HELPING FAMILY FARMS FLOURISH. HELPING FEED THE HUNGRY.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Carla Hall's Spiced Lamb and Potato Pie

        

Who can forget Carla Hall? Twice a contestant on Top Chef, she was voted “Fan Favorite” her second time around, which is equivalent to being named “Miss Congeniality” in the old Miss America days.  She was lots of fun to watch and never an unkind word came out of her mouth, a trait sadly missing from Top Chefs most of the time.  She made it all the way to the finals, her recipe for Chicken Pot Pie landing her an appearance on Jimmy Fallon.   Sadly she suffered major equipment failures in the finals and was bounced off the show.  But talk about bouncing back.  She is now a fixture on ABC’s “The Chew” where she enlivens the proceedings with her philosophy of ‘Cooking with Love’ which became the name of her first Book subtitled ‘Comfort Food that hugs you’ (Simon and Schuster 2012).   Since “The Chew” is taped within walking distance of our New York apartment, I was not surprised to see Chef Hall in our local supermarket where she greeted one all with her fabulous smile.  My next encounter with Carla was in Food and Wine’s “Chef’s Easy Weeknight Dinners” (Time Affluent Media Group 2014).  Her contribution to the book is a Mediterranean influenced riff on Shepherd’s Pie.  And it’s well worth the 45 minutes it takes to make the whole thing.

Monday, December 15, 2014

New Brunswick Stew with Rotisserie Chicken


Costco's $4.99 Chicken 
 
In our continuing series of quick weeknight dinners leading up to Christmas, I couldn’t ignore the charms of Rotisserie Chicken.  I cannot go into Costco without buying one of their birds, beautifully cooked and an amazing bargain at $4.99.   I’ve made this chicken into sandwiches and salads and I’ve sliced off parts to eat all by themselves when I am all by myself.   Last week, I brought one home and searched around for a recipe that would fall into our dinner-on-the-table-in-no-time criteria.  Almost immediately, I came upon a recipe labeled “Brunswick Stew”.  To be honest, it landed squarely in Sandra Lee territory but it fit the bill.  Rotisserie chicken is skinned and shredded.  Everything else came out of a can or the freezer and the mixture was then seasoned, stirred into a Dutch oven, brought to a boil then simmered on the stove for 45 minutes.  Just enough time for a Cocktail!  Or a look into the origins of Brunswick Stew.  It must be named for Brunswick Georgia, I thought to myself. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Evan and Sarah Rich's Grilled Strip Steaks with Green Bean Chimichurri



Food and Wine has just come out with another of its compendiums of recipes, this one titled “Chef’s Easy Weeknight Dinners” (Time Inc. Affluent Media Group 2014).  There are all kinds of recipes here from soups to seafood, side dishes to desserts.  What strikes me is their overall simplicity.   Apparently, Chefs are every bit as time-pressured as the rest of us.  Or perhaps more so.  Can you imagine cooking all day and then going home and doing it all over again?   That’s likely why the book is loaded with recipes none of which take over 55 minutes to make, the majority even less than that. So in keeping with my promise of pre-holiday meals that are full of flavor and not so full of effort, today’s recipe is for a main dish that’s hard to beat for simplicity.  It’s Steak and it takes all of 35 minutes to get on the table.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Lazy Man's Lasagna with Turkey Sausage Bolognese


        


At our house, we seem to have gone into high Christmas gear this week. So I have decided to feature posts from now until the big day that minimize your time in the kitchen and maximize the flavor you get out of some terrific recipes all that come together in under an hour at most.   The first is a Lasagne recipe that knocked me out. I have to confess to having been a terrible Lasagna snob.  I think true lasagna is rich in béchamel sauce, with a ragu that’s been melding flavors for hours in an all-afternoon of cooking and reducing and tasting.  My kitchen has been draped with crinkle-edged lasagna noodles parboiled on the stove more times than I can remember.  And I still make lasagna that way.  Not for me the Americanized versions that I’d been subjected to at some long-ago student dinners.  The version I found most awful was the one with cottage cheese.  But I was craving a baked pasta dish when I came across a recipe in Bon Appetit that gave a prep time of 45 minutes and then baked for another 45.  This sounded very do-able on a weeknight.  But believe it or not, I managed to cut the time down to a little over an hour!  And this lasagna, while hardly authentic Italian, is absolutely terrific.  It’s so good, it should be emailed to everyone in the family who says they can’t cook.  It’s so good, it would convince a girl to marry the guy who made it.   And since this recipe is for 4 servings, you won’t be left eating a huge pan of lasagna until Spring.  Served with a green salad, it’s a dinner not to be forgotten.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Pappardelle with Braised Chicken and Figs Adapted from Chef Kyle Bailey in Food and Wine Magazine

   

         Who isn’t always looking for fresh, new ways to cook that workhorse of the kitchen, the skinless chicken thigh?  That’s why I was intrigued by a recipe in October’s Food and Wine Magazine that was said to be “Spanish-inspired pasta”.  First of all, although no authority on Spanish cuisine, I had to wonder about pasta being authentic to Spain.  And the research I did backed me up.  There is really only one ‘pasta’ that is cooked with any frequency in Spain.  And wouldn’t you know it’s used in making Fideuá, which is very similar to paella only Fideuá substitutes a noodle about the size of spaghetti for the rice in every other paella.  There’s a interesting piece of folk history about how this substitution of noodles for rice happened. According to what I read, Fideuá was first created by a cook onboard a fishing boat.  Joan Batiste Pascual, better known as Zabalo, made many a meal of paella.  The skipper of the vessel he worked on in 1915 loved rice and would always eat so much of it that the crew never got their fair share.  So in order to stop the skipper from eating everyone else’s portion, Zabalo decided to substitute pasta for rice.  Unfortunately for the rest of the fisherman, his plan didn't go too well.  The captain devoured the pasta with as much gusto as he did rice so Zabolo’s plan was thwarted.  But he is still a hometown hero.  His village, Safor, holds a Fideuá cooking competition each year.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Cottage Pie with a hand from Tamasin Day-Lewis in Saveur Magazine

        
Growing up in Canada, the Sunday Roast was a tradition in our house.  An enormous piece of beef would appear on the dinner table and our extended family would dig in.  And it was almost always beef because my parents had no great affection for lamb or, heaven forbid, pork which could cause a disease called "Trichinosis", the very sound of which sent shivers up our spines.  So beef it was. In the week after the roast, my mother would make Shepherd’s Pie, which is what she always called it.  This is a really old English recipe.  The first time it was printed was in an anonymous writer’s cookbook in 1737 called “The Whole Duty of a Woman”. (Can you imagine the response that title would arouse today? )  Shepherd’s Pie has evolved since then. In the Victorian era, the hand-cranked meat grinder was introduced so that turning the leftover roast into minced meat was infinitely easier. Mixed with onions and, sometimes, leftover vegetables, the filling was then topped with mashed potatoes and reheated in the oven.  I loved it.  And it was a good thing because it was a weekly staple in our house for years and years.  But when Andrew and I got together he cringed at the very thought of Shepherd’s Pie.  Apparently when he was in school in England, in his own words, ‘you can just imagine how badly it could be made’.   But having already made hash with some leftover prime rib, I still had leftovers. I decided to prove him wrong.  But first I had to correct something wrong about my mother’s Shepherd’s Pie.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving Way Out West: The Remains of the Day...Turkey Tetrazini so good, you may want to roast another Turkey




         This is my absolute favorite Thanksgiving recipe.  It is such a favorite that I have been known to cook a turkey or turkey breast just to make it.  It also is a great sentimental favorite because it was one of the first pieces of food writing I ever had published In Saveur Magazine. And then there is its provenance: Our dear friend Michael Grim introduced me to its creator, Anne Jaindl, a family friend with whom Michael’s late father Bill had worked.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Thanksgiving Way Out West...Chocolate Babka from Martha Stewart



            One day last summer, Andrew was in a huge rush to catch the Jitney out to Bridgehampton.  Starving, he ran into a gourmet shop on Lexington Avenue.  Prior to this occasion, Andrew’s only encounter with Babka was on an episode of Seinfeld in which Jerry and Elaine were thwarted in their attempt to buy a Chocolate Babka and had to take a Cinnamon Babka instead.  Andrew was much more fortunate and was soon tucking into this glorious over-the-top indulgence with obscene amounts of chocolate miraculously held together by Brioche-like bread.  And something more:  A great Babka not only contains masses of chocolate, it combines all that chocolate with, yes, Cinnamon!  And as if the whole piece wasn’t already flawless, the Babka Andrew ate was covered in streusel.  I don’t think he was off the Jitney five minutes before he headed straight to the cookbook library we keep in our kitchen.  In very little time, he landed on a recipe calling for staggering amounts of chocolate, tablespoons full of cinnamon, streusel topping and no less than 5 sticks of butter.  Eureka!  Martha Stewart’s Mother’s Babka was coming to our kitchen.  And as I started to think of Thanksgiving recipes, I thought back to that Babka. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Thanksgiving Way Out West: Cornbread and Sausage Dressing




        There are stuffing people and there are dressing people, but no Thanksgiving Dinner is complete without one of the two. Not even one in California. ( By the way, the only difference between stuffing and dressing is whether you put the stuff in the bird or cook it separately.)  And between turkey and stuffing or dressing there’s very little color difference which may be one reason green beans are so popularly served with a Turkey dinner. But a few years ago, I found a recipe for Cornbread Dressing that included copious amounts of parsley and celery and, then, triumphantly for those of us desperate for color, red pepper. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thanksgiving Way Out West, Dessert Round: Nick Maglieri's Chocolate Hazelnut Tart



        
Several weeks ago, Andrew went to the Institute of Culinary Education, a great cooking school on 23rd St. in Chelsea (www.ice.eduwhere he had signed up with one of the masters of the baking arts, Nick Maglieri.  The class was small – just 9 students – and the night was an intensive Pastry Making session.  The course was called “Perfect Pastry” and Chef Maglieri really put his small class through its paces. The class featured the making of three essential doughs: Olive Oil dough for savory pies and tarts, “Quickest” Puff Pastry and Classic Sweet pastry dough for dessert pies and tarts.  The class was broken up into teams who divided the savory pie fillings—Spinach and Bacon, Gruyère and Scallions—and the sweet pie fillings –Pecan and Chocolate Hazelnut—and then they all made a Bistro Apple Tart and Puff Pastry Straws.  He came home absolutely exhausted, mostly from having worked all day and then standing all night. But he also came home triumphant because he felt he’d really knocked pastry making. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Thanksgiving Way Out West: Beautiful Beets


         My friend Ana didn’t stop with her suggestion that I serve Corn Pudding on my first-ever West Coast Thanksgiving.  She suggested that beets would be a great item to add to the menu.  And when Ana is right, she is right.  Not only do beets bring a shot of color to the amazingly 'brown' Thanksgiving table, it you use the recipe for salad that appears here, you beets will look positively stunning. But Beets not only make a beautiful appearance in any buffet or on your Thanksgiving plates, they are almost invaluable once you discover this simple method for making them.  That’s because flying in the face of all those who would roast their beets, thereby taking up valuable space in the already overworked oven, these beets are prepared on the stovetop.  For flavor and to keep the beets from bleeding, you can add any one of three things: Lemon Juice to give them great tang, Orange Juice to sweeten the already sweet beets or Vinegar which basically pickles the beets as they cook.  The skins slip off the finished beets and you can then refrigerate them until you’re ready to use them. And you’ll lose count of the ways you can serve them.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Ina Garten's Cauliflower Gratin Adapted for Thanksgiving Way Out West

        

         I’ll let you in on a little secret.  Of all Ina Garten’s cookbooks, “Barefoot in Paris” (Clarkson Potter 2004) was the least successful in terms of sales.  That came as a complete surprise to me because I find it one of the best “French” cookbooks I own.  Ina adapted every recipe for American kitchens. Since it is pure Ina, its recipes are easy to follow and don’t make you run out and buy pots or pans or molds or even ingredients that aren’t found in most American kitchens.  I’m willing to believe that “French” cooking just scares the bejesus out of most home cooks.  That’s the only reason I can come up with for Ina’s adoring fans not to have latched onto this volume they way they have every other.  And if you need further proof of just what a good idea it would be to get your hands on a copy, I would suggest we start right here.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Thanksgiving Way Out West: Easy Squash and Corn Pudding from Nathalie Dupree


        

The year, for the first time ever, I am heading out to California to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with three of my favorite people on earth: my son, my daughter-in-law and my 6 year old grandson.  The minute I knew the trip was on, I was on the hunt for Thanksgiving recipes that would take into account that I’ve only cooked for cold weather Thanksgivings. 
In California, I can expect the temperature to rise to 70 degrees.   So I immediately enlisted the aid of my friend, Ana, who lives relatively close to my son and who obliged me with a list of ideas that were lighter, warm-weather friendly and perfect for a California Thanksgiving.  I took Ana up on her suggestions and starting with this recipe, I am going to share my discoveries over the next couple of days.   Ana told me that Corn Puddings have been all the rage the last couple of Thanksgivings in the southland.  So off I went and found a corn pudding so good, I couldn’t get over it.  And to top it all off, it was spectacular as a left over – which will give you something completely different to serve on what essentially is a 4 day food fest, Thursday to Sunday.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Pan-Grilled Veal Chops with Tomato-Blue Cheese Butter and Cherry Tomato Salad from Bruce Aidells' "The Great Meat Cookbook"


         I don’t think food should be controversial. It should be one of life’s great pleasures. To quote none other than Luciano Pavarotti “One of the nicest things about life is that we regularly have to stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating”.  That being said, we come to today’s post.  Here is a recipe I used to celebrate Andrew’s recent birthday.  At its center were two luxurious veal chops.  I say luxurious because I’d be hard-pressed to find anything at the butcher that is more expensive on a pound for pound basis than a veal chop.  But I have to admit; there are few types of meat I enjoy more.  That brings us to our controversy.  I’d like to nip it at the bud.  There’s good news about Veal!

Monday, November 10, 2014

One Dish Pastas: One with Spaghetti and Tomatoes, One with Orecchiette, Chicken Sausage and Arugula




Last summer, in the course of one week, I saw three recipes posted for an identical dish.  Authored by Martha Stewart, it involved putting the entire contents of a pasta dinner into one pot and firing the stove up to create a meal that was only missing its Parmigiano Cheese which was added once the pasta went into bowls.  We don’t eat a lot of pasta in the summer and when summer tomatoes are as good as ours are on Long Island, the grape or cherry tomatoes called for here just don’t cut it.  But when the last of the Romas and Beefsteaks disappear, nothing is more welcome than the see-through clamshells filled with perfectly ripe, sweet little tomatoes. There are plenty of varieties to choose from. Even small heirlooms are in the mix.  So one night last week, I went on a search for the recipe. Lo and behold, there was Martha Stewart herself, on video, making the dish while assuring us that it was the viral sensation on the internet I’d witnessed last summer.  So off I went and made it myself.  The results were intriguing to say the least.        

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Seamus Mullen's Herbed Lamb Meatballs with Rich Tomato Sauce

  
         Seamus Mullen’s name would give you no clue as to this particular chef’s specialty.   Chef Mullen is the chef/owner of two wildly popular and critically acclaimed restaurants specializing in modern Spanish cuisine.  The first, Tertulia in Greenwich Village (359 6th Avenue, NYC 10012 Tel: 646-559-9909) has the stars to prove it.  The second one, El Comado, is located in the Gotham West Market, a food court unlike any other in the city.  For one thing, it’s at 600 11th  Avenue, a neighborhood so far west in Hell’s Kitchen, the owners of the apartment building above it conceived the place as a way to draw tenants.   Otherwise these poor souls would have to walk blocks before they found anything to eat.  Instead, they can go downstairs to 8 highly original food destinations.  

Monday, November 3, 2014

Dinner in Burma: Shrimp Curry and Smoky Napa Cabbage From Naomi Duguid's "Burma: Rivers of Flavor"

        
         I am insanely jealous of Naomi Duguid.  This writer, photographer, cook and traveller has made a career out seeing of the world and bringing it home in cookbooks.  What a dream job for a foodie with wanderlust!  Duguid has written six books about Asian cooking alone and this year came out with “Burma: Rivers of Flavor” (Artisan 2013).  The book won the International Association of Culinary Professionals (ICAP) 2013 award for Culinary Travel for Naomi and her co-author Jeff Alford.  Burma, or Myanmar, is a country steeped in mystery.  An ancient civilization, it became a British colony in the 1800s and only gained independence in 1948.  Unfortunately Independence heralded the arrival of one of the longest civil wars ever recorded.  In fact, it was untouched by the outside world for generations and really has only opened up in 2010. As a result, it is one of the least-developed countries in the entire world. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Sheila Lukins' Roast Beef and Vegetable Hash


Today is Chewing the Fat's 5th Birthday!  Five years ago this very day we published our very first post!  We've been hard at it ever since.  Now, 526 posts and over 900,000 (!) page views later, we are celebrating this milestone with a request: Will you please go to the bottom of this page and tell us what you'd like to see more of, what you'd like to hear less of, and what we can do to make you want to come back time after time.  We really appreciated your viewership and we'd really appreciate hearing from you!  Happy Birthday! 
         It may come as a huge surprise to you, as it did to me, to know that the #1 most viewed recipe on Chewing the Fat is one for James Beard’s Roast Beef Hash.  (See http://www.chewingthefat.us.com/2012/01/james-beards-roast-beef-hash.html) With 16,439 page views, this recipe continues to be searched for on a daily basis.  To me this says three things: 1. Great recipes never die with the Chef who created them. 2.  There is clearly an extraordinary amount of leftover roast beef in this county at any given moment. 3. And despite the fact that the finished dish is almost impossible to photograph looking appetizing, its looks are no barrier to its popularity.        


With such a huge success on our hands, you’d think I would have abandoned any thought of trying to find another hash recipe at all.  However, I considered it a challenge to try to top or at least equal James Beard’s version.  That and the fact I too had a lot of roast beef leftover from a Prime Rib. Besides, Andrew positively loves hash.  Then I found a recipe from the late, great Sheila Lukins and gave it a go. The results were another hash that was in many ways as good as Beard’s and, with its colorful vegetables, a good deal more photogenic.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Bourbon Chicken

        

The other day I was on the lookout for something quick to cook, which Chinese food almost always is. I like cooking Chinese food at home.  You can keep the notoriously high fat counts down and never worry for a moment whether your food contains MSG.  I came across a recipe for Bourbon Chicken.  The first thing I noted was that there was no bourbon in Bourbon Chicken.  Then I read the recipe sharer’s note stating that a Chinese cook working in a restaurant on New Orleans’ Bourbon Street developed the original recipe.  I took that at face value and proceeded to cook the dish. It really is one of those sweet and spicy stir- fries that I find addictive. They turn an ingredient as inexpensive and mundane as skinless chicken into something exotic and, in this case, truly worth making and eating.   And besides who wouldn’t want to try a recipe that had received no less that 2800 reviews on www.food.com, which is where I found it.  Having enjoyed it so much and wanting to pass it on, I went back to find out all I could about that Chinese Chef on Bourbon Street.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Double Cut Pork Chops with Roasted Garlic Butter and a side of Stir Fried Asparagus and Mushrooms

        

Pork is the world’s most widely eaten meat.  It accounts for 38 percent of meat production worldwide.  You’ll have trouble finding it in the Middle East and most of the Muslim world because both Jewish kosher and Islamic halal diets ban it outright.  But almost everywhere else on earth including Asia, Europe, and the Americas, pork is in recipes and on menus everywhere.  Nowhere comes close to China which, at any given moment, has 1 billion pigs on its farms. 

In the mid 80s, in the US, the National Pork Board called pork “the other white meat”, advertising so successful I wish I’d written it myself:  87 percent of consumers identified pork with the slogan.  And still do, despite the fact that it hasn’t been used since 2011.  It might come as a bit of a surprise to know first, that the USDA considers pork a red meat and second, that the only real reason the Pork Board jumped on the white meat bandwagon was the public’s perception that chicken and turkey were healthier than red meat.  It is true that Pork, with its fat trimmed, is leaner than most meats but certainly not chicken or turkey.  And even the ‘new’ leaner pork is still high in cholesterol and saturated fat. And as any good cook will tell you, fat is a flavor carrier that’s hard to replace.  But chefs have found a way to amp up pork’s flavor.  They brine their pork.  But I had never tried it until recently.  And I am here to say, I am a convert.  I recently brined what we jokingly referred to as ‘a side of pork’, chops so enormous they must have been almost three inches thick. And the results were spectacular.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Whole Grain Spaghetti with Brussels Sprouts and Mushrooms from Giada de Laurentiis

         
The stalks of Brussels Sprouts made their appearance at the farm stand a couple of weeks ago.   Because the weather here has been unusually warm, Brussels Sprouts seemed a little out of season.  But with the temperatures falling, it was time to find something to do with them.  Let’s face it, Brussels Sprouts are a love-them-or-hate-them vegetable.  Nobody is on the fence about them.  Recently they seem to have surged in popularity but I’ve never been sure this was about the sprouts themselves or whether it was a reaction to the countless recipes that paired them with bacon or roasted them in maple syrup or shredded them into Brussels Sprouts Two Ways (see http://www.chewingthefat.us.com/2014/01/almonds-brussels-sprouts-hot-and-cold.html) which is reason alone to head out to dinner at Almond (1 Ocean Road, Bridgehampton NY Tel (631) 537-8885).
         That recipe made me a convert to these tiny cabbages. Wanting to see if I could expand my repertoire, I poked around and lo and behold, I came across a recipe that made them into a pasta sauce.  Furthermore, it was a vegetarian dish made even more healthy by the use of Whole Grain Spaghetti.  This dish could even make it onto Almond’s Meatless Monday menu!  But I could save myself a 100 mile drive  from the city and make it at home.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Bon Appetit's Homemade Pizza Grandma-Style

       

Bon Appetit magazine went full on Pizza this month putting their sheet pan pizza on their cover till it filled the page.   Since I consider pizza to be one of nature’s perfect foods – protein, dairy, vegetable and carbs all in a slice you can eat with your hands -- I was immediately hooked.   I even went to the trouble of getting some 00 Italian flour which is de rigeur with Italian pizza chefs and which you can find at Eataly (200 Fifth Avenue NYC)  without any problem.  Bon Appetit can save you the trip because they call for using ordinary all-purpose flour in their recipe.   And as to making pizza, this was not my first ride on that particular merry-go-round.  I’ve made it before-- if not the pizza dough—certainly the pie.  (See http://www.chewingthefat.us.com/2009/11/stracciatella-and-prosciutto-pizza-with.html and also http://www.chewingthefat.us.com/2014/04/trader-joes-shoppers-good-bad-and-so-so.html).

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Mario Batali's Chicken Saltimbocca with Asparagus


Mario Batali 
         A few months ago, I went to my friend Monique’s for lunch.  She served a phenomenal dish that Chef Mario Batali had offered up in Food and Wine Magazine.  Ever since I went to school in Rome, I’ve loved Saltimbocca alla Romana, the Roman version of a dish popular from southern Switzerland to all the way down to the capital city.  Saltimbocca translates to ‘jump in the mouth’ which is about as high praise as any dish can get.  The original dish uses Veal topped with prosciutto and sage.  In Rome, chefs add another dimension by rolling up the veal, prosciutto
Expensive but worth every penny.
and sage and cooking the rolls in dry white wine.  Sweet Marsala wine is an option but most Roman chefs think this overpowers the delicate flavor of the Veal.  Mario Batali has substituted chicken cutlets and he makes his sauce using Vin Santo, literally Holy Wine, a sweet dessert wine from Tuscany.  And there lies the reason why I had waited all these months to make the dish.  It was well worth the wait.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Marmalade French Toast Casserole with Walnuts and Orange Flavored Syrup


        
Ina Garten's French Toast -- jumping off point
for our casserole
I’m always on the lookout for a great breakfast casserole for a crowd. This is because a couple of times a year I am called upon to help out at a Church breakfast.  I am a particular fan of recipes that call for refrigerating the dish overnight.   The next morning all you do is stick the thing in the oven while you set the table and get out the juice and coffee.  On “Chopped”, the television show where chef contestants are confronted with basket of ingredients and asked to whip up a meal out of them, Andrew and I always get a laugh at how many end up making French Toast as their dessert course.  Of course they never call it that.  It’s always Pain Perdu, which isn’t wrong because that’s what the French call French Toast.  The best version of French Toast I’ve ever tasted is Ina Garten’s.  What makes hers so memorable are two things that I’ve incorporated into today’s recipe.  She uses orange zest and the bread she prefers is Brioche.  Now it seems to me that if you use Brioche, you could easily pass off your French Toast as Pain Perdu and get away with it a lot more cleanly than if you’ve used Pepperidge Farm White Bread.  But Ina is a lot more down to earth than any contestant I’ve ever witnessed on Chopped.  So she calls it French Toast.  And so will I.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Salmon with Mustard Sauce and a Cannellini Bean Ragu

  

Salmon is a true workhorse in the world of seafood.  It is on menus everywhere and seems to come from an endless number of places around the world.  On my most recent visit to the market to pick up the fish to make this dish, I saw no less than 5 different salmon offerings ranging in price from 19.99 lb. for Norwegian Wild-Caught Salmon to Farm-Raised Fish from Chile at 7.99 a lb.  In between, there was Canadian Wild Caught and Farm Raised and Pacific Salmon of undermined origin.  Salmon is, of course, a marvel of nutrition containing those all-important Omega 3 Fatty Acids.   If somehow you’ve missed the news, these particular Fatty Acids lower your risk of heart disease.  But that isn’t half of what they do according to WebMD.com.  They can curb stiffness and the pain of arthritis in the joints.  Countries where they are consumed at high levels have lower levels of depression.  They aid in Baby Development, improve lung function among Asthmatics, reduce symptoms of Attention Deficit Syndrome, improving children’s mental skills like thinking, remembering and learning and finally, there is even research that suggests Omega 3s protect against Alzheimer’s and Dementia.  If you haven’t immediately run out and bought a giant piece of salmon, caveat emptor: Farm raised salmon is not the fount of Omega 3s that Wild Salmon is.  So when you buy salmon, try to buy wild caught if your budget will allow.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

"Old Stoves", Saveur Magazine and Donatella Arpaia's Mama's Meatballs and Ragu

        

         I’ve always been a huge fan of Saveur Magazine and not just because, over the years, they’ve published more of my food pieces than anyone else.  To me, the magazine broke the mold.  The relentless publication of Celebrity chef’s recipes in every other food magazine separates Saveur instantly.  Saveur has recipes you don’t find anywhere else.  They have a particular fondness for grandmothers’ cooking whether the grandmother is called “Opa” or “Ba Noi.”  One of the earliest grandmother stories I can remember was in a 1994 issue of the magazine. A food writer and cooking teacher, Peggy Knickerbocker, took us into the kitchens of a group of home cooks in San Francisco’s North Beach. This center of Italian American cooking was presided over by “Old Stoves”.
        
One of Saveur's "Old Stoves",
Rose Pistola 
Ms. Knickerbocker explained:" An "Old stove" is gentle, complimentary North Beach slang for someone who has put in a lot of time in front of a lot of stoves in his or her day. Old stoves are sometimes restaurant chefs, or retired restaurant chefs—but more often they're simply home cooks, with many years of experience making savory dishes for themselves, their families, and their friends. Old stoves are renowned throughout the community for their culinary skills. They're old souls, legends, well aged and cured. There is not one chance in a million that you'll have a bad meal at the hands of an old stove.”