Thursday, March 23, 2017

Come take a trip to Umbria and bring back a recipe from one of their great Cooking Teachers


Letizia Mattiacci: The Umbrian Cook on an American Tour

Staff Writer
Learn how to cook the cuisine of this Italian province from a native cook and teacher. Then you can make dishes like this gorgeous Melanzane alla Parmigiana...Eggplant Parmigiano

umbria valley park

Experience Umbrian cuisine first hand on Letizia Mattiacci's U.S. tour. 

Umbria — the Italian province sandwiched between Tuscany, Le Marche, and Lazio in what is called Italy’s Cuore Verde, its ‘green heart’ — is the home of some of Italy’s finest fare. Its green-gold olive oil, red wines, and particularly its cured meats, salumi, are prized throughout the country. But outside of Italy, the richness of its cuisine is hardly known. This is slowly changing, as many have been singing the praises of this province, home to the historic towns of Perugia and Assisi. And Letizia Mattiacci is one of the leading lights in this new movement.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Where to stay in La Venice post from The Daily Meal

Monte Mathews
Staff Writer 

This private island retreat makes the perfect base for exploring Venice
Ask anyone who has been to Venice lately and you’re sure to hear that “La Serenissima” is hardly serene. Every year 22 million tourists flock to the city, an average of 60,000 people a day. Around 9 o’clock each morning, throngs of tourist groups arrive from the mainland and the Lido (the barrier island that helps divide the Venetian Lagoon from the Adriatic Sea), clogging Piazza San Marco and every inch around it. Miraculously, at 5 o’clock the city is practically deserted as the tour groups leave en masse. But there is a way to avoid the mobs and enjoy every minute of being in Venice.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Homemade Pad Thai from Cook's Illustrated Magazine and Memories of my Mother

Before I lunge into how to make a truly satisfying and remarkably authentic Pad Thai in whatever kitchen you call home, I must pause in memory of my mother.   Because ringing in my ears as I made this surprisingly easy version of the classic rice noodle, shrimp and scrambled egg dish, were my mother’s words: “What on earth would possess you to make Pad Thai when there’s a perfectly good Asian place a block and a half from your house.  And they deliver.”   My mother certainly would not have. But then again, my mother hated cooking.  I mean hated it.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Vicarious Lunching...and a recipe for a Roquefort Terrine with Walnut Crème Glace

From The Daily Meal: 
A Five-Course Lunch to Celebrate New York’s Cheese Week


Staff Writer

A celebratory meal at Bar Boulud welcomes the French Cheese Board to New York

The start of the French Cheese Board’s Cheese Week in New York City, running from Feb. 21 to Feb. 26, was celebrated with a five-course lunch. Chefs from Les Mâitres Cuisiniers de France came together at Bar Boulud to celebrate the event with dishes they will feature for the week. Every one featured cheese in familiar — or unfamiliar — form. And each course was accompanied by French wines.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Perfect Baked Potato from America's Test Kitchen

Not too long ago, I happened upon an America’s Test Kitchen show on PBS. One segment featured their take on The Perfect Baked Potato.  There it was in all its simplicity:  Stabbed, Brined, Baked, Coated with Olive Oil, Baked again only to emerge in a flawless-looking potato which, when cut open stem to stern, released its steam and revealed the fluffiest interior I’d ever seen.  To this butter was quickly added melting into the potato as a fork whipped it up.  This lily was then gilded with great dollops of Sour Cream that was then topped with crispy bacon and a shower of chives. Perfection on a plate.  I couldn’t wait to bake my own but first I wanted a taste of the baked potatoes that come from a food cart that’s parked daily in our neighborhood. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

Pan-Seared Trout with Prosciutto and Chile Garlic Oil from Chef Alex Raij in Food and Wine Magazine

Navarra, tucked up under France in Spain.

I’ll often ask Andrew if he has any requests for dinner.  Most of the time he leaves me to my own devices.  But when he does ask for something, I jump. This recipe is the result of his request for Fish for dinner.  I was happy to oblige because, quite honestly, there’s nothing quite so simple as getting a piece of fish on the table.  Fish cooks in no time at all and fish lets you cover a lot of ground with so many varieties available.  This is especially true in port cities like New York.  To satisfy Andrew’s request, I found a recipe that was beautifully enticing in its photograph.  It was a filet of trout with a layer of crisply cooked Spanish ham atop the tender white fish.  There were slivers of garlic and dark green parsley and discs of tiny red chiles floating atop the ham.  Under the name of the dish there was this quote: “This dish is almost a cliché in Navarra, but it's absolutely delicious," says Alex Raij. "The Spanish ham keeps the fish from drying out, basting it with its inimitable fat."  I had no clue who Alex Raij was, or where Navarra was in Spain or why the dish is almost a cliché.  All I really knew was it was a great way to cook Trout in very little time and with great results.  And I knew I wanted to find out more about who Alex was.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Who knew Chicken Soup could be this simple...and this good!

Roast Chicken gone wrong.
About a week ago, I had the Roast Chicken urge.  You know the one where you imagine a perfect roast chicken, brilliantly browned and crisp, with melt-in-your-mouth tender white and dark meat?  Well I duly went out and bought quite an expensive Free-Range bird.  I believe that when it comes to Roast Chicken, simpler is better.   Somehow, on my way to retrieve Marcella Hazan’s super simple Roast Chicken – with two lemons and salt and pepper and that’s it—I was waylaid by an even simpler recipe.  This one eliminated the lemons. And miraculously, it cooked even faster than Marcella’s, which was likely the deciding factor. Then too, its author is a-famous-chef-who-shall-remain-nameless to protect the guilty.  Now this doesn’t happen often in our house but I was not at all happy about how "cooked" the 50-minute chicken was.  So I abandoned almost the whole bird and stuck it in the freezer.  Over the weekend, as winter bore down and it was once again freezing here, I decided to make Chicken Soup with my partially cooked roast chicken.  I imagined a long afternoon of soup making.  That turned out to be a complete overestimate. The chicken soup I made, full of chicken flavor, with onions, carrots and celery submerged in a heavenly broth, was everything I’d hoped.  Astonishingly, it was made with just 7 ingredients and start to finish took all of an hour and ten minutes to make. 

Monday, February 27, 2017

Keema Beef Curry from Grace Parisi in Food and Wine Magazine

Promises of “Curry in a Hurry" have mostly left me cold.  They led to soupy curries with no real character. Or they involved a collection of Indian spices that would overtake the capacity of any spice rack I’ve ever owned.  So when I came across this very easy recipe, I thought it was worth a try. And when I saw who created it, Grace Parisi, I knew it was.  Here is a non-traditional curry whose aroma alone is irresistible.  Filled with vegetables, the backbone of the dish was tender minced beef redolent in a coconut milk and tomato sauce.  Served with Coriander-infused Rice and some warm Naan, it was a winner in every way.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Pecan Honey Cake

Photo by LA452
A lot of bakers love this blog and all that Andrew bakes.  Sad to say, it’s been weeks since we published our last baking post…for Dorie Greenspan’s Beurre et Sel Jammers (see not counting the skillet cornbread at New Year’s.  The reason is simple to explain. Andrew only bakes in the country. He has all his gear there and none in the city.  And in the off-season, he barely gets to the country at all, working weekends as he does.   But President’s Day weekend dawned and we were off for a spell of spring-like temperatures in February.  To celebrate, Andrew baked a cake.  And what a cake!  Somewhat like an upside-down cake, this one was flipped over after baking to reveal a layer of pecans, candied by the honey they were baked in and sunken into a layer of honey goodness.  Under the blanket of nuts was moist and buttery cake with a hint of more nut flavor. It was an ideal cake for any season whether in a February thaw or the whipsaw of March weather.  

Friday, February 17, 2017

Celebrating Mardi Gras at New Orlean's Bourbon-Themed Restaurant plus Three Classic Mardi Gras Cocktail Recipes

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My latest Daily Meal Article lets you in on how to get the most out of your next Bourbon plus recipes for 3 New Orleans Cocktails

Staff Writer

150 Bourbons and Counting
Kenton’s is devoted to the all-American spirit locals love.

In a town where one of the main thoroughfares is called Bourbon Street, there just has to be a restaurant dedicated to the whiskey that shares its name. That restaurant is a place called Kenton’s Food and Bourbon. Located away from the hubbub of the French Quarter, in New Orlean’s Garden district, Kenton’s is a shrine to bourbon. Its menu lists no less than 150 kinds of the brown gold liquor, and you can find bourbon cooked into many of the menu items.

Sean Josephs, who owns Kenton’s with his wife, New Orleans native Mani Dawes, says that his passion for bourbon grew out of his studies as a sommelier. Along with his wine studies, he learned much about spirits and was amazed at the quality and complexity bourbon delivered relative to its price. “Even the most young and humble of bourbons can deliver a profound drinking experience,” he says.  

Flat boats brought Bourbon from Kentucky to NOLA
The couple’s first bourbon-themed establishment was the now-closed Char No. 4 in Brooklyn. They subsequently opened Maysville, in Manhattan’s Flatiron District. (They also have the popular Chelsea tapas bar Tia Pol.) Maysville’s name is an homage to the town of Maysville, Kentucky, whence Kentucky’s pride and joy was shipped out on flatboats, floating downriver to New Orleans, where the real partying began. Kenton’s, in turn, is named in honor of Simon Kenton, who founded Maysville. (It’s worth noting that Maysville is in Bourbon County, and that Louisiana was first settled by the French, who named the place Louisiane after their king, Louis XIV — whose family name was Bourbon.)

Thursday, February 16, 2017

An Invitation to CheeseWeek New York

Originally published on The Daily Meal, this should make Cheese Lovers in New York stand up and cheer.
Staff Writer

If you can’t make it to Cheese Day in Paris, enjoy Cheese Week in the States

We recently learned all about the second year of Cheese Day in Paris, where, on Feb. 20, cheesemakers, chefs, sommeliers, and cheese-lovers will all gather in a one-day salute to the glories of European cheeses. But if you can’t be in Paris for the festivities, don’t worry: Cheese Week is coming to New York from Feb. 21 to 26. Not to be left out, chefs in Philadelphia and California, like their New York counterparts, will spotlight cheeses from France and around the world on their menus all week long. 
In New York, the French Cheese Board has organized a whole menu of tastings all over the city, including cheeses, wines, and spirits. These two-hour sessions will feature cheeses from some of France’s great cheesemakers. From well-known names like Marin and Alouette (both of which make their French-style cheeses in American settings) to boutique imports like Fromagerie Arnaud and Fromagerie Henri Hutin, cheese-fanciers will be hard-pressed to choose which tasting to attend. It is suggested that oenophiles check the pairings that will be offered at each tasting. From powerhouse names like Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafites) to Champagnes Brimoncourt and Calvados Boulard, and new discoveries like the wines of Chateau Tourril, there will be something for every wine connoisseur. Centered around the French Cheese Board in SoHo (41 Spring St.), all New Yorkers are invited to attend these tastings. Reservations can be made here.
Festivities are also the order of the day at Murray’s Cheese Shop at both Grand Central Station and the Bleecker Street location. Each day of Cheese Week, samplings will take place from 3 to 6 p.m. and discounts will be offered on select French cheeses. At their neighboring Cheese Bar (264 Bleecker St.), French cheese and wine pairings will be offered as well as their regular menu. There will even be a special cheese class called “Vive La France: French Wine and Cheeses” to be held on Tuesday, Feb. 21. Open to the public, it’s wise to call for a reservation at (212) 243-3289. Meanwhile, uptown at Zabar’s, three-hour cheese tastings will take place both Feb. 24 and 25 from 2 to 5 p.m.

Are these the Best Brussels Sprouts Ever? Ilili's Brussels Sprouts

Last Saturday, we went downtown to Ilili which has the distinction of being the top Lebanese restaurant in New York.  That being said, Lebanese restaurants aren’t exactly a dime a dozen here.  In fact, in all of New York there are only 10 places serving Lebanese cuisine, while about another ten call themselves “Middle Eastern”.  That’s rather a surprise given that, at last count, there were 24,000 places to eat in Manhattan alone.  But Ilili (236 Fifth Avenue, NY 10001 (Tel: 212-683-2929) stands proudly Lebanese. Ilili means “tell me” in Arabic, a phrase which the restaurant says is used in many ways: “a whisper between two friends, an invitation to share a secret and a proclamation to get the conversation started.”  The latter of the three was the one most in evidence on our visit to the 200-seat restaurant. The place was filled with big tables for 10 and 12 and amazingly diverse crowd of every ethnicity. 

Our friends Julie and Geoff were old hands at Ilili and insisted that we order the Brussels Sprouts. Having traveled 40 blocks downtown in the cold, I can’t say that we thrilled about eating Brussels Sprouts.  We should have been. They were incredible.  Even the most ardent Brussels Sprouts haters would have trouble not loving these.  The sprouts are roasted, a cornucopia of flavors are added: fig butter, roasted walnuts, sliced red grapes and a mint yogurt sauce all add up to an extraordinary dish, a marvel of contrasting textures, of juicy-sweet and crispy-crunchy, And what, you may well ask, are Brussels Sprouts doing on a Lebanese restaurant menu?  Well I scoured the internet and I can’t find a single source saying that Brussels Sprouts have anything to do with Lebanese cooking. But I think I know why these sprouts found their way into Ilili’s kitchen.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Valentine's Day Chicken La Tulipe a la Monte

This Valentine’s Day, we bring you the Valentine’s advice of one Jonathon Reynolds.  Mr Reynolds, who wrote for talk shows helmed by David Frost and Dick Cavett, first brought the recipe to the New York Times in 2000.  It was from a beloved and romantic Greenwich Village restaurant called “La Tulipe”.

Mr. Reynolds, a bachelor, discovered that a man cooking for a woman was wildly seductive.  He never claimed to fully understand the phenomenon but he reported that “perhaps it’s the surprise, or the role reversal…or the implied altruism – he’s taking the time to whip up that bavorois just for me—but every woman I’ve asked claims that a man cooking specifically for her is an aphrodisiac.”  I’d like to point out that the Times also tested among men cooking for men and women cooking for women and it had the same effect.  So if you want to impress, make this dish and you’ll have people falling all over you. Or at least, one special person.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Spicy Lamb and Lentils with Herbs

Alison Roman of Bon Appetit
I keep wishing there was another protein to cook with.  How many riffs can you find for boneless skinless chicken breasts?  But it seems unlikely that the Fearless Flyer from Trader Joe’s is suddenly going to extol the virtues of Rabbit or Goat.  So when I see an intriguing recipe with a protein we don’t eat that often, I am all for cooking it.  That would apply to this wonderful concoction.  Here, ‘aggressively seasoned’ lamb is combined with French Lentils de Puy and a shower of fresh herbs and then laid atop a serving of cool, rich yogurt.  It’s the work of Alison Roman of Bon Appetit Magazine. Ms. Roman is a wildly prolific recipe writer.  She has 244 recipes on ranging from Charred Scallion Butter to Sardines with Grilled Bread and Tomato. And she's even been here recently with her recipe for Fennel Crusted Pork Chops (See  In this recipe for Lamb, the seasoning is limited to cumin and red pepper flakes but the final result is definitely spicy.  The counterpoint to the spice is the sweetness of the lentils and the coolness of the yogurt.  Add to that, chopped English cucumber, parsley and cilantro and the balance is pretty well perfect. I’d love to tell you that this dish comes together in 35 minutes as Ms. Roman promised but for that timing, you can’t count the making of the lentils.  That adds another 40 minutes.  But the lentils are just as important to the dish as the lamb.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Cajun-Spiced Swordfish Tacos with Green Onions, Radishes and Chipotle Sour Cream

El Mitote's Tacos
I love tacos.  And apparently I am not alone. I posted the Instagram picture of the ones on the left and it broke the bank in "likes".  These tacos are from El Mitote (208 Columbus Ave. NYC Tel: (212) 874-2929).  But even with a taqueria so close to home, I still can’t get my fill of these easy to make little goodies.  Besides, the closest El Mitote gets to a fish taco is its shrimp version.  So when I saw this recipe in the New York Times, I was hooked.  Cajun flavors are some of my favorites.  Although the original recipe, from a line cook at Union Square Café named Chad Shaner, called for white fish filets, like cod or red snapper, I went for swordfish.  I’ve been using Swordfish with Cajun spices ever since I was introduced to Chef Paul Prud’homme, who pretty well put Cajun food on the map in the 80s.  Swordfish shines in this recipe.  Its layer of spice hides at the bottom of the toasted corn taco which is slathered with Chipotle flavored Sour Cream. Crisp radishes, and grilled green onions add layers of flavor and then a shower of cilantro leaves give the taco a final touch.  Even though this Taco is not particularly Mexican, I hope you can forgive it for that. The Taco, it turns out, is one of the world’s most adaptable foods.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Super Bowl Express: Salt and Pepper Chicken Wings with Parmesan Dipping Sauce

I am always staggered to hear how many chicken wings are consumed on Super Bowl Sunday.  Last year it was 1.3 billion! I really do understand the allure.   In the pantheon of things we love to eat, the Chicken Wing is high on our list.  Crispy, crunchy and easy as all get out to make, I could likely put these on our dinner menu once a week, Super Bowl or no Super Bowl.  As a wing lover, I’ve tried all kinds of recipes for these delicious little finger-licking goodies and almost without fail, I love the results.   But in terms of simplicity, nothing comes close to this take on wings: 10 minutes tops in prep and 45 minutes undisturbed in a hot oven and that’s it. The recipe was brought to my attention by Tyler Florence in his “Tyler Florence Family Meal” (Rodale 2010).  Tyler subheads this book “Bringing People Together Never Tasted Better”.  And I couldn’t agree more. Tyler attributes the recipe to The Wayfare Tavern in San Francisco (558 Sacramento St. Tel: 415 772 9060).  And like every chicken wing recipe in America, it owes at least something to the ubiquitous Buffalo Wing.  In fact, every recipe for Chicken Wings pays some homage to the original because if it hadn’t been for Buffalo, we might never have tasted wings at all.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Attention Trader Joe's Shoppers: This TJ discovery comes direct from France and it's worth every sou.

Alouette Brie, here pictured with sliced apple
Just a quick bonus post to tell you about a great find at TJs.  Yesterday at a lunch celebrating Cheese Week which is coming to New York later this month, I was seated next to Serge Bruno.  Serge is the Director of International Sales and Foodservice Marketing for the cheesemaker, Alouette.  In the early 1970’s French cheese whiz, Jean-Noel Bongrain decided to bring his skills in making French specialty cheeses to the US.  The company says ‘there’s French in their DNA’.  They’ve put their love for
Alouette Cheese comes from Farms like these.
cheese to work creating 6 French style cheeses using fresh milk from the Amish country in Pennsylvania and from dairy farms in Lena, Illinois. I was surprised to find that Alouette is responsible for Trader’s Joe’s private label Cream cheese and its Crème Fraiche.  Serge and I swapped recommendations for Trader Joe items.  Since yesterday was Croissant Day, I told Serge about my fondness for Trader Joe’s Almond Croissants and
Serge turned me on to two Made-In-France items I’d never tried before. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Shrimp with Spicy Tomato Sauce and Strozzapreti

What cook doesn’t love Shrimp?  They are such an obliging partner in the kitchen. They not only cook in all of three minutes but they turn pink and opaque to tell you they’re done.  They’re wildly popular—in fact they’re by far the most popular of all seafoods in this country.  Here they live up to their promise of speed in a dish that pairs shrimp with a spicy tomato sauce, ribbons of fennel, chiles that let you control the heat and Strozzapreti, one of my favorite pastas of all time.  And why is it a favorite?  Because it translates into English as “Priest Choker”.  Andrew pointed out that Strozzapreti isn’t the backbone of the dish and that you could substitute pretty much any tubular pasta from Gemelli to Rigatoni or Penne Rigate.  While that’s true, the writer in me just couldn’t wait to dive into the story of Strozzapreti and so, in the middle of last week’s Nor’Easter I trudged 6 blocks to the Supermarket. There, in the specialty pasta section I found my Strozzapreti and the basis for this post.  But first off, let’s talk about Shrimp which is a good news/bad news story if there ever was one.