finely diced
3 tablespoons bacon fat or oil
3 pounds of cubed beef (chuck or another fatty collegin rich cut)
3 veal shank bones (oven browned)
3 tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika
6 carrots peeled can cut into thin rounds
3 parsnips peeled and cut into thin rounds
3 medium potatoes finely diced
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
3 Hungarian wax or banana peppers diced
3 tablespoons Hungarian hot paprika (use less if you are not into spicy food)
Salt to taste

Dry the meat chunks and brown in a large Dutch oven. Remove when browned and add in the onions stirring til they reach a light gold color, salt the beef and the onions and add the beef back to the pot. Add in all of the sweet and one tablespoon of the hot paprika and stir til fully coated.

Add veal bones and garlic and fill the pot with water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until meat is fully tender, about 3 hours. Check the liquid level periodically to make sure the meat is all immersed.

When the meat is fully tender add in the vegetables and potatoes along with the caraway seeds and the rest of the hot paprika. Remove your veal bones and TASTE your soup. You may need more salt, more water, taste and adjust.

The vegetables will take about 30 minutes to cook and become tender and then you can serve.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Break Fast Salad

I have no idea what this salad is called, and despite several e-mail to Istanbul I am still none the wiser. I had it along with a delicious lentil soup to break fast during Ramazan a few years ago. I got the recipe and even my hostess does not have a name for it…"It is a common salad we make often during the holiday. "

I found that a lot in travels, various regions had dishes that they just made, common, typical and wonderful.

1 cup green olives
1 head of Romaine lettuce finely chopped
2 carrot grated
1/2 cup of walnuts chopped small, but not quite a paste.

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
6 tablespoons pomegranate juice
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
4 garlic cloves

Put the salad and carrots in a bowl. Mix the dressing in the food processor. Toss with the dressing then add in the olives and walnuts and toss again. Plate and serve.

If it is pomegranate season it makes a nice garnish to sprinkle each salad with a few fresh seeds. At 4 servings this is just under 350 calories a plate. The calories come from the olive oil and the nuts, but I don’t recommend reducing either. This salad has close to 100% of the Vitamin A and 50% of the Vitamin C you need. As with most foods in Turkey it is typically delicious.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Khoresh Fesenjan (Chicken Stew with Pomegranate Sauce)

A couple of years ago I spent Ramadan in Istanbul. Though I am not a religious person I was frequently invited to break fast with my Turkish family which extended to include everyone I met. Having the same parents is not required to adopt a brother. I am not kidding, I have never in my life experienced such warmth and hospitality. 

Of course I collected recipes as I had some of the most wonderful food of my life. Breaking fast is an ancient tradition and the recipes at this time of year make every meal a party. Most nights there was Pide bread and lentil soup at the beginning then any number of meze followed by a main course. This was one of my absolute favorites. 
Whatever your religion or lack thereof it would not hurt to fast for a a day and be doubly grateful for your food as you break bread with friends.
Chicken with a thick walnut and pomegranate sauce.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds chicken thighs, cut up
2 white onions, thinly sliced
2 stalks of chopped celery
1/2 pound walnuts, toasted and finely
ground in a food processor
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups pomegranate juice
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon corriander
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Place chicken and onions in skillet, and cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mix in pureed walnuts, celery, salt, pomegranate juice, and seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. (If the sauce becomes too thick, stir in 1/4 cup warm water.) Taste for salt and seasoning and serve with Basmati Rice.      

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ginger Lime Pork Belly

Currently I am staying in a tiny hotel room on the beach in a tiny town in the Dominican Republic. I have one skillet, one larger pot, two plates and two wine glasses.

I cut everything with a serrated steak knife and cook on a two burner stovetop.

That does not mean I am not eating well.

Traditionally when I have made pork belly I have done it in a Szechaun style with 5 spice rub and a slow braise. It takes a lot of prep and seasoning and I have limited ingredients in my little room. However I did come up with a wonderful and simple way to cook this awesome meat.

1 lb of pork belly (serves two to 4)
1/8 cup brown sugar
A good amount of salt and black pepper

Cut the belly into bite sized pieces and rub with the sugar salt and pepper mixture. Leave for one day refrigerated uncovered.

Brown the meat in a little oil and remove from the pan in the remaining fat we will make our sauce.

Juice of 3 limes
2 cups water
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/8 cup of finely chopped ginger
1 onion sliced thin
1 clove of garlic
Some hot red pepper

Add the onion to the fat and when soft the garlic and ginger, then all of the liquid and hot pepper. Turn the flame to low and cover to braise.

Cook for about two hours, checking liquid level and stirring periodically. Uncover and let the sauce reduce to a glaze, taste for seasoning and serve with vegetables over rice. Succulent, fatty, tangy and delicious.

What more can one ask from life.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Chicken with Leeks

Chicken and onions are natural companions. The flavors go so well together.

This entry however is among my new favorites. Made for me by a French Chef in Santo Domingo this very simple dish elevates both the chicken and the leek. It takes slightly more than an hour to prepare and most of that time it is just sitting in the oven so you can make a salad and have a glass of wine.

1 small to medium chicken 3 to 4 pounds
8 leeks, sliced and cleaned
1 medium carrot chopped
4 celery ribs finely chopped
1 clove garlic finely chopped
1 bottle of wine
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil and butter

Brown a cut up, lightly salted bird in olive over medium heat in a dutch oven or other oven proof pan. Remove and dump in one stick of butter (1/4 lb; do NOT use margarine) and turn the heat down add the leeks and slowly soften them. Add your garlic and continue to stir until fragrant, throw in the carrot, celery and chicken. Cover with one bottle of white wine (unoaked) and place in the oven at 350 for an hour.

Remove from oven and with a slotted spoon remove chicken from leek mixture. Place on a platter in the oven to keep warm.

Reduce the sauce by two thirds. Taste for salt and adjust. Give several grinds of black pepper. Spoon sauce over chicken and make your guests very happy. Serve with buttered noodles or even rice if you like.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Summer Lamb Stew

At Flor de Cabrera we have no choice but to buy our lamb whole and butcher it ourselves (in the photograph are two of my sous chefs Jairo and Wilson, both excellent butchers), but those of you who live near a grocery store can buy stew meat and quickly make a lovely summer stew that along with salad and a bottle of Rose will make for a lovely evening.

1 lb. boneless lamb stew meat (make sure it has some fat, not too lean)
2 white onion diced
2 clove garlic diced
2 cups of chopped greens: Bok Choy or Swiss Chard or even Spinach
1/2 pound of sugar snap peas
1/2 pound fresh peas (They are best when you shell them yourselves.)
1 bottle of drinkable unoaked white wine (Chenin Blanc does nicely)
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Brown your meat in the oil and remove from pan, saute the onion until very soft add in the meat and the wine and garlic. Simmer for two hours on stovetop or 350 oven.

When the lamb is tender and ready to eat stir in your peas and greens and cook only for a few minutes. Have a good bread to mop up the sauce and a very good wine...Rose, or maybe a Boujolais Village slightly chilled and enjoy the summer night.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

how to make a roe butter

In the summer I make a lot of seafood (Summer is year round in the Dominican) and nothing pairs with with seafood quite like a good butter and lemon sauce.  When you want to knock that flavor profile up a notch and give your sauce a little complexity let's talk fish eggs. For this the cheap Roland in grocery aisle or the carp roe from Chinatown will do just fine. No big dollars are needed to get big taste.

For 8 to 10 servings take 1/4 pound of butter and melt it along with 4 anchovies. Add 1/8 (amount can vary) of cheap caviar and pulse the melted butter, anchovy, caviar mix in the blender, put back on the stove and warm just before serving the fish.

Pour the butter on the filet and give it a big squeeze of fresh lime juice and serve. If you have a little parsley or chopped basil toss it on as well.

In a restaurant you could easily pay 30 bucks for something that takes all of 5 minutes to make.

I don't care if you don't like anchovies, they add both salt and a complexity of flavor so stop thinking about hairy little filets and just go for it.

Monday, June 7, 2010

What to eat when you don't want to eat your vegetables?

Way back when I wrote the syndicated FitnessGuru colum I began to sound like a broken record. Eat your vegetables was my constant rejoinder.

Someone wrote in and asked about lipo...I told him to eat his vegetables.

Folks wrote in about the idiotic Atkins diet...No one ever got fat on too much broccoli I would tell them.

When the silly cleanse drink became popular...You want to cleanse...get some fiber, eat your vegetables.

And on this site I have said it over and over again. It is the best advice your mother ever gave is best, but whatever you do eat your vegetables. Pound by pound they are one of the best values in the markets and for your health they are indespensable.

I recently had a night when I was very tired and broccoli just seemed like more chewing than I was capable of. I wanted nothing more than to pig out on pasta...BUT

I drank my vegetables instead and this soup is really good. It helps to have a good blender or food processor but you get your vegies and it is practically without calories.

6 cups strong chicken stock
1 large head broccili
1 bunch asparaus (I used white but green is fine)
1 garlic clove chopped
1 huge handful fresh basil

Simmer all the veg and the garlic in the broth til tender, put the veg and a couple cups of stock in the blender along with the basil and puree the _____ out of it. It is so smooth you can drink it from a cup, no cream needs to be added.

I had half one night and half the next, but you can share with a friend...if you like.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Beans, hold the rice

Dominican rice frightens me. I don't trust any form of white rice that takes more than 20 minutes to cook.

In addition to taking forever to stew/steam it contains massive quantities of oil (Crisco, the nasty stuff) and feels a bit like lead in my stomach. The gardeners and maids and all the manual laborers here at the Villa MUST have rice and beans at lunch, I cannot substitute potatoes or pasta (They can be served in addition) but rice and beans every day 7 days a week is the fuel that keeps them going. Far be it from me to change such rigid rules, but I don't have to eat the stuff.

The beans however are quite good and served with a Basmati or Jasmine rice (or no rice at all) I love them.

I do admit to switching heart clogging hydrogenated fat for olive oil and pushing Goya products. In the states Goya is fairly readily available and their products are pretty good, but any brand you have will work.

• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 medium onions, chopped
• 5 garlic cloves, sliced
• 1 teaspoon dried oregano
• 2 bay leaves
• One 8-ounce can tomato sauce (such as Goya Spanish style)
• 2 teaspoons adobo (seasoned salt) plus a little salt and pepper if needed
• 1/2 teaspoon Goya Sazon plus a little shake of cayenne pepper
• 1/2 medium bunch fresh cilantro, including stems, roughly chopped (optional)
• 2 cups (1 pound) dried red beans, soaked overnight in 1 quart cold water, drained

Heat the olive oil in a pot large enough to hold all the ingredients.

Saute the onion and garlic over medium heat for 5 minutes.

Add the oregano, bay leaves, tomato sauce, adobo, and Sazon.

Bring to a simmer and add the cilantro (if using) and beans, adding enough water to cover (about 3 cups).

Bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer and cook 1 1/2 hours, covered, until the beans are tender enough to mash between two fingers. Puree a couple of cups of the beans and mix back in with the whole ones to make a great bean soup. If you must serve with rice, but realize you are a culinary chiche.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Parrot Fish Sezchaun Style

This is the fish I bought, named for it's bright blue colors it comes in hues from bright red to this blue.
I bought the fish as soon as he was finished scaling and cooked it soon after. I had the camera to take a photo of the finished dish as it looks so beautiful on the plate, but the battery died and the fish was ready to be eaten. I will give you all the steps to have your fish standing on the plate, drizzled lightly with sauce, it's crispy goodness ready to serve.

1 small whole fish per person (Parrot or your local freshest fish)
All purpose flour for dredging
Peanut oil for frying

Take the fish and with a pair of kitchen shears trim any fins or exterior nasty bits. I trim the tail and cut a slit into at at the level of the mouth.

With a sharp knife cut through the fish 3 slats on each side. Lightly salt on both sides and dredge in flour. Now get your butchers twine and cut a piece long enough to wrap around the fish, wedge the twine in the fish's mouth and bring around looping into the slat on the tail curling the fish and tying tightly.

The fish should stand up on a plate at this point with both sides exposed. If it does not redo the twine tighter until the fish is in a half circle and can stand, this is important to the presentation. Once all your fish are tied and standing put on a sheet uncovered in the refrigerator until time to fry.

The Sauce

3 green onions finely minced
1 clove garlic minced
1 inch piece ginger peeled and minced
1 finely chopped HOT chili
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar

Mix all ingredients and let rest until fish is fried. This is enough to lightly drizzle 4 fish.

If you don't have a deep fryer large enough for up to 4 fish (or as many as you are serving) get a large heavy bottomed pan and fill with enough peanut oil to completely immerse 4 fish. Heat oil to 400 and SLOWLY put the fish in the oil one by one making sure they don't stick together.

Take the sauce and put in a pan and put on a low heat, just to warm it.

Fry the fish for at least 10 minutes, you want crisp, golden and fully cooked and to fully cook it takes longer than you might think. Gently remove with a strainer to a rack to drain, carefully cut and remove the string disturbing as little crust as possible.

Gently lift your beautiful dish  and stand it on plates, light drizzle with sauce over the top of the spine.
Then garnish with
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup finely chopped chives


THIS will impress your guests.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Spaghettini Pescatore

One of the many pleasures of being in a new country is the chance to link up with old friends. I went to Santa Domingo to meet with an old friend and his wife. Originally from Italy they live here now and run a successful import/export business.

My head already a sea of languages as I try to immerse myself in Spanish had to go back to Italian. We met for dinner at

Does Santa Domingo have a 5 star Italian Restaurant?

It does and this was a fine meal. The chef did what the best Italian Chefs have always done. He took what was local and made an amazing meal. Inspired by his inspiration I have created a dish that can be made anywhere there is fresh or frozen seafood. There is nothing wrong with the frozen, most shrimp, even those you buy fresh have been frozen. It is often done on the boat and retains the quality and texture.

This meal will require you to make a fish stock. Do not be afraid of this, it is much easier than it sounds. Just follow the steps and you will have success.

Go to your fishmonger and get as many fish heads as he will give you (No Salmon or Tuna) along with two pounds of shrimp, with the heads if you can get them.

Peel and behead your shrimp and place the peels and heads in a pot with a little hot oil. They will quickly turn pink, when they do add a chopped onion, two crushed cloves of garlic and two tablespoons of tomato paste. Lightly brown it and then add 10 cups of water and your fish heads. Turn to a simmer and leave alone for 90 minutes checking periodically. Resist the temptation to add salt as this stock will be very reduced when you turn it into sauce and it can be seasoned at that time.

After about 90 minutes come back and remove the fish heads and bones with slotted spoon leaving the shrimp. Bring back to a boil until you have about 4 cups of liquid. Cool and puree. That's right grind it all up. Then put through a fine sieve so all the large solids are removed.

Simmer and reduce to about two cups.

Keep on a simmer and it will continue to reduce slightly while you make your pasta.

Put a huge pot on to boil with a lot of salt. Grab 1 lb  of Spaghettini.

Slightly less than two cups of strong fish stock
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
Salt and Pepper to taste
4 anchovies finely diced. 
The shrimp you have retained and if you like some Calamari cut into rings and baby Octopus if available. The amounts can vary.

Once you have added the butter and cream throw in the seafood on a very low heat. Drain the pasta and turn the heat up on your sauce, finish cooking the pasta in the sauce.


Resist the temptation to garnish with cheese, if you would like a garnish a few bread crumbs toasted in butter are enough.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Garlic Frites

One of the great pleasures about being in Farm Country in The Dominican Republic is the food. The produce is absolutely fresh and as in everywhere the soil, the variety and the rain make a difference to the final taste.

California forgive me but the garlic is better than Gilroy Garlic. Gilroy garlic is known for lacking the harsh edge and being very food friendly, but the Dominican is strong and also sweet. Finely chopped or in a paste this is a garlic to be savored....even raw....and paired with the local potato...let's talk.

Most of the restaurants and Villas around here use the frozen french fries. Typically imported from the states, I find they leave much to be desired. The potatoes are of a high moisture content, which is not surprising considering the rainfall. I was not sure how they would fry as locally they are eaten boiled or in a puree for the most part.

 Out comes the knife and once again I am playing with my food.

1/2 large potato per person (Idaho is fine if you can't get the Dominican style)
1 clove of garlic per person finely chopped
1 tsp. of fresh parsley per person finely chopped
Oil for frying

Cut potatoes into fries, if you have a press or a mandolin the job will be easier but it takes only minutes with a knife. Put in a bowl and cover with water and refrigerate for at least an hour.

When you are ready to fry, remove from oil and place in a dry towel to remove excess moisture. Slowly lower into oil at 350 to 375 (Peanut Oil is preferred)

Fry until they are light tan. Take them out and let them rest above the oil. They can rest for 20 minutes or all day. What happens is that the interior of the potato steams this way and gives you a very soft creamy texture beneath the crisp bite. This is the secret the Belgian frites have used for years. When you are preparing for a crowd this is especially helpful as the final fry is so very fast.

Put into a final fry until crisp, when hot sprinkle liberally with salt, drain and toss into a bowl and toss in the garlic and parsley.

Now tell me those are not the best fries you have ever had. They beat those nasty processed McDonald's fries by miles and miles.

Or if you don't want to go to all that work you can vacation here and I will be happy to make them for you.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Crisp Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta for Rhonda

This is one of the simplest and my personal favorite way to make the sprouts. Typically only seen on Thanksgiving tables I guarantee once you have made them this way you will want them again and again.

1/4 pound pancetta (cut into very small pieces)
1 lb. Brussels Sprouts (rough chopped like very large cole slaw)
Olive oil
Balsamic Vinegar

Crisp the Pancetta (bacon can be used if not available) and remove from pan, add a little olive oil and get the pan very hot. Toss in the sprouts and stir them quickly. You want a crisp brown bit without softening the sprouts. This will only take a minute or two. Quickly give a short pour of the balsamic, add the Pancetta back in, toss and serve.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Dominican fried Chicken (Chicharrones de Pollo)

 I have arrived in the Dominican Republic and soon will take over as Chef at the Flor de Cabrera.
The Villa and grounds are beautiful beyond words. I hope to see many of my readers here as visitors.

I actually adapted this recipe when I was at The Country Club in New Orleans, but it is Dominican in origin so perfectly appropriate for the second day of my residence in Paradise. This recipe will feed a small party....but  it is so good you may want to double the marinade and chicken so that you have leftovers.

  • 2 whole chickens cut up. I like the hacked chicken for this...small pieces work best to absorb flavor and fry quickly.
  • Marinade:
  • 1 cup lime juice
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 8 cloves garlic (minced)
  • Seasoned Flour Coating:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons Spanish paprika 
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne or black pepper or more if you like.
  • 1 tablespoon salt (or to taste)
  • Peanut oil for frying 
  1. Combine marinade ingredients in a large plastic bowl or zipper bag. Add chicken and marinate for 3 hours or overnight. The longer the marinade the stronger the lime and garlic.
  2. Combine flour and seasonings in a separate plastic bowl or zipper bag.
  3. Coat the marinated chicken with the seasoned flour mixture and let rest on a try in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
  4. Place peanut oil for frying into a deep frying pan, or use a deep fryer. Heat the oil over medium-high heat to 360 degrees Fahrenheit.
  5. Fry chicken in batches, until golden brown outside and completely cooked inside (about 6 minutes per side for the dark meat, slightly less for the breast).
  6. Place chicken on a rack to drain and keep warm until ready to serve.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Tomato Shooters

I used to think that a craving was my body's way of telling me what it needed and that I should indulge my craving and that it was healthy, even necessary to do so. I now know my body as the liar it truly is, if my body had it's way I would have a 40 inch waist instead of a 30.

Tonight after leaving Looped with Valerie Harper (Brilliant Performance) I went to the subway station at 44th and passed John's Pizza. My body started to scream about how much it needed a pizza and suddenly I was ravenous.

However once home I realized I did need to eat something so I looked in frig and pantry to see what I might yield. I had some super ripe cherry tomatoes and a little whole milk mozzarella, but I did not need a pizza. (I still wanted a pizza)

The result of my playing with my food is one of the easiest appetizers you will ever make, or use them to perk up a salad. My 'recipe" was for the 12 tomatoes worth I made, but clearly you can make as many or as few as you like.

12 cherry tomatoes halved
Mozzarella cheese grated
Anchovies as desired

Place the sliced tomatoes close together on a baking pan this will keep them from tipping over and you won't have to cut their bottoms off.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper and oregano. If you are going to make the anchovy version drape half an anchovy over each at this point, otherwise sprinkle lightly with cheese and put in a very hot oven or under a broiler for a few minutes, stay with them.

All you really want  is a slight warming of the tomato and the cheese to melt. If you made them for company you can slide a toothpick half way in like a little tomato sucker, if you made them for yourself plop them one by one into your mouth and feel virtuous for not having pizza.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Spaghetti with Onions

One of the most rewarding things I do is recipe reconstruction.

Using remembered tastes and descriptions along with information about the chef I can often re-create the recipe and give a client a childhood favorite again.

Recently I got stumped...really stumped. Sicilian Granmothers can do that to me upon occasion.

Spaghetti with onions, his Sicilian Great-Grandmother made it and he loved it, but other than spaghetti and onions he had no idea what went into it. No tomatoes for sure, and it was his favorite. She died when he was 11 and no one else in the family knew exactly how to make it. For 30 years this man has been craving this dish and my first 8 attempts were failures.

In order to finally 'get it' I had to go back to Sicilian basics...and some French ones. Eventually it came out that when Sicilian Grandpa had died Grandma married a Frenchman.

Meaty taste, no visible meat....lots of onions....

By George I finally got it.

1 lb. onions thinly sliced
1/4 lb butter
1/2 pound romano cheese finely grated
8 anchovies
Red Pepper flakes
Buttered bread crumbs (toasted)
1 cup finely chopped parsley

Take 1/2 of the butter and melt it and brown and caramelize the onions on a low flame. It will take close to an hour. Add salt and pepper and mush in the anchovies.

Bring salted water to a boil, cook spaghetti to al dente and reserve some of the pasta water. Toss your spaghetti with your onions adding the red pepper and parsley as you go. Now the rest of the butter and the cheese, tossing as you add.  Taste...if you need more salt or pepper do it now. Use a little pasta water if it is dry.

Serve in warm bowls with bread crumbs on top.

I just have a feeling that one day the French man began to make an onion soup and the Sicilian woman decided to turn it into a pasta. However it came is fusion at it's finest.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Bitter Ball, Party of One

The Bitter Ball began at the Country Club in New Orleans, it was a party for anyone and everyone who had ever been hurt by love. It was of course held on Valentine's Day.

It was a lot of fun and it was picked up by one of my clients who did a Bitter Ball in Palm Springs and then one in Vegas. Both menus were a lot of fun.

One of my readers, recently divorced asked for a Bitter Ball recipe for this year. The premise behind the food is that it be made with ingredients that are on the bitter side and/or ingredients that make you stink, and be repulsive to anyone with romantic intentions.

For those of you who are happily partnered and cooking for your partner or an ingredient search, there are a multitude of recipes on this site for you.

This is dedicated to anyone and everyone who has ever been hurt by love.

Pork and Kim Chee Noodles

1/4 pound ground pork
1 small chopped onion
1/4 pound brussel sprouts quartered
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (add more if you like it hot)
1 large handful shredded basil
1/2 cup Hot  Kim Chee chopped

2 ounces any noodles cooked and put in ice water to stop cooking (Asian are great but if you have pasta, use it)

The sauce....

10 cloves garlic chopped
A little neutral oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Brown pork and onion, add the sprouts, soy sauce, hot pepper and toss in noodles. In another pan barely warm the garlic and add in the vinegar.  Toss the Kim Chee with the noodles in your wok or pan along with the basil. Plate and drizzle vinegar garlic sauce.

This is a very delicious and STRONG tasting dish. The next day you will reek of garlic and fermented cabbage and isn't that what being bitter is all about. You are now ready to go to the movies and not have anyone sit in front of you, next to you, behind you...generally within 8 feet. Breathe deeply and get extra butter on your popcorn. 

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Julia Child inspired chicken with mustard and black rice risotto

Julia Child has been a big source of inspiration for me over the years. When I was very young I delighted at her practical approach to French cooking on PBS.  She was just happy to be there and share with us and I was charmed by her.  I still reference her books for inspiration and recently found some.


I am always getting e mail about chicken. Everyone seems to be tired of it but at the same time it is cheap, it cooks quickly and they buy it, but are bored by it. Julia Child had a pretty wonderful duck prep that I have adapted for chicken that is full of flavor and so good. 

The big problem is that in typical grocery store meat the chicken might as well be tofu for all the flavor it has.  It is just bad. If you can't get a good free range chicken from a reputable farmer or butcher I would say use tofu and do the marinade, but not the simmer. There is no reason to eat flavorless grocery store meat. You are not doing your body or the planet any favors.

When you find a good chicken you need a good butcher, this chicken needs to be hacked into small pieces. Chinese duck cut would be the term needed, but if you are not in NY or San Francisco they may not know this cut. The wing needs to be separated into 3 pieces, The drumstick in half meaty end cut off. The thigh in 3 pieces across the bone and the breast, once separated should have 3 cuts rendering 4 pieces. 

Once cut like this, the chicken will happily feed  6 people. 

Marinade/braising liquid

4 cups orange juice
11 garlic cloves crushed
4 hot red peppers crushed (fresh or dried)
1/2 cup salt well dissolved in juice

Remove and save the skin and place chicken in Marinade for one hour minimum or as long as 24 hours. 

Take skin and spread out on a plate,  salt lightly and leave uncovered in the refrigerator. Take the skinny part of the drum and wing, the back neck, etc and with salt and onion, brown and bring to a boil and make stock for your risotto.

Once the flavor has gone into your chicken bring your marinade to a boil with the chicken in it and then simmer for 30 minutes. Remove and let cool. 

1 cup Mustard (I have used both Dijon and Spicy Brown and they both were good) have more on hand if needed.
2 cups Panko bread crumbs
Cooking Spray

Heavily coat chicken with mustard (you can't use too much here) and then roll in bread crumbs til covered.  Place on a sheet coated with cooking spray and spray the top of the chicken with cooking spray. You will bake at 400 for 30 minutes til crisp and lightly brown. 

Black Rice Risotto is a stunning dish to accompany the lightly toasted chicken with a bright green vegetable you will have a beautiful plate. There are a lot of varieties of black rice. I used the Thai because for me it was the easiest to source. Just watch your cooking time and taste and any variety will work. 

1 onion
1 clove garlic
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup white wine (give or take)
A little water if needed
A good splash of heavy cream
1 cup grated hard cheese (any kind)
2 tablespoons butter
A little olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion and garlic in a bit of oil until soft, add in rice and stir til you get that toasty smell. Begin adding the stock bit by bit stirring often.  When the stock is absorbed, add the wine, if you need more liquid a little water is fine. You want the rice just barely tender to the tooth, not soft or mushy. 

When the rice is ready melt in the butter and cream along with the cheese. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. That's it...serve. 

The skin you have kept have two choices. If you are adept you can fry it to crisp in a little oil and crumble the crackling on the risotto just before serving, or if you are a selfish cad like I, you can save it and fry it up for yourself and have with the leftover risotto the next day. 

This combo is dinner party ready and with some veg on the plate and absolutely beautiful presentation. 

(Thanks again to my Datalounge edit team who pointed out to me the many typos in this post. I can cook, but I clearly can't type or spell sometimes. I do appreciate the email allowing me to correct my editorial errors)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Broccoli Tacos

Ever since my friend Alan introduced me to the
pleasure of the tortilla I have been warming the tender flour tortilla in butter and stuffing it with all manner of things. Everything is better in a tortilla.

Last night one of my neighbors came over in a panic. She had gone into labor and could not reach her mother. With her husband in the military she was alone with her 8 year old. I got Kaitlin and she hopped in a taxi to run off and have her baby.

Never ask an 8 year old 'What do you want for dinner?' Macaroni and cheese or tacos was the strong reply.

I looked in the frig, tortillas of course, cheese of course, no meat. No canned beans, nothing one might think of as taco.

I told her, 'I have broccoli.'

'So make broccoli tacos.'

How could I not have thought of it?

These turned out to be so incredibly delicious I had to share. Broccoli and cheddar have a natural affinity for one another and the entire dish was a pleasure, and a healthy one.

1 head of broccoli chopped, stem peeled and chopped as well.
1 tablespoon olive oil
Chili powder

1/2 ounce of cheddar per tortilla

Toss broccoli in olive oil with salt and a good sprinkling of chili powder. 400 degree oven for 15 minutes.

Warm tortillas in butter and melt a sprinkling of cheese on each one. Stuff with broccoli and sit down with your favorite 8 year old for tacos. These are so good you will find yourself making them again for the adults in your lives.

Several hours later when her Grandma came to pick her up my sleepy friend thanked me for one of the best dinners EVER!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Zucchini and Tomato Salad

In the winter the quality of vegetables can be less than those wonderful organic local vegetables you buy at the Farm Markets during the summer. Local root vegetables are available year round but every once in a while you need the fresh light taste of summer.

It is at this time many of you have resolved to lose a few pounds and you head to the vegetables to do this. It helps to buy organic and tomatoes need to be kept on the counter for a few days to fully ripen before using. Often the Roma tomatoes will be a better winter choice but use what you like.

This tomato zucchini salad uses vegetables that are lightly caramelized. This ups the flavor profile.  It is a favorite of mine when I am in the mood for a light supper.

This recipe will serve 4 as an appetizer.

2 large zucchini
6 tomatoes
1/4 lb Bulgarian Feta (If you can't get the fresh Bulgarian style any will do.)
A drizzle of good balsamic*
A drizzle of good olive oil**

Thinly slice the round ends off of the tomatoes (use them in soup) and cut in halves or thirds depening on the size.

Wash and thickly slice the zucchini.

Brush two pans (cast iron or nonstick) with oil. Using one for each vegetable make the pans hot and sear the cut ends of the vegetables. Arrange on plates and while warm  sprinkle lightly with salt and crumble a little feta over each one.

Give a light drizzle of olive oil and do the same with the balsamic.


* Most balsamic vinegar sold these days is fake. Read the label, if it includes wine vinegar and caramel color it is not legit. Not a single balsamic sold at Trader Joe's is legit. It will separate and spoil and does not taste the same.

**As the New York Times reported (of 73 olive oils ... in the U.S. Only 4 per cent were pure olive oil. The rest were adulterated" - New York Times) many if not most of the cheap olive oils, even the extra virgin were actually Canola oil and some color or a blend.  Good Olive oil is not cheap and it should have a strong taste, often peppery.