HELPING FAMILY FARMS FLOURISH. HELPING FEED THE HUNGRY.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The 5 Most Popular Recipes of 2013


         We’ve had a banner year on Chewing the Fat.  As of right now, we’ve consistently increased readership month after month.  Our readers come from all over the globe – China is just 16 readers under Australia.  I’m particularly proud of our Canadian friends.  The whole country has a population of 35 million and 35,000 of them have found a path to our door.  And what have our readers come to see?  If you go back to the very beginning, there are some outstanding figures.   Old favorites like Enchilladas Suizas have over 10,000 reads.  James Beard’s Roast Beef Hash would have you believe there’s a lot of leftover roasts that need a recipe, at least 9674 people seem to think so.  And without a doubt, Austrian Cookie recipes, with their 6457 views are amazingly popular.  But for purposes of this list, I wanted to see what recipes published just this calendar year were the most popular.  The longer a recipe stays up, the more views it gets.   The following list represents only those recipes published here between January 1st and December 30th 2013.  Some have had big lifts from being recommended by other sites.  Some are the creations of super popular food personalities who bring their own audiences whenever they appear.  Think Ina Garten and Thomas Keller.  And some just have mass appeal that surprises even me.  Here, without further ado, are the top 5 recipes of 2013 and my guess as to why they are so popular.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Triple-Chocolate Cheesecake from Abigail Johnson Dodge in Fine Cooking Magazine

        

I needn’t tell you the Sweets Factory at our house has been in overdrive ever since we arrived here for the holidays.  There have been dozens of cookies, a Red Velvet Cake, even a Norwegian “Fyrstekake” a Cardomon Almond confection, beautifully decorated with star-shaped pastry.  But I would have to say that the piece de resistance so far this season has been a Cheesecake that combined three kinds of chocolate – cocoa powder, bittersweet chocolate and chocolate graham cracker crust.  It was a cheesecake lovers dream. But Andrew still managed to gild the lily by topping the cake with whipped cream and chocolate shavings.  This cake serves at least 16 people.  It was taken to a dinner party and then brought home and it’s been steadily diminishing in size ever since.   It is the perfect thing to bake for New Year’s Eve because it will actually taste even better tomorrow.  Andrew assures me it is easy to make.  I’ll take his word for it.  And also pass on a couple of hints he wanted to share with you. And here they are. Thanks to Andrew and Abigail Johnson Dodge who shared the recipe in Fine Cooking, one of our go-to sources for great recipes.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Ina Garten's Lobster Pot Pie and, just for laughs, one woman's take on it.

        

         This is one of Ina Garten’s most beloved recipes.  It dates all the way back to 1999 when it appeared in Ina’s first cookbook “The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook” (Clarkson Potter 1999).  Since I can’t think of  a better time for luxury foods like lobster than the holidays, I planned a dinner around it.  But whether lobster still counts as a luxury, I am not altogether sure.  The Maine Lobstermen certainly don’t think so as it brings in only $1.60 or less a pound!  (Somehow, by the time it arrives at our fishmonger in New York, it’s $9.99 a lb.  Still a bargain for sure, with divers scallops at 24.99 a lb and Lump Crabmeat at 19.99 a lb.). I decided to turn a Saturday night supper into Lobster Pot Pie and a salad.  But first, I wanted to share what I hope will give you a good laugh. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Vinegar Braised Chicken and Onions or Poulet Saute au Vinaigre


Catherine de Medici
Mother of 3 French
Kings
       As far back as the 16th century, Lyon, not Paris, has been the gastronomical capital of France.  It was then that Catherine de Medici, the Queen Consort of King Henry II, an Italian noblewoman by birth, brought cooks from Florence to the French court.  They prepared dishes from the agricultural products from the various regions of France. This was revolutionary, combining the know-how of the Italian cooks with the unmatched produce of France.  The resulting regional dishes were elevated in status because they were, after all, what royalty and the nobility were eating.  The cuisine created in Lyon represented the crossroads of many regional specialties.  A terrific variety of ingredients were available: summer vegetables from farms in Bresse—to say nothing of its famous chickens—and neighboring Charolais, game from the Dombes, fish from lakes in Savoy, spring’s first fruits and vegetables from Drome and Ardeche and of course, the wines of Beaujolais and the Rhone Valley. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Claudia Fleming's Apple Crostata with Bacon Toffee


For such a relatively small corner of the world, the East End of Long Island is long on extremely talented chefs.  Proximity to New York has led many a city chef to, if not abandon the city, set up a second home out in the land of milk and honey.  One of these is the legendary pastry chef, Claudia Fleming.  Ms. Fleming is a Long Island native who originally pursued a career in dance.  To support her passion for it, she took the well-known route of working in restaurants, most particularly Danny Meyer’s immensely popular Union Square Café.  She worked in all parts of the operation but was drawn to pastry.  She took her calling seriously and in 1991 she went to
Pastry Chef Claudia Fleming 
Paris where she worked at Fauchon and perfected her skills.  In 1994, she was called back to New York to open, with Mr Meyer and his partner, Tom Collichio, the Gramercy Tavern.  Her farm to table philosophy was perfectly attuned to theirs. She loves seasonal ingredients and creating intense flavors. She eschews her contemporary’s use of architectural flights of fancy and focuses on honest, forthright desserts you’ll never forget. And this Apple Crostata with its Bacon Toffee topping is all you need to make to know how unforgettable Chef Fleming's pastry really is. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Sichuan Stir-Fried Pork in Garlic Sauce with Mushrooms, Water Chestnuts and Snap Peas


         There’s a Sichuan restaurant close to home in New York that I go to more frequently than I’d like to admit.  There’s a big “B” in the window which means The New York City Board of Health has some "issues" with the place.  In my view, if they haven’t closed it down, and I haven’t experienced any problems after eating there, I’m good to go.  I would have to say this mainly has to do with the fact that the lunch special comes in at $6.75 and includes a choice of soups or egg or spring rolls, three kinds of rice and finally, about 20 main dishes all fairly standard Sichuan fare.  Every one I have tried has never disappointed.   The place also has a Japanese menu and a prominent sushi bar.  I choose to believe that the “B” was assigned to that end of the restaurant.  I am happy to spend so little for such traditional Sichuan dishes as Pork in Garlic Sauce. In fact I like it so much, that this weekend I made it at home.  Once you get the hang of stir-frying, there’s no limit to your kitchen creativity. And if there was one technique that I could pass on to harried, time-pressured home cooks, it would be the stir-fry.  And you don’t need a wok, just a big non-stick frying pan.

Friday, December 6, 2013

B'Soffener Kapuziner, an Austrian Family favourite nut-based cake, liberally doused with Gluhwein from the Stracey Family Cookbook


         When I was growing up in Montreal, my family had an endless stream of visitors, most of whom had some connection to my parent’s time in Britain during the Second World War.  They were both volunteers—my father was a Major in the Canadian Army and my mother worked tirelessly at the American Red Cross in London.  One of our visitors was a young man, my godmother’s nephew, who arrived in Montreal to study Engineering at McGill.   He ended moving in with us and became very much a part of our family.  He stayed in Canada after graduation and married a lovely girl from Austria. They had two daughters, and among other things, opened a restaurant called "Le Carafon". After years in Montreal, Simon returned to England and assumed his hereditary title as the baronet Stracey;  He became Sir John and his wife Lady Martha, who is referred to as her ladyship in the following post.  You may remember Lady Martha from last year’s spectacularly successful post on Austrian Cookies.  It has been downloaded over 2000 times.  Here’s the link:  http://www.chewingthefat.us.com/2011/12/three-authentic-austrian-cookie-recipes.html.  This year, Simon promised me another authentic family recipe and he has made good on his offer. Here’s the story of B’Soffener Kapunziner and if it is as good as everything else her ladyship bakes, you should add it to your Christmas repertoire. By the way, you may not know it, but my family always called me Dick.  My first name is, after all, Richard.  “Chimo”, in case you wonder, is a greeting from the Inukitut language, spoken by the Inuits, as Canada's Eskimos are now called. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Diver Scallops with Monte's Ham Original Glaze and a Special Holiday Offer to You.



        
As you know, I own a ham company that makes an all-natural ham that I am extremely proud of.  And along with the ham comes the glaze that I created years ago when I baked my first ham.  Monte’s Ham Original Glaze is a luscious mixture of real Dijon Mustard, Organic Brown Sugar and Seville Orange Marmalade along with a top-secret spice blend.  For all of those who, no matter what the reason, cannot, will not or do not eat Ham, I’d highly recommend the glaze. And if you stick with me, there’s a special offer at the end of this post that I hope will tempt you to try it.  The glaze is terrific on carrots, great on salmon or ribs and a must-have with my ham.  It also turned out to be a terrific pairing with some large Diver Scallops I saw in the market. And it took so little time to prepare, it qualifies as an ideal under 30 minute weeknight meal. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Spicy (Rotisserie) Chicken Soup from Bon Appetit



         Let’s face it: this time of year begs for recipes that you can get on the table in no time. This wonderful soup takes all of 15 minutes to make and it’s a perfect warmer for a winter night.  With a tossed green salad and some crusty French bread, it’s an ideal supper any day of the week.  Leave out the bread, and it's a gluten-free dinner!  The timesaver here is, of course, the rotisserie chicken.  I find the ones at Costco irresistible.  At under $5.00, they’re a bargain that’s as tasty as any home made chicken.  And there’s a lot of meat on these birds—so much so that you may find the quantity of chicken in the original Bon Appetit recipe, 4 cups, is happily met by using just the breasts.  The rest of the chicken can sit in the fridge and used for chicken sandwiches for lunch.  You can use any kind of mushrooms but shiitakes and creminis will up the flavor more than white button mushrooms.  The ginger slices ramp up the taste. If you’re not mad for spice, keep tasting as you add the cayenne pepper, it’s what gives the soup its name.  A word to the wise about the spinach:  Put a half cup of baby spinach leaves in the bottom of each soup bowl and pour the hot soup over it.  It will cook right up in the bowl and add a jolt of green to the proceedings.  Here’s the recipe:

Friday, November 29, 2013

Monte's Bourbon Chili



         This perfect day-after Thanksgiving recipe first made its appearance here last year.  The thermometer has been flirting with very cold temperatures in the East this weekend.  This morning it was 20 degrees. As it looks like it is going to stay cold this weekend, big bowls of chili make all the sense in the world.  This recipe is no all-day affair. You will be in and out of the kitchen in a half hour.  Then the pot sits on the stove for another hour. You can easily double or triple the recipe so you can make a big batch this weekend and then ladle it out all next week.  When I came across a recipe for Bourbon Chili, I was intrigued.  But the original recipe included the cardinal sin that true chili makers just won’t stand for.  The thing was chock-a-block full of beans—back beans and garbanzo beans.  Now if you’ve ever looked at my previous chili recipe http://www.chewingthefat.us.com/2011/12/texas-beef-brisket-chili-with-butternut.html, you may remember the phrase “If you know beans about chili, you know chili has no beans.”  So I set out to make a bowl of Bourbon Chili minus the beans.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Faith Middleton, NPR's "The Food Schmooze", shares her Thanksgiving Recipes with a little Monte Mathews on the side.



         Recently, I was a guest on National Public Radio’s “The Food Schmooze”.  The show, which originates in New Haven CT, is heard twice a week on WNPR’s stations in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New York including the East End of Long Island.  Faith Middleton is its much heralded hostess.  Faith has boundless energy and she’s a wizard at finding just the right thing for her audience to cook.  Her Thanksgiving recipes included everything from starters to desserts.  Here’s a list: Parmesan-Crusted Creamed Corn, Manuela and Jeanne's Garlic Potato Pie, Fennel Spice Rub for the Big Bird, Savory Cornbread Stuffing Muffins, Marian's Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pears and Shallots,and Pumpkin Pie with Brown Sugar-Walnut Topping. But Faith didn’t stop there:  She also included two recipes for leftovers--Jimmy's Turkey Hash and Slow-Cooker Turkey Chili with Dark Chocolate and two drinks for the occasion Faith's Sparkling Holiday Rosé and Faith's Thanksgiving Cosmo Sparkler!  You can click on any one of these recipes to be whisked over to Faith’s web address where you’ll the step-by-step instructions on how to make these fantastic dishes part of your Thanksgiving meal.  But before you go running off, please give a listen to Faith’s show and my interview.  I’m a little after the 34 minute mark.  Here’s the link to the show. Scroll all the way down the page to LISTEN and give a listen.  Thanks ! http://wnpr.org/post/pumpkin-pie-brown-sugar-walnut-topping

The 5 Most Popular Thanksgiving Recipes ever on Chewing the Fat

Roast Turkey....just one of the stars of our Thanksgiving Table. 

         Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday bar none.  Everybody in the country celebrates it from the Kashmiri Cab Driver to the Trinidadian Nurse to the Canadian immigrant.  It’s the most American of all holidays, even if Canada has something called “Action de Grace” or Canadian Thanksgiving.  This is held in October probably because by November, the frozen north often lives up to its name and even the Brussels Sprouts have frost on them. American Thanksgiving goes back to the first European arrival on these shores, in 1620.  Given that we’re almost at Thanksgiving’s 400th year, we were bound to get some recipes right by now.  And although Chewing the Fat has only been around for four Thanksgivings, we’ve had a terrific response to our Thanksgiving recipes.   And since we’re up to our ears getting Monte’s Ham out to our growing list of customers, I thought we’d revisit the 5 most popular Thanksgiving Recipes.  I’m even going to put them in reverse order.  Drumbeat Please!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Two from One: Roasted Cauliflower with Whipped Goat Cheese and Roasted Cauliflower Soup




        

On a recent “Chopped”, the Food Network TV show that pits four chefs against a basket full of incongruous ingredients, a very sad fact was served up to the audience.  Americans throw away 40 percent of the food they buy!  The dollar amount is staggering:  According to Reuters, $165 billion worth or 90 billion pounds of food goes un-eaten. Apparently in this land of plenty, where millions of people are on government food programs and where a staggering 14 percent of children go to bed hungry, there are equal numbers who throw food away with abandon.  And I can’t say that in our house we’re completely guilt-free.  A recent refrigerator clean-out included a few half chopped onions, some very wilted carrots and lots of unidentified liquids and solids making penicillin in plastic food containers.  I am not about to offer excuses.  I grew up having “Waste Not, Want Not” etched into memory.  But the plain fact is that a lot of the recipes I work with are for more than just two people.  Andrew will very often ask “So how many people are coming to dinner?”.  Most of the time I can cut things back to a reasonable portion for two.  But there are ingredients that just don’t divvy up.  Take, for example, a head of Cauliflower.   It’s one of the last of the year’s fresh vegetables. Arrayed at the farm stand with its white center peeking out from its green housing, I find it irresistible.  This year, I was determined to cook one but not force us into involuntary vegetarianism.  The solution: make two dishes out of one head.  It turned out that one night’s meatless meal was another day’s creamed soup for lunch. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Gratin of Nantucket Bay Scallops and Prosciutto


        

         The other day I saw the sign pictured on the left announcing the annual arrival of Nantucket Bay Scallops.  Like local asparagus, there are only a few weeks a year when these little sweet morsels make their way into our market.  It’s an invitation I cannot refuse.  They’re tender and tiny, a true delicacy.  So I immediately bought enough for two and trundled home to hit the books, or more properly, the internet.   I quickly found a recipe that, while it sounded vaguely familiar, really appealed to me. The sweetness of the scallops was paired with salty bits of prosciutto, a little licorice-flavored liqueur and crisp panko breadcrumbs. There was some chopped garlic thrown in and some shallot as well. I turned to the comments section.  The recipe had very high marks from some reviewers. But others were not so taken with it.   I’ve written about how put off I am when a home cook drastically alters an original recipe and then rails that it wasn’t any good.  But in this case, there seemed to be numbers of people who’d followed the recipe to a Tee and still found it wanting.  And I started to make mental notes about how easy it would be to fix their problems.  It was at that moment that I realized I had indeed made this recipe last Nantucket Bay Scallop season. When you post over 450 recipes, eventually you’re bound to repeat yourself.  But I still wanted  to make it.  So I set about to make it even better than the last time.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Mason's Kid-Friendly Favorite: Pop Pop's Sticky Chicken Wings with Blue Cheese Dressing on the Side

Photo by Alex Mathews      
Mason William Mathews

      Just in case you somehow missed it, I  spent 5 of the happiest days of my calendar year visiting my son and his family in California.  Surprise, surprise, I cooked.  I have a lot of theories about cooking for children and my grandson, Mason, aged 5, bore several of these out.  Now Mason has always been an adventurous eater.  Ever since I saw him tackle a bowl of Guacamole at age 2, I’ve been impressed by his palate.  But he did lay down the law when, at 3, he was confronted with a Chicken Curry I made.  “I don’t like spicy”, he declared.  So this trip I was determined to make amends.  And what better way to do so than by serving him Chicken Wings.  One of my theories is that small children are overwhelmed by big food.  Unlike a full-sized piece of chicken, the Chicken Wing is just the right size for a 5-year-old hand to handle. Now, how to make them memorable, kid-friendly and something even grown-ups would find irresistible.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Melissa Clark's Penne with Brussels Sprouts, Chile and Pancetta


        
Brussels Sprouts in Winter
on the North Fork of Long Island
As a boy, I cannot think of a vegetable I detested quite as much at the Brussels Sprout.  These nasty little cabbages were about as appealing to me as damp pair of socks. I called them every name in the book and insisted that they were a relic of rationing during the two wars that had preceeded my arrival on the planet.  I’m not sure if the cabbage-like smell was worse than the cabbage-like taste.  However, my vocal protests did not stop my mother from putting them on the table regularly during those months when Canada is a frozen tundra and there’s very little choice in fresh vegetables.  Since we were charter members of the Waste-Not-Want-Not Society, when we were served Brussels Sprouts, we ate Brussels Sprouts. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Vietnamese Chicken Meatballs


        
          In my family, the only person who could express any food dislikes was my Father.  He had a couple of them.  But as children, any misgivings we had about what to eat were not paid any attention to. You ate what was put in front of you.   That was particularly true if you chose something from a menu and then claimed not to have understood what you were ordering.  You ate it or you went hungry.   Now, when I see a fussy eater or a child whose diet is seemingly limited to a single item, repeated night after night, plate after plate, I really feel sorry for the kid. I don’t know what makes a picky eater but I think a lot of parents are enablers.  They’ll do anything to avoid mealtime meltdowns even if it means some very questionable eating habits and the poor nutrition that results from them.   But of all the questionable kid’s meals that I’ve seen, aside from those really terrible ‘Lunchables’, the chicken nugget frightens me the most.  Is it really chicken?  Where does it come from?  Breaded and fried, dipped into sugar-y sauces of one flavor or another, how good can it be to eat these things on a regular--let alone daily--basis?  But there ways of weaning children off the nuggets and onto something that will open their budding palates to flavors they might actually enjoy.  And since you control what goes into these fantastically tasty morsels, you can then control what’s goes into your child.  Introducing…Vietnamese Meat Balls!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Jamie Oliver's Beef and Guinness Pie


 
It's not exactly freezing but it the time of year when I start thinking about meals that, for lack of a better word are 'manly'.  I would happily make this recipe a Steak and Kidney Pie although that would quickly mean that most of it ended up un-eaten.  But this  wonderfully robust pie is something I wrote about in a very early entry on this blog.  Well over 3500 people have visited this recipe.  The very lucky few have tasted this savory pie, a rich melange of meat and mushrooms and cheese left to be uncovered when the puff pastry topping is lifted.  And it's from a Chef I admire as much for  his caring as I do for his cooking.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Spaghetti Western: Bison Meatballs in a Spicy Tomato Sauce



A few years ago, I witnessed the arrival of Bison or Buffalo in my local supermarket.  At the time, a Day-Glo printed sign heralded its arrival in the meat case.  Not only had it arrived but also it was billed as ‘the meat of the future’.  A chart compared it favorably to both beef and chicken. It was lower in cholesterol, lower in fat, higher in protein and, from this particular purveyor, free of all those pesky antibiotics.  To be fair, there was an asterisk next to chicken.  It had to have its skin on to fail so miserably in those comparisons.  The man who presided over the meat case could not say enough good things about buffalo.  Its taste, its texture, its ease of preparation was all music to the meat department.  It had to be slow-cooked of course and it was helped by sauce of some sort but it was altogether a new item to add to any cook’s repertoire.  I asked from where in the west did this buffalo hail.  “The West?” My meat man looked amazed. “It’s from a farm in New Hampshire. That’s how come it’s so fresh”.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Just in time for Halloween…Tim Burton Cupcakes



        Our god daughter, Olivia is very special to us.  We were there the night she was born and she’s been a wonderful part of our life ever since. She’s lovely to be with, so much fun and so full of personality.  When I see her with Uncle Andrew, I realize what a phenomenal father he would have been—patient, generous and interested in everything Olivia is doing.
When her birthday comes around, Uncle Andrew goes all out in the baking department every year. A couple of years ago, at Olivia’s request, he channeled her favorite movie director and invented Tim Burton-themed cupcakes.  There were two odes to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and a delicious take on “James and the Giant Peach”.  As you can see from this shot, these cupcakes were the hit of Olivia’s 11th Birthday Party.  And we think they may be just the thing to bring Halloween to the next level.  Here are the recipes which are not only odes to Tim Burton, they’re phenomenally delicious treats that will appeal to everyone at your Halloween Party.

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Fish Story: Gemelli with Spicy Scallops and Snap Peas



        
You might want to hide
after what I turned up...
read on...
Here’s a food writer’s dilemma for you:  Say you discovered a great recipe so full of flavor and so easy to make, you literally jumped on your MacPro and started to extoll its praises the morning after you made it.  You were taken, not just with its ease of preparation, but with the price you paid for its key ingredient.  And its pedigree impressed you:  The Chef who created the recipe had a reputation as a 2013 “Rising Star” semi-finalist for a James Beard Award and was the winner of StarChefs.com 2013 New York Rising Stars Award.  You were unfamiliar with his restaurant but quickly discovered that the New York Times’ Pete Wells had given it 2 stars in 2012.  Then you probed a little deeper and things got very dicey.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Lamb Shanks with Vegetables and a Mint Gremolata


         Confession time:  I made this dish just as Spring was arriving. But by the time I got around to writing up the post, Spring had sprung and with it temperatures that suggested getting out of the heat and out of the kitchen.   But now that Fall is making it’s inevitable comeback, I revisited this dish.   And it has a lot to recommend it. Not the least of which is the classic combination of mint and lamb.  In this case, the mint forms the basis for a “gremolata”, a garnish usually associated with Osso Buco.  The early spring vegetables used here—the tiny baby potatoes and sugar snap peas--have become year round staples in our supermarket.  You can be forgiven for using trimmed full-sized carrots.  In point of fact, I did in the original recipe.   And if you’re a lamb fan who, due to price, has had to curb your appetite, this is a budget friendly way to enjoy the protein. In fact, the shank is likely the least expensive of all cuts of lamb.

Monday, October 14, 2013

By Special Request: Monte’s Ham and Cheese Strata


  
        Recently, I was in charge of a Church breakfast.  I chose to make this wonderful dish: a gloriously cheese-topped casserole with crisp oversized croutons over a creamy egg and tender ham filling. Well the result was spectacular and the requests for the recipe were many.  I know why.  It's always a great time to make this dish. First of all, it can be expanded to feed any number of people.  You simply double or triple the portions and then haul out your Pyrex 9 x 13 instead of the souffle dish pictured here.  The other great advantage is that you make this up the day before.  So off I went to the Church kitchen late Saturday afternoon and put the whole thing together.  The next morning, all that was required was to pop it in the oven and in a little over an hour you have something very special for your breakfast or brunch table.  It’s very easy to put together. By the way, its' also a very good time to start to think of all the ways you can use Monte's Ham this season: We've got hams in stock and I'd love to put your name on one of them.  Just click the link about this post and order one today.  I like to serve this with a simply dressed green salad.  Here is the recipe:

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Chicken Fricassee with Shiitake Mushrooms and a salute to Chef Jason Weiner of Almond Restaurants and Outstanding in the Field.


        
Jane, Jason and John 
About a month ago, my friends, Jane Maguire and John Quigley of Long Island Mushroom Inc., invited me to attend a special event.  It was a dinner held at the EECO Farm in Easthampton.  It was hosted by a group called “Outstanding in the Field”, a quirky roving restaurant that travels all over North America staging dinners that bring together local farmers and foodies in outdoor pop-up settings.  Local food purveyors supply the raw ingredients.  Jane and John were, of course, responsible for the presence of their glorious mushrooms.  And Jason Weiner, who is the Chef and Co-Owner of Almond Restaurants—one in Bridgehampton and one in New York—did all the cooking. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Fish in Crazy Water and a tribute to the woman who introduced me to it and countless other Italian recipes, Marcella Hazan



Marcella and Victor Hazan, as loving and giving
a couple as one could ever hope to know.
If I’d never been introduced to Marcella Hazan, my cooking would have been so much poorer for it.  Marcella died last week at her home in Naples, Florida where she and her inspirational muse and husband of 58 years, Victor Hazan, had retired some years ago.  It was a loss that countless numbers of us felt deeply.  Her readers, her dear husband and her devoted son, Giuliano, were all stunned because up until the very last she was sharing her infinite wisdom with us via Facebook, of all places.  I know this only too well as I had not only ‘friended’ her but been the recipient of her advice on several occasions.  I’d written about the Italian disdain for cheese coming anywhere near seafood.  She shot right back that she’d changed her mind about that particular taboo.  She also wrote me when I had a question about a strawberry dessert.  She was endlessly generous with her time and I can’t tell you how the food writer in me was overwhelmed that I would hear from this extraordinary authority who surely had better things to do.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Saga of Thousand Island Dressing and the Original Recipe for it!

        



I just came back from the Thousand Islands, a natural wonder that occurs where the Great Lakes pour into the St. Lawrence River.  These islands range in size from tiny outcroppings in the river to islands where there are farms and dozens of families living on them year ‘round.   Most, however, are home to seasonal summer homes accessible only by boat.  There are well over a thousand of them, 1864 to be exact, scattered along a fifty mile downstream stretch from Kingston, Ontario.  To qualify as an island, the land must be above water level all year round, have an area of at least one square foot and support at least one living tree.  Those islands that are not a part of the province of Ontario are all located in New York State.  Boat tours leave from both sides of the border, pointing out the homes of the rich and famous, who summered here at the turn of the 19 th century.  Among those is one of the greatest rock piles I’ve ever seen, Boldt Castle.  It’s the subject of much legend and romance.  And it’s part of the intrigue surrounding Thousand Island Salad Dressing.         

Monday, September 30, 2013

Remembering Margaret Mathews with a bowl of Split Pea Soup and a smile.



        I just left Montreal, where I was born and where my family had roots going back three generations before we all left at the height of the Separatist movement.  This 'revolution' scared the bejesus out of the Anglos in the province and my family were hardly alone in abandoning the province of Quebec.  Montreal is a completely different place now and a wonderful one. My visit, I have to say, was tinged with a kind of regret; the city is such a model of multi-culturalism and stands in such stark contrast to the lunatic fringe that's operating in today's USA. But today is a cause for celebration and I am reprising a post I wrote a couple of years ago.  It celebrates an event that I hope you will celebrate with a Martini later today.  And if there are Martinis in heaven, glasses are being lifted there too. 
      My mother, Margaret Somerville Stewart Mathews was born on this day in 1911.  That would make this her 102nd birthday.  She would have loved to have been here for it, especially if there were any kind of party involved. She was a true extrovert.  She loved to laugh, dress beautifully, enjoy a cocktail or three, travel far and wide, keep up with a circle of friends that literally dated from first grade at the Trafalgar School for Girls.  She was full of fun, told wonderful stories, volunteered for every possible charitable, civic and club activity, took what life gave her and had an uncanny ability to believe that whatever she had was the best. She loved life and would have gone on living indefinitely had cancer not taken her from us at 88 years of age.  About the only thing she truly did not like about life was cooking.
My nephew, Michael, Mom and my son, Alex at her 85th Birthday
        Now this is not to say she didn’t enjoy eating.  She and my father had epicurean appetites and spent a great deal of time at better restaurants everywhere.  Since we lived in Montreal growing up, there were plenty of opportunities to indulge their mutual passion for fine food and endless martinis.  But for Mother, somehow the joys of the table never translated into the Joy of Cooking.  So you can imagine her delight when frozen food was introduced and much of her kitchen labor was reduced to slipping boiling bags into hot water or firing up the oven and feeding us all TV dinners at every opportunity. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Since I'm on my way there today, a recipe for Quebec’s own Poutine (French Fries with Gravy and Cheese)

"Poutine", a fine "mess" and Quebec's gift to Gastronomy...
or Gluttony as in this version from Au Pied de Cochon topped with Foie Gras
Vieux Montreal, a perfect base to explore Old and New Montreal
         As New Yorkers, we’re inclined to feel that our city is superior to almost everywhere else on earth.  And as far food goes, we’re the ultimate snobs. After all, there are now over 24,000 restaurants here  Who can hold a candle to that?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Two Ravioli Recipes so simple, I'm almost ashamed of myself: Lobster Ravioli with Creamy Tomato Sauce and Cheese Ravioli with Black Truffles and Mushroom Sauce

Lobster Ravioli with Creamy Tomato Sauce  
Cheese Ravioli with Black Truffles and Mushroom Sauce
Eataly's selection of fresh, stuffed pasta
is hard to beat.
One day I hope I’ll become wildly proficient in making my own Raviolis.  For the time being however, I keep thinking back to my Mother.  On the subject of store-bought substitutes for anything she didn’t have to make herself, she was wildly enthusiastic.  If you knew my mother, if only on this blog, you will remember that her philosophy was to spend the barest amount of time in the kitchen to maximize the time she could spend at the cocktail hour.  She was bold-faced about this and prone to saying things like: “If that little man at the Italian market makes ravioli, why on earth would I?  I mean, he would go out of business if all of sudden everyone started making ravioli.  And I would never want to be a party to that.”  So she kept the Italian market in business.  I suppose all I am doing here is picking up her torch, so to speak.   Besides, I very much doubt I can do raviolis better than the ones I’ve bought.  No surprise that the raviolis at Eataly, the massive Italian food market at Fifth Avenue and 23rd St., are ne plus ultra.  But I don’t turn up my nose at the Fresh raviolis at Fairway. The cheese ravioli featured in today’s post came fresh from King Kullen in Bridgehampton.  The lobster ravioli came from the shelves of Trader Joe’s.  Now you do have to make a sauce, which would have unnerved my mother.  But as I have long since given up two martinis before dinner, I find the sauce about as easy it gets when you’re getting dinner on the table.