HELPING FAMILY FARMS FLOURISH. HELPING FEED THE HUNGRY.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Nathalie Dupree's Mississippi Caviar from "Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking"



         Of this year’s cookbooks, “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking” by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubert (Gibbs Smith 2012) is at the top of every list of the year’s best.  I’ve already shared the story of my sideways connection to Ms. Dupree in an earlier post: http://www.chewingthefat.us.com/2012/11/skillet-lemon-chicken-with-spinach-and.html. I’ve barely skimmed the surface of this fascinating book and it’s 600 plus recipes.  Now, with New Year’s Day approaching, I want to share another of Nathalie’s recipes, which is particularly timely.  And I hope it has the intended consequence. Because in the South, it's a hard and fast rule that eating black-eyed peas at New Year’s, the basis for Mississippi Caviar, will bring good luck and prosperity for all of next year!  So here’s our New Year’s gift to you!   And if you’re wondering how the humble black-eyed pea rose to such exalted status, you may be very surprised at the answer. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Butternut Squash and Bacon Bread Pudding



         Last October, when I was out in California visiting my son Alex’s family, I picked up a freebie publication called California Home Design.  In it was an article about a wine making family in Healdsburg who, with the help of local chef, put together one of those classic wine country dinners.  Held in the middle of a vineyard, these parties are wildly photogenic as you can see in this photo from the magazine.  And the menus tend to contain things that this Easterner has never heard of before or at least in combinations that I’ve never even imagined.  California Cuisine, as defined by Alice Waters of Chez Panisse in Berkeley and Michael McCarty of Michael’s in Santa Monica, emphasizes freshly prepared local ingredients incorporated into recipes that are often a fusion of cooking styles as diverse as the population of the Golden state itself.  Among the items on the menu at the Healdsburg dinner was a very different take on a Bread Pudding.  In fact, the ingredient list made me wonder whether this was savory or sweet, a dessert or a side dish.   So I set out to make it and to figure out when to serve it once I had.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Baked Eggs with Tomato Sauce, Spinach and Mascarpone


There’s something rewarding about having the time to make a really exceptional breakfast. Hopefully, the rush of the last few days before Christmas will yield way to a day off, a time to admire your gifts and sit back and enjoy life. And to enjoy this recipe for a breakfast dish which I found in Elle Décor, of all places, last year.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Baking: Homemade Oreos and Homemade Fig Newtons' from Joanne Chang


The incomparable Joanne Chang
Christmas Baking is as much a part of the holiday as decorating the tree or singing songs of Christmas.  And if you have children, it's great fun to get them into the kitchen and bake a few cookies.  This year, the press has been full of stories of the demise of the Twinkie and the loss of Ho Hos.  To be honest, I was never a fan of either of these brands.  But if you told me Oreo or Fig Newtons were going out of business, I'd be incensed.  However, all of us who love pulling apart an Oreo to get at the frosting or biting into the gooey center of a Fig Newton would have a backup:  A brilliant baker named Joanne Chang has mastered these treats and shared her recipes for them in "Flour", the baking cookbook named after her Boston bakeries. And another brilliant baker, namely Andrew, has baked them for us and shared his tips for making perfect home-made Oreos and Fig Newtons.  

Monday, December 17, 2012

Sticky Chinese Pork Stir-Fry and it's Low Fat too!



         At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the stir-fry is the savior of every harried home cook.  When you have to get dinner on the table in as short a time as possible, a stir-fry’s hard to beat.  It’s all a matter of getting everything prepped and ready to go in this super fast cooking method.   And there’s no need for a wok to do so.  Any large fry pan will do.  There’s endless variety of things you can stir-fry.  This one is my latest discovery and it’s very good.  It’s loaded with vegetables and the most tender pork all bound together in an Asian accented sauce flavored with ginger and garlic. The sauce is the ‘sticky’ part with its hint of honey.  And what’s really impressive is that it’s extremely low fat.  How can you resist?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Chicken, Sausages and Sage: One dish cooking at its best.

In the roasting pan, a one dish wonder!


         The bones for this recipe came from a famous English cook and television personality who shall remain nameless.  It’s not that I don’t devour the prose in the cookbooks the chef’s written.  It’s beautiful and seductive.  But when it comes to the recipes I’ve tried, I am sure the chef in question would request anonymity.  In my experience, they’ve led to some seriously flawed dishes.  A curry that was swimming in more liquid than Lake Ontario comes immediately to mind.  A cake that collapsed, on not just the first attempt at baking it, but the next as well.  I am not sure what the cause is.  Translating metric ingredients into cups and ounces?  Un-tested recipes?  So you may ask why then would I tempt fate again?  I was seduced by a photograph showing deeply golden chicken and perfectly browned sausages.   The dish not only looked fantastic, it had been vetted at the kitchens of Food and Wine Magazine under the supervision of the great Grace Parisi, for whom I have undying respect.  So I tossed aside worries about its principle author and made it for a Sunday supper, adding a few ideas of my own.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Three authentic Austrian cookie recipes from Her Ladyship, Martha Stracey


From top to bottom:
Husaren-Krapferln (Cavalry Puff-balls) Marillenringe  (Apricot Rings)  
Vanillekipferln (Vanilla Crescents)
Lady Martha is a hands-on cook
         As Christmas approaches, the bakers come out in force looking for cookie recipes.  By my count, Andrew has 6 new soft cover cookie cookbooks  and magazines stacked up and ready to go out to the beach for the holidays. So it shouldn't have come as any surprise that the post you are reading, which was first published last Christmas, is wildly popular. It's been downloaded over 2000 times. And this year, it's been joined by another Austrian recipe for a cake. So by all means take a look at it as well: http://www.chewingthefat.us.com/2013/12/bsoffener-kapunziner-family-favourite.html  And it comes with a wonderful story as well. But first, here are the cookie recipes.
          When I was growing up in Montreal, an English cousin of mine came out to Canada to attend McGill University.  Although not initially planned, Simon ended up moving into our house and taking over the basement and staying for the duration.  He became a complete member of the family doing things like volunteering to be a rifle instructor for my class of adolescent boys and other thankless tasks.  Later he would serve as my best man.  Along the way, Simon met Martha, a completely charming young woman who had come to Canada from her native Innsbruck, Austria. They married, had two tow-headed daughters and, much to the surprise of many, decided to go back to England.  His family was there and Simon had assumed his hereditary baronetcy.  Henceforth he was to be called Sir John Stracey.  Martha, in turn, became Lady Stracey.

Monday, December 10, 2012

2 Hanukkah Favorites from Ina Garten: Simplest Ever Potato Latkes and Baked Applesauce



The Shammash being used to light the
candles on the Hanakkah Menorah
         Saturday was the first day of Hanakkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights.  The holiday, which is celebrated every December, commemorates the time when a small army of Jews defeated the Syrian King Antiochus IV (ca 215-164 B.C.) who had taken over Jerusalem and vowed to destroy Judaism.  Antiochus had filled the Jewish temple with Syrian idols.  In a surprise attack, led by Judas Maccabee, the small Jewish force recaptured Jerusalem and reclaimed their temple.  But when they went to light their holy lamps, they found only a single vial of oil. Lo and behold, this tiny amount of oil kept the lights burning for eight days.  This was declared a miracle.  Now, during the eight days of Hanakkah, every night celebrants light a candle in a Menorah (a candle holder with places for 9 candles ). They also exchange small gifts and make donations to the poor.  The ninth candle, called the shammash, has only one purpose: to light the other eight.  Since no Jewish festival of any kind is unaccompanied by glorious food, Hannakah is no exception.  And of all the dishes served, none is more closely linked to the Festival of Lights than the latke or potato pancake.  And of course, there’s a story attached to the Hannakah latke as well.  And it’s a doozy.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Crystal Shrimp with Ginger, Sweet Peas and Scallions



         No matter how gray a day it’s been, coming home to a dinner of beautifully pink and gold shrimp paired with sweet peas, fresh scallions and ginger medallions is a visual treat.  The simple salting and rinsing of the raw shrimp gives them a firm texture.  This recipe, which first appeared in Bon Appetit five years ago, gives credit for the name of the dish to the crystal-like texture of the shrimp. I would also have to say that there is a crystal look to the shrimp as well.  There’s not a lot of prep time involved in this recipe however it does require a 1 to 3 hour rest period for the shrimp once they’ve been battered with cornstarch and egg white.  While that was going on, I took a look at the history of the Shrimp and another look at where mine come from, that marvel of food shopping, Costco.

Marco Polo 
         In a kind of believe it or not, the shrimp’s name is derived from a Middle English word ‘shrimpe’ which meant ‘pygmy’.  This of course could lead to an entire discussion on the dichotomy of the words “Jumbo Shrimp” and doesn’t really give a satisfying answer to why someone would pick up a shrimp and think “Pygmy!”   Putting that aside, shrimp has been around for a very long time.  The Chinese were eating shrimp in the 7th century.  And when Marco Polo arrived in China in 1280, he commented on their abundance in food markets.  This country, however, has long held the record for shrimp eating.  In the 17th  century, Louisiana’s bayou residents were hauling in shrimp in giant seines that were up to 600 feet in circumference!  And there were no mechanical devices involved at all – just human labor.  It wasn’t until 1917 that mechanized shrimping arrived.  And with it came some unfortunate side effects.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Raspberry Pistachio Cheesecake from John Barricelli of the SoNo Baking Company



            Just before Thanksgiving, Andrew heard from a friend from his college days requesting a dessert recipe using raspberries.  Well it took all of two minutes to remember a spectacular cheesecake he made earlier in the season.  But why it has never made an appearance on these pages is a bit of a puzzle.  The cake is the essence of what a truly great cheesecake should taste like--extremely, densely creamy with that wonderful tang from the touch of sour cream that’s added to the batter.  But in this version there’s so much more...a pistachio-flavored graham cracker crust, more pistachios ringing the cake and topping the whole thing off, a layer of brilliant red raspberries.  In planning our offerings for the dash from Thanksgiving to Christmas, I wanted to give our readers some easy weeknight meals and also to give some ideas for fantastic desserts for all the entertaining that happens this season. It was a no-brainer to include this phenomenal cake because it even looks like Christmas with it’s red and green coloration.  Raspberries, while hardly in season, are one of those fruits that are increasingly found year ‘round so it shouldn’t be too difficult to pull off this.  And oh what a response you can expect when the first bite puts everyone’s taste buds into high gear.  And the surprising thing is Andrew says it's not at all hard to make, it just looks it! 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Skillet Lemon Chicken with Spinach and Fingerling Potatoes and Spinach from Nathalie Dupree's "Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking"




         Nathalie Dupree has just published “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking” (Gibbs Smith 2012), an immense compendium of Southern cuisine, which runs 720 pages and contains some 650 recipes. Amazingly, Nathalie writes in her introduction that 300 pages and 100 photographs never saw the light of day.  It is a beautifully written book, a collaboration with her former TV show producer, Cynthia Graubart. Its title is an homage to Julia Child who encouraged Ms. Dupree to write and teach the moment the two met at the Cordon Bleu in London in 1971.  Several years later, Nathalie took Julia’s advice to heart and first opened her own cooking school 40 miles outside of Atlanta or “midway between Social Circle and Covington, Georgia across from the Tri-County Cattle Auction Barn and Hub Junction”, Nathalie writes.  Soon she was lured to Rich’s, Atlanta’s famous and now defunct department store, to teach in their downtown store.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving 101 Pumpkin Whoopie Pies from Baked’s Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito



Thanksgiving Desserts at our house
From left to right: Caramel Apple Pie, Sables, Pear and Honey Cake,
Southern Pecan Pie, Chocolate Tart

         Chewing the Fat gets regular read-outs of what people are looking at and searching for most.  It came as no great surprise that, hands down, Pumpkin Whoopie Pies have been a big drawing card this Thanksgiving. So today I thought I'd share this easy recipe that's a real crowd pleaser--especially if children are in the crowd.  So here goes.
         Andrew’s idea of a good time is to bake enough Holiday treats for four to five times the number of people who are actually coming to our house for the Holidays. As you can see from his beautiful dessert table, he truly excels in his efforts.  Last year at Thanksgiving, we were 14 all told.  Andrew made 5 desserts.  Well, he actually made 6 but one was deemed not good enough to serve.  The day after Thanksgiving I had a piece of his rejected Sage-Crusted Lemon Pie.  It tasted fabulous although I would concur that everything else did too. The lemon tart suffered from not setting properly.  So it was not served.  I suppose looking at the dessert table you’re likely thinking “Well, where are the promised Pumpkin Whoopie Pies?”  Well guess what? They weren’t there.  The advertised Pumpkin treats were something Andrew made the day after Thanksgiving to take to our friends’ Monique and Curtis’ Leftover Party.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Thanksgiving 101: The Ultimate Cranberry Sauce



Jill Clark and I have been cooking together since she was in Dr. Denton’s. We’ve had so many great holidays together that The Making of the Cranberry Sauce is an annual event. And it’s taken place all over the map—even in Hong Kong. Several years ago, Jill moved to Dublin, met a wonderful man and we all went there to celebrate Thanksgiving. Finding the cranberries alone was a terrific challenge, just the first of many.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Thanksgiving 101 - Brown Butter Pumpkin Layer Cake



The Comfort Family's Farm on Lumber Lane in Bridgehampton. A great place to get your pumpkin if you are lucky enough to live on the East End.  
           Beyond Roast Turkey and Stuffing, there's nothing that says Thanksgiving more than pumpkin.  But this year, instead of pumpkin pie, how about a phenomenally delicious Pumpkin cake?  This one, with it's brown butter frosting and pecan topping, really does take the cake.  
        For Thanksgiving, Andrew is always bitten by the pumpkin bug…well, not literally, but he goes into high pumpkin mode.  With help from Fine Cooking, the magazine we really think would make a terrific addition to your kitchen, he made this  remarkable cake:  

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thanksgiving 101: Gratin of Sweet Potatoes and Leeks



        My friend Betty once told me a riotous story of being invited to a Thanksgiving dinner and being asked to "bring something".  When she arrived on the big day, there were 12, count 'em, sweet potato casseroles.  Lesson learned: If you're going 'potluck' on Turkey Day, assign the side dishes.  And you couldn't do much better than this deliciously rich gratin. It's a true example of  over-the-top Thanksgiving cooking. Fair warning…this is one of the richest things (aka fatty) I’ve made in a very long time.  But it was so delicious and really satisfying in tiny portions that I’d make again in a heartbeat…assuming I still had a pulse after consuming the pancetta and cream involved in the dish.
The other great thing about this dish is that it benefits from being made ahead. You can put the whole thing together a couple of days in advance and take it right up to the baking stage on the big day.  It also is very forgiving and can be cooked longer than the time given which is always a huge help when you're putting together your Thanksgiving dinner.  Another advantage to it's timing is that it's a lot easier to serve in beautiful little squares if it rests before serving.
All in all, it's a winner in every way.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Make-Ahead Meatballs for Beef Stroganoff


  
        I don't think it constitutes a trend but two of my food magazines published recipes for basically the same dish this month.  The magazines in question hardly rival Gourmet.  “Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food” is geared to the home cook and one who generally doesn’t like even the mildest surprises when they cook.  “Cuisine-at-Home” comes with 3 hole punches on every page so you can build your own cookbook with their pretty basic recipes. These are not generally go-to resources for me:  I prefer to be more adventurous and at least challenge myself with new flavors and cooking styles. But somehow, I cannot resist a new take on meatballs.  And Beef Stroganoff is one of my favorites from way back. Calling as it does for fillet of beef however has dimmed my enthusiasm. With the price of beef fillet approaching the stratosphere, if I am going to cook one, I am not about to cover it in sour cream.  Not too long ago, I made a version using sirloin, which is about the best buy in beef I can find—at least here in New York.   What a disappointment that was!  Way too tough!  But the dueling photos in the two magazines really did appeal to me.  Topping egg noodles in one and spaghetti in the other, they were just the kind of comfort I was looking for. And in Chinese menu fashion, I made the dish with the meatballs from one and the Stroganoff from the other.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Perfect Pound Cake courtesy of Michael's Mother Lorraine



         




         Our friend Michael of The Bridgehampton Florist, comes from a family of home bakers whose cakes are consistently the best things we’ve ever tasted.  We’ve featured the most famous, “Beatty’s Chocolate Cake” http://www.chewingthefat.us.com/2010/07/beattys-chocolate-cake.html which made its print debut in Ina Garten’s “Back to Basics” a couple of years ago.  Andrew had baked any number of recipes and they’ve all been good.  But at an Event last summer, Andrew tasted Michael’s Mother Lorraine's version for the first time and he had to have the recipe for what is The Perfect Pound Cake.   And let’s face it, a great pound cake is the starting point for all kinds of wonderful desserts.  Topped with fruit, it’s the sweet contrast underneath.  Add a little ice cream and you have the warmth of the cake, the cool creamy richness of the ice cream and the tart tang of the fruit all together in a spoonful of heaven.  You can do so many things with pound cakes, that I counted 50 variations on epicurious.com alone!  So it stands to reason, that once you’ve learned the secrets to the perfect pound cake, you open up a whole dessert repertoire. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Tale of Three Soups: Jim's Hurricane Survival Soup, Alice Waters' Spicy Cauliflower Soup and Cousin Bar's Pear and Parsnip Soup


Alice Waters' Spicy Cauliflower Soup 
Cousin Bar's Pear and Parsnip Soup with Red Pepper Puree

         This morning I got an email from an old friend and devoted reader of Chewing the Fat.  He lives in Weehawken, NJ, which is one of the areas hard hit by Hurricane Sandy.  He wrote: “I find myself cooking from my dried and canned/jarred goods tonight, over my stove burner.  Would you consider doing a post about how to mix the stuff you have after your fridge and freezer are out of order?  I'm sure lots of folks have tons of stuff that doesn't need to be refrigerated, but how to mix it all up?  Just a thought.” And a terrific one at that! So here’s what I hope will help all those struggling with power failures and cold and food that’s got to be used in a hurry if it can be used at all.  Here’s my suggestion: Make Soup!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Baked Penne with Sausage, Mozzarella and Tomatoes from the Galley of Gillian Duffy



         There are certain recipes I obsess over.  I have folder marked “Re-Visit” and in it there must be at least five recipes for baked pasta dishes.  They all are fundamentally the same.  The pasta is cooked and then a sauce is mixed into it, cheese is added to it and tops it and the whole thing goes into a hot oven for 15 or 10 minutes. In my imagination, it emerges with cheese bubbling up from under a crisp brown Parmesan crust.  The incredibly rich cream sauce coats the pasta which is laden with the flavor of sausage or meatballs, pork or beef.  That’s how I imagine it until reality takes over: Dried pasta sticks up out of a bare covering of cheese. Inside the sauce is non-existent and were it not for the meat, it would hardly be worth eating. This has been going on for years. 
         Then finally, in the most unimaginable place I found Baked Pasta Nirvana.  In this recipe, luscious ripe tomatoes in big chunks are mixed with slices of sweet Italian sausage.  The pasta, tomatoes and sausage come together in a creamy béchamel sauce.  And an entire layer of Mozzarella, hidden bang in the middle of the dish, pulls on your fork like mozzarella in a pizza commercial.  I did use the very last of the fresh tomatoes when I made this dish.  But I discovered that canned plum tomatoes, drained of their liquid and cut into large chunks are an admirable replacement and put this dish within reach year ‘round.  And where did this amazing dish come from?  Why, Departures magazine!

Monday, October 29, 2012

The surprising story of Fried Green Tomatoes and Martha Stewart's recipe for Not Fried Green Tomatoes



            I love a little side of history when I am serving up a dish with roots as deep as Fried Green Tomatoes.  With the exception of grits and hominy, what's more southern than this all-over crunchy firm tomato that’s been battered into a deep-fried delicacy?  Even though deep-frying makes almost everything taste better, this dish stands out.  The tartness of the tomato and the sweet cornmeal of the crust are a perfect combination--especially for tomato lovers like me. 
         Of course, they’re southern to the core, aren't they?  There was that whole movie “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café”.  Set in Alabama, this feel good film from 1991 was among the first ‘chick flicks’ and a huge hit.  I wanted to read up on the origin of the dish itself.   There on the website of the Smithsonian Institution, of all places, a woman named Lisa Bramen described her first encounters with Fried Green Tomatoes.  She too remembered the movie. In the late 1990s, she tasted her first Fried Green Tomato in New Orleans. So impressed was she that, on a southern road trip, she asked for them everywhere she went. Strangely, only once, in Memphis TN, did she encounter a pale imitation of what she had tasted in New Orleans.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Texas Week Post 2...Kristi's Incredible Harvest Soup



Kristi
         My friend Kristi is something else.  She lives in Dallas where she runs her own business finding "real people" for clients in Advertising and Marketing. She's the best in the business so she's in perpetual motion.  She travels all over the place for her job but when she gets home, she loves to cook.  One day last week, an email arrived from Kristi, heralding the arrival of Fall.  As near as I can understand it, Fall is when the temperature in Dallas drops below 80 degrees for the first time since the previous April.   But Kristi insists that when autumn’s in the air, she makes soup.   And that’s what I did when her recipe hit my in-box.  Kristi’s own invention, Harvest soup is a warming puree of carrots and leeks and onions and sweet potatoes. But what really sets it apart is Kristi’s use of Indian inflected spices—Cardamon, turmeric and cinnamon.  There’s a little chili powder too –how could it come from Texas without it? 

Monday, October 22, 2012

It's Texas Week on Chewing the Fat! First Up, Lauren's Roast Pork Tenderloin with Honeyed Apples and Pecans courtesy of James Villas and a Wild Rice Pilaf. And on Thursday, Kristi's own recipe for Harvest Soup.




         It was quite a coincidence when Andrew came back from his trip to Dallas with not one but two dishes his sister Lauren served him while he was there.  And that same day, my dear friend Kristi, sent along an original recipe of her own.  So I thought this week we’d salute our Texas friends and family with these great dishes, which are just perfect for any fall table. Lauren is a superb cook and her recipes have appeared here before...her Roast Chicken is the best I've ever eaten http://www.chewingthefat.us.com/2011/03/laurens-roast-chicken-and-side-of.html  and talk about Texan...her Blueberry Jalapeno sauce has hundreds of hits. http://www.chewingthefat.us.com/2010/06/lauren-readys-pork-loin-with-blueberry.html. So when Lauren writes "We love this!" on a recipe, I sit up and take notice.
Country Gardens last weekend
         Pork seems to lend itself to cooking with fruit of all kinds. How many times have you seen applesauce served on the side with a grilled pork chop?   This is a far more sophisticated pairing, a stuffing made of apples and pecans and scallions soaked in honey and stuffed into pork tenderloin.  And it couldn’t be more seasonal.  It’s high Apple season in Bridgehampton where the Farm Stand was loaded with local varieties that have just been harvested.  In this dish, the tart and tangy Granny Smith is used, a perfect counterbalance to the crunch of the pecans and sweetness of the honey.   I confess to having been intimidated with the task of carefully carving a pocket for the stuffing. But I managed with the use of a sharp 10-inch knife, which I carefully slipped into the meat and ran down the length of the tenderloin stopping at one inch from the end.  I needn’t have been so anxious: I prepped this dinner out in Bridgehampton, brought it into town and asked Andrew if it looked like his sister’s.  Hers, he informed me, was butterflied, the stuffing laid into the crease of the meat and then tied with twine in multiple places.  The stuffing oozed out the top and, he said, looked perfectly fine.  She’d also made an ideal side dish with the pork—a Wild Rice Pilaf with Mushrooms.  An old Texas favorite?  Quite the contrary, it’s a Minnesota specialty that highlights their locally grown rice.  Given our recent “Arsenic in Rice” and that Texas rice is high on that list, the Minnesota connection came as a relief.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

B’stilla, Moroccan “Pigeon Pie”



I got over my fear of Phyllo
and made this sensational pie.
         I’ve been staring at a recipe for this pie for months now.  As appetizing as it looked, the main barrier to getting it made was a terror of working with Phyllo dough.  As is well known, I am not the baker in our house and I leave pastry making completely in Andrew’s brilliant hands.  Here, there was no pastry-making involved just the purchase of ready-made Phyllo from the supermarket freezer.  When I finally got up the nerve to make my B’stilla, it turned out all the trepidation was unnecessary.  I passed my Phyllo test with flying colors.  And you can too.  And once you do, you’ll be able to taste this aromatic combination of sweet and salty flavors under a crisp cover of pastry topped with powdered sugar.  And fear not, no pigeon is necessary to make an authentic B’Stilla.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Gemelli Pasta with Lamb Ragu adapted from Michael Mina




         For all its popularity, ordinary supermarkets carry surprisingly few pasta shapes.  Granted, they do have a good representation of the types of pasta the home cook needs. But they never come close to the staggering number of varieties you’ll find at a pasta emporium like New York’s Eataly which is just across the street from Madison Square Park at 23rd and 5th Avenue.  The picture at left shows just one aisle of the store’s enormous pasta section!  How I took this picture with virtually no one in that aisle is something of a miracle.  Eataly, featured in this post (http://www.chewingthefat.us.com/2010/11/visit-to-eataly-yields-delicious-veal.html), celebrated its second anniversary just last week.  And there was a lot to celebrate. The 58,000 square foot store was on track to net $85 million in one year, which works out to $1700 a square foot!  That’s a lot of pasta!  And Eataly would be a good place look for the Strozzapreti pasta that Chef Michael Mina called for in his original recipe.  We were nowhere near Eataly when we decided to cook this meat-y pasta dish with its spicy overlay of cumin and fennel and red pepper.  So we substituted Gemelli, which are easy to find almost anywhere. They’re also an approved substitute for Strozzapreti, which translates, from Italian into English as “Priest Strangler”.  Gemelli means ‘twins’ in Italian, so much less violent than ‘priest strangler’ don’t you think?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Indian Pot Roast from Whole Foods Market


  
         If you are thinking “native American”, this recipe probably wouldn’t raise an eyebrow.  But we’ve long since stopped calling Native Americans “Indians”.  No, the name of this dish refers to the Asian sub-continent of India.  And that may be even more surprising.  The cow is considered sacred by most Hindus.  That makes beef taboo in all but two Indian states: Goa on the west coast and Kerala at the southern tip of India.  There you will find it sold in restaurants.  But in the rest of India, you’ll have to seek out international restaurants catering to Western customers who simply can’t live without their beef. 
Sacred Cow in front of McDonald's...
never inside!
Behold the Maharaja Mac
Where, I wondered, does that leave McDonald’s? There are over 250 McDonald’s in 12 Indian cities and not one Big Mac to be found in any of them.  Instead the offerings are limited to the McVeggie—bread, peas, carrots, potatoes, Indian spices, lettuce and Mayo on a sesame seed bun. The McChicken is self explanatory. The Filet o Fish sounds exactly like the one at home.  And what is the Big Mac equivalent?  Two browned chicken breasts, onions, lettuce, tomatoes and cheese on “ Sesame bedecked bread buns”.  Top of the line, it’s called the Chicken Maharaja-Mac. And it costs just 60 rupees. That’s 1.30 cents. So what’s with Whole Foods “Indian Pot Roast”?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Mario Batali's Ziti with Tuna and Salami



         I love pasta and I am always on the lookout for a new and different way to prepare it.   There are sauces that require hours on the stove and that are best made in huge batches. “Bolognese” falls into that camp. Whatever the recipe, there is something so entirely comforting about a pot of “Sunday gravy”, which is what many New York Italians still call their grandmother’s spaghetti sauce.  Stewing away on the stove all day, it requires an occasional stir and multiple tastings and sends out aromas that perfume the air with oregano, tomatoes and basil.  When it finally makes its way to the table, the anticipation has been cooking right along with it all day.  There’s inevitably enough left over to freeze or simply hide away in the fridge for a weeknight second helping. 
      Then there are the sauces that come together quickly enough to make a perfect weeknight dinner.  There are quite a few of these if you look under Pasta in our recipe list.  We lean heavily on the classics –Carbonara, Linguine with Clam Sauce, Linguine with Lemon Garlic Shrimp (better known as Shrimp Scampi).  But when I found this recipe from the incomparable Mario Batali, I’d never heard of any pasta dish like it.  And this is from someone who lived in Italy.   It’s from the Chef’s “Simple Family Meals”  (Harper Collins 2011).  Once I made it, I loved it. The dish blends the taste of very high-end canned tuna with the spicy counterplay of salami and red pepper flakes all wrapped up in a simple onion-y tomato sauce.  Extra points go to the ease with which you can make it.  It’s one of those under 30 minute wonders which deliver far more taste than their cooking time would indicate.   But I was still puzzled that I’d never heard of anything like it.  So I went to google.it to see if I could find the roots of Chef Batali’s creation.