Friday, August 28, 2009

In The Kitchen With Chad Carns - Scallop Ceviche with Hot Chile Oil

Chad Carns recently published The Gourmet Bachelor: Global Flavor, Local Ingredients. This wonderful cookbook inspired by the fresh flavors of Greenwich Village is very user-friendly, featuring everyday cooking techniques and wine pairings highly suited for each recipe. The Gourmet Bachelor himself was kind enough to share a spicy recipe with me here on Evenings With Peter. Thanks, Chad!

Scallop Ceviche with Hot Chili Oil

Ingredients
1 chili, thinly sliced
2 T peanut oil
6 large scallops, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 t sugar
2 T lime juice
1 t sea salt
1 t black pepper
1 t lime zest
1 radish, thinly sliced
1 T scallions, thinly sliced

Directions: Gently cook chili in peanut oil on medium-low heatfor 5 minutes. Spread scallops out on a serving platter. Mix sugarand lime juice in a bowl. Pour over scallops. Flip scallops. Top with sea salt, black pepper and lime zest. Spoon chili oil over scallops. Garnish with radish and scallions.

Wine Pairing: Sauvignon Blanc, France

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Taking Stock

Baby borders on near obsession when it comes to making stock. His passion, I think, is wrought from a meditation on the slow simmering of a collection of ingredients overnight, a comfortable bounty that serves as a base of so many dishes and reductions--as well as a tribute to family and the things that they taught him along the way, growing up, even if he was merely observing, peeking into a pot.

For me, I've never tasted better. As Baby tirelessly teaches me patience, here, in honor of kitchen and kin, I offer the wealth of good, patient stock; a guideline and an encouragement to make several different kinds, to either be used with a sense of immediacy or to freeze and have on hand at a later time, when occasion requires.

Chicken Stock
2 lbs. chicken wings
2 rotisserie chicken carcasses (reserve the meat to make chicken soup later with noodles)
1 large onion with skin, quartered (root bottom removed)
2 large carrots, broken in half
3 ribs celery with greens, broken in half
1/2 leek, well rinsed to remove dirt
1 turnip, halved
1 parsnip broken in half
10 whole black peppercorns
Salt to taste

Place all ingredients in an 8-quart stock pot (except for salt, add at the end). Add cold water, covering ingredients by one inch. On medium low flame, bring to a simmer (never boil) and continue to simmer for at least three hours, skimming fat and foam off of top as you go. Drain through a colander to remove large pieces, strain through a fine mesh sieve to remove smaller bits. Add salt and pepper (if needed) to taste. Cover and let cool. Refrigerate overnight. The next day, remove hardened fat from the top to reveal the golden gelatinous goodness beneath. The more gelatinous the better! Stock may be reheated and used for your favorite soups, or frozen for up to three months. If space in your freezer is an issue, stock can boiled and reduced by half to be reconstituted at a later date.

Beef (or Veal/Lamb/Pork) Stock*
8 lbs. of marrow bones (beef, veal, lamb or pork bones, depending which stock you're making; leg bones are the best to use) and 1 lb of bones with meat on them (such as rib meat)
1 large onion with skin, quartered (root bottom removed)
2 large carrots, broken in half
3 ribs celery with greens, broken in half
1/2 leek, well rinsed to remove dirt
1 turnip, halved
1 parsnip broken in half
10 whole black peppercorns
Salt to taste

*If you like, for the beef stock, a tablespoon of tomato paste may also be added.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place bones in baking dish or cookie sheet in a single layer. Cook for approximately one hour until bones are nicely browned. Place bones in an 8-quart stock pot. Add remainder of ingredients (except for salt). Add cold water, covering ingredients by one inch. Over medium low heat, bring to a simmer, and continue to simmer for six hours, or as we do, place over lowest flame overnight. Drain, strain and refridgerate, and as with our chicken stock, proceed as you may.

For tips on a Maine Lobster Stock that I improvised, intended for a bisque, click here.

And of course, I turn to the great lady herself for a classic lobster stock, with my comments in italics:

Julia Child's Lobster Stock from The French Chef Cookbook
For about 1 cup
Lobster shell trimmings and debris (I've sauteed them in a skillet first until fragrant or put them under the broiler)
A stainless-steel or enameled pan
1/3 cup each of celery, onions, and carrots (I've used just onions, doubling the amount)
1 cup dry white wine or 3/4 cup dry white vermouth (I go for the wine)
1 bay leaf
6 sprigs parsley (I've used dried parsley)
1/2 tsp dried tarragon (Try Penzey's Shallot Pepper, which is laced with dried tarragon)

Chop the shell debris into 2-inch pieces and place in pan. Add the vegetables, wine, herbs, and water to cover. Boil slowly for 40 minutes, strain, then boil down until liquid has reduced to about 1 cup.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Friend of Mine

It was Bee who introduced me to the absolutely hilarious Gilda Radner Live From New York, the recording of her performance on Broadway at the Winter Garden theatre (later home to Cats) which was first released in 1979. She talks dirty to animals, tap dances through "I Love To Be Unhappy," sings an ode to saccharine as Rhonda Weiss (& The Rhondettes), has an unfortunate moment as Roseanne Roseannadanna in Walter Cronkite's office, reads from a little book entitled "Tiny Kingdom" as befuddled Emily Litella, and as punk rocker Candy Slice, extolls the virtues of Mick Jagger.

In junior high I was utterly obsessed with the whole thing and still relish it today. Having had the album back then, I just found and subsequently bought the cd online. When I listened to it after so long, a flood of memories were unleashed, particularly about Bee. He was a great influence to me in many different ways, in parts engaging if not more enraging. We listened to Blondie's Parallel Lines together, I remember him writing to me from summer camp, eagerly anticipating The B-52's latest album, he told me about his trips to New York and shopping excursions in Bloomingdales, and whenever I make a vinaigrette or pasta sauce, somehow I think of him and his family. You see, I didn't know one could do such things. As far as I knew, vinaigrettes were salad dressings out of a bottle and sauces were from a jar. But there it all was, homemade, one evening, when I was invited over to Bee's house (a wretchedly grand statement on the outskirts of our little town with an environmentally sound, water-saving toilet that would be considered 'green' these days, although this was 30 years ago now).

Bee could be a bitch for a nickel, and I can't say I ever really liked him and I don't know why he liked me over our brief, intense friendship, the word used loosely here. At least, we hung out together all the time. He was always so belittling to me, which made me feel terrible, and otherwise was what everybody else that I knew in my hometown called "a snob." Once he told me his sister's rather horsey field hockey team-mate said not to wave to her as I passed her house on the way to junior high. Sometimes I'd see her waiting outside for her ride to the high school in the morning and I just would wave, is all. It was a really rotten thing to tell me and the way he distainfully did so implied that he agreed too: I was wrong in my behavior, and was not to wave to her again. The sister, by the way, was a prime candidate for anorexia, when that was popular. Who cares, they were all just a pack of Dover's dreadfully finite mean girls, who weren't ever quite pretty enough, and wore a sense of entitlement as one would apply make-up to cover imperfections.

I haven't seen Bee in over 25 years, since he went away to boarding school and yet when it comes to sauce and vinaigrette, there he is, with his family at that dinner, like repressed characters out of the Ordinary People movie, which had just come out: the gelid, frigid mother (clinging to life in a tightly cinched pale silk robe); the frustrated, absent lawyer father (he walked out on her eventually or she him, I don't know); the wraith-like older sister; the stinging Queen Bee; and the younger, sweet little sister with braces on her teeth and a flurry of hair who always made me wonder how she wound up in that family. The mother's pasta sauce was watery, I remember that and I remember not liking it too, but still was astonished by the enterprise behind it. Perhaps it was a balsamic vinaigrette that dampened the leaves of lettuce with such lingering resonance.

The last time I remember seeing Bee was the moment after he had delivered some withering riposte to me, expectorated from the region surrounding his pituitary gland. We were in English class, sophmore year. I grabbed hold of his shoulder, pinching the muscle hard and deliberately, asking him just who exactly he thought he was. I could feel his shoulder tremoring but he didn't respond.

There was the time too when he suggested I subscribe to Andy Warhol's Interview magazine, which I did (I still have the tee shirt that came with the subscription), my collection resplendent in 80's grandeur, featuring advertisements of exotic French Gitane cigarettes and Cafe Luxembourg (where I later had one of my first New York dinners with a famous author) and chronicling just what Halston, Liza and Bianca were up to. Celebrity today pales considerably. Poring over the pages confirmed what I knew already, that I wanted to move to New York and attempt to carve out and create a life for myself, which I have done, beginning when I moved to the city 17 years ago.

Bee introduced me to Gilda Radner Live From New York and Blondie. He infuriated me with his insulting condescension. We spoke of Bloomingdales and Ralph Lauren, I got my first Izod shirts and Sperry Topsiders because of him. He tried to take over my friends. We laughed reading Fran Leibowitz's bloodless, wry observations. He was moved to embarrass me with notions of class and things I didn't know about when I was 13 years old. I suppose he inspired me. We ate homemade sauce and vinaigrette.

Friday, August 21, 2009

In The Kitchen With Ash Fulk - Chocolate Pot de Creme

Look for out cheftestant Ash Fulk heating things up this season on Bravo’s Top Chef. He currently serves as the sous chef at Trestle on Tenth in Manhattan. Ash began his cooking career in Oakland, California and quickly realized he was a natural in the kitchen. He enjoys working with foods that are regional and seasonal and follows the motto “if it grows together, it goes together.” Here's a decadent recipe that he personally chose to feature on my blog:

Chocolate Pot de Creme

Ingredients

25.5 oz chocolate Chef Fulk thinks 58% is best, and likes the melting quality of Callebaut
2 cups milk
2 cups cream
24 yolks

Directions
Chop chocolate into small chunks, then place in heat-proof bowl. Heat cream and milk. Add yolks to chocolate. Stream cream slowly into chocolate egg mixture while whisking mixture. Whisk until all chocolate is melted. Use a sauce pot that has the same diameter as the bottom bowl with your chocolate mixture. Bring 2 cups water to a simmer. Place mixture over simmering water (double boiler). Stir, using a heat proof rubber spatula, making sure to scrape sides so chocolate does not burn. Stir for about 8 minutes, just until the mixture starts to thicken (this indicates that the eggs are cooked). Portion in to ramekins, chill until set. Garnish with whip cream. For a twist add 2 tsp lavender to the creme, to make lavender chocolate pot de creme.


Bio first printed in Next magazine.
Photo Credit: Bravo

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

White Bolognese

Recently I posted about different kinds of red sauce, so here, in all fairness, is a recipe for white sauce, and it's a doozy, culled from a recipe in the New York Times, from a few years ago. Amanda Hesser was quite overcome by the dish at the Heidi da Emploi restaurant in Rome--I wish I had known about it when I was in that grand (sweltering) city last summer in June. But I didn't know and instead L'Artusi right here in Manhattan became the inspiration and subsequent cause for the recent search of a recipe online to make a bolognese bianco of my own. Baby made his own delicious, delicately thin, flat egg noodles similar to the tajarin noodles we had at L'Artusi to toss with the sauce. Here's the recipe I found from the New York Times, adapted from Heidi da Emploi in Rome, with our humble thoughts in italics. It IS really good.

Rigatoni With White Bolognese

Serves 4

Ingredients

Extra Virgin oil
1/2 sweet onion, peeled and finely chopped we used a regular Spanish onion as sweet onions can simply be too sweet, the carrots add enough sweetness
2 medium carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 lb mild Italian pork sausage meat, removed from casings
1 lb ground beef (not lean)
1 1/2 cups dry Italian white wine
1 cube beef bouillon dissolved in 2 cups simmering water we used porcini mushroom bouillon that we brought back from Italy this year which is also available stateside and well worth hunting down
1 1/2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms rehydrated in 3 cups lukewarm water we used some dried Polish mushrooms that we had on hand, about half of the amount with more mushroom flavor from the porcini bouillon
1/3 cup heavy cream probably a little more, I like to see the creamy whiteness in the sauce
1 lb rigatoni Baby's homespun, hand-cut egg noodles unfurled so wonderfully on the plate, and made the whole dish a delight
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese we used Romano cheese that we had, though it hardly needs any enhancement anyhow--but we did add freshly grated nutmeg that we think is an essential addition to any hearty sauce!

Preparation
1. Add enough oil to a large, deep saute pan to coat the base and place over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the onion, carrots and celery and saute until glassy and just tender, about 5 minutes. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Add the sausage and beef to the pan, breaking it into walnut-size pieces, and brown well.
2. Pour in the wine and keep at a rapid simmer until the pan is almost dry. Then pour in 1 1/2 cups beef bouillon and lower the heat to medium. Simmer gently, uncovered, until the bouillon is nearly gone, stirring now and then. Meanwhile, chop the rehydrated porcini into small pieces, reserving the liquid.
3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add mushroom liquid to the sauce to cover the meat halfway(about 1 cup) along with the porcini and continue simmering until the sauce is loose but not soupy, about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust salt and pepper, it should be highly seasoned. When the consistency is right, fold the cream in. Remove from the heat and cover.
4. When the pasta water is at a full boil, add the rigatoni and cook until still firm, but not hard, in the center. When the pasta is almost done, scoop out 1 cup of pasta water and reserve. Drain the pasta and then return it to the pot. Pour the pasta sauce on top and fold in with a wooden spoon. The pasta should not be dry. Add a little pasta water or mushroom liquid to loosen it. (It will continue to soak up sauce on the way to the table.) Serve in one large bowl or individual bowls, passing the cheese at the table.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Clue In The Cookbook

I might have stolen it, but I honestly don't think I did. And yet there it is in my possession, has been for many years, The Nancy Drew Cookbook: Clues to Good Cooking by Carolyn Keene, first published in 1973, with a stamp inside the front cover from the Dover Public Library Children's Room. I'm pretty sure that there was a yard sale of some kind, and I knew I had to have it (in Dover, NH there mightn't have been much of a draw for Ms. Drew) and was the first to snatch up the volume, as slim and elegant as the Titian-haired Ms. Drew herself, with a hamsteak on the cover, bespotted with slices of pineapple and maraschino cherries; further on, some pillar candles; and if you look closely, a mysterious figure lurking in the background amongst an even more mysterious assemblage of perhaps eggnog, multi-colored chrysanthemums, a smattering of cupcakes, and perhaps a plate of sweet rolls.

Tell us, Nancy--what is the clue in the cookbook?

Well, for me, I just set out to make a meal for some good, old friends, Moose and Bear, who are also ardent fans of Nancy, and are as intrigued by the cookbook itself as much as the recipes therein. Frankly, I was a little undone when for the occasion Moose presented me with several Nancy Drew books that had been given to her mother when she was a little girl. She was a great lady and I miss her, we all do. We lost her in 2002. These books had been gifts and were inscribed and everything; one was a birthday present, given to her in 1953, others date back to the 30's.

I didn't clue our friends in as to what exactly Baby and I would be serving from the cookbook though, stolen from Chapter 4, the menu listing of Picnic and Patio Get-Togethers. I suppose I could have done something somewhat more refined like the Souffle Gruen and Lilac Inn Consomme as a starter, but I love anything on a patio and chose items from that instead. There are some hair-raising cliffhangers too, like what would happen if we ate the Leaning Chimney Cones, baloney stuffed with cream cheese and chopped pimentos? The Diary Chicken Salad with mayonnaise, Mandarin oranges, white grapes, pineapple rings and a banana?

During the cocktail hour, we served Miss Hanson's Deviled Eggs (topped with a slice of olive and positioned on plum tomato slices to anchor them) as an appetizer when our guests arrived. Now, I don't remember who Miss Hanson is or what book she's from but we added a little Penzey's Shallot Pepper to the yolk mixture for a satisfying bite. To give the proceedings a kick, we brought our drinks to the sundeck, beginning with a few adult versions of the Scarlet Slipper Raspberry Punch, laced with vodka. Here, we kept the raspberry gelatin, but omitted the "raspberry drink powder mix" and "frozen lemonade concentrate" and a whole cup of sugar on top of that! Instead we used cranberry raspberry juice, light lemonade, and a little lemon zest. Throughout the whole meal, we made some concessions, some modern updates (I never used any margarine for example, only butter). The punch was still sweet but we managed just fine over a beautiful summer sunset.

Crossword Cipher Chicken (a whole chicken cut into eight parts) with crushed Ritz crackers (which subbed for "unsweetened cracker crumbs") was baked for an hour. I used only about half a stick of butter to dip the chicken before breading it with the crackers, onion powder, parsley flakes and grated Parmesan, as opposed to two sticks of butter that the recipe suggested. Same went for Shadow Ranch Barbequed Beans that I made the night before: the recipe also called for two sticks of butter. Don't you miss the 70's? I didn't add any sugar, except for half the amount of dark brown sugar and lightened it up with a can of vegetarian beans and pork and beans, instead of two cans of the latter. I did throw a piece of bacon in though. Emerson Cookout Potatoes with bacon, a blend of cubed cheeses and onions baked in the oven while the chicken cooked too and was then served alongside. It was a lot of food but, perhaps not so mysteriously, everything disappeared! If you do happen to have any of the potatoes left over, they'd be great heated up the next day with some scrambled eggs.

Whistling Bagpipe Crunchies was our hysterical dessert, with melted peanut butter and butterscotch stirred together with mini marshmallows and chow mein noodles that were supposed to be shaped into "strips resembling bagpipes," whatever that may mean. They were really good.

Afterwards, by candlelight we read a passage or two from the stack of several Nancy Drew books that I had placed on the table as a sort of centerpiece. This actually was a very special moment as this stack now included the books that had been a part of Moose's mother's collection.

Later still, Bear and I rocked out to old Barbra Streisand albums, singing at the top of our lungs.

It's no mystery why we have good, old friends.

Soundtrack from 1973: Barbra Streisand...and Other Musical Instruments; Paul McCartney & Wings, Band On The Run; Bette Midler; Stevie Wonder, Innervisions; Janis Joplin, 18 Essential Songs

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

In The Kitchen With Stan Matusevich

Baby and I sat down to a particularly unusual dining experience recently. He and a handful of his former co-workers get together every few months and although I've never worked with any of them formally, they graciously let me tag along as part of the gang. Now, the title of this post is not a jovial "someone's in the kitchen with Dinah" type deal, we actually were in the kitchen with Executive Chef Stan Matusevich at Cafe Select, seated at his table set for eight of us, amidst the music from the kitchen radio, the fervor of the staff, bustling about the food intended for us as well as the rest of the patrons in the restaurant proper beyond the swinging doors, while we were seated rather exclusively in the back, between the prep fridge and the freezer.

The menu was for seven courses, which we all shared, and in omakase fashion, we were served the best the chef had to offer from the collection of the day's freshest ingredients. Here, such personal treatment is an affordable joy at a set price, though we may have considered our booze intake, as more than a few martinis were knocked back along with oceans of white wine that added considerably to the bill!
Verdant, minted spring pea soup with an orange and carrot reduction was first brought out as an amuse bouche, a delicious little sip to "arouse the mouth." The buckwheat crepes with smoked salmon that followed were a gorgeous nibble, dressed with quark (a yogurt-sour cream blend), cucumber and arugula. An interesting yellow and green bean salad was quite good, with crisped proscuitto and pumpkin seeds, in a roasted garlic vinaigrette which lent a peppery bite.

I can hardly say we took a little rest here before plunging into entrees when we were served housemade head cheese, which we all thought was fabulous, but I also allow that various parts of a pig's noggin simmered for five hours, brined overnight and pressed together in the fashion of terrine, served cold, is not for everybody.

We all agreed however that the risotto with creamy leeks, roasted king oyster mushrooms (with a tangy touch courtesy of Worcestershire and sherry vinegar), lemon zest and shredded parsley was heavenly. The saddle of lamb in a wine reduction with roasted potatoes was very good and so was the wonderful, clever picatta of monkfish with preserved lemons, oven-roasted tomatoes, with green figs and vibrant capers.

A Swiss version of brulee with burnt cream in caramel and meringues was a delight but a vanilla custard with cherry glaze took the cake. Outrageous, ridiculously good--served with cherry and almond cookies.

What a wonderful, entirely new meaning to eating in!

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Sole Series - Part Two, Lemon Sole

I have to admit my first stab at Sole Meuniere was a real lemon, at least to me, and it shouldn't have been: the recipe is not terribly difficult. Honestly, it appeared I was the only one who didn't like it so much. Our guests raved and ate it all; I just knew it wasn't that classic, single dish that stirred Julia Child's soul and launched her interest and subsequent career in mastering the art of French cooking when she first tasted it, in 50's France. Now, I wasn't trying for such transcendence here, I was just trying for something good, unique, and if nothing else, at least properly prepared!

At the most basic level, sole is absolutely delicious, probably whatever you do to it. So that's where I was lucky. My mistake was stupid and stemmed from haste and perhaps even nervousness to prepare a meal that Baby's co-workers (some of whom I had never met) would really enjoy. We had about ten filets and I dipped them in egg, then dredged them in flour. I then stacked them and went about other business when they just should have gone in the buttery frying pan, one at a time, as I dipped and dredged. Instead they just sat there on the plate for only a little while but that's all it took for the flour to become gummy. As I tossed them into the pan, I frantically sprinkled more flour, flipped and carried on with the rest. I guess that saved it in a way, and now I know what to do next time, but I was still (inwardly) disappointed. The sole is finished in a simple lemon and parsley sauce.

Moving on. We wanted to have shrimp for our appetizer, but as good as shrimp cocktail is, it almost seems cliched and a little lax with hardly any effort behind it. I thought of using something other than cocktail sauce but then turned to the idea of gazpacho in cappucino cups served with poached shrimp. Better, but somehow it didn't seem right to start off with. Then I thought of a cold pea soup recipe with mint that I used to make. Better still and more in keeping with the rest of the menu I had planned! I first grilled the shrimp, poached them in pork stock, chilled everything and served our Minty Pea Cappucinos with the shrimp on bamboo skewers tucked inside.

So, for the main dishes (and yes, I'm afraid there's still more to report about the Sole Meuniere) I thought to combine cultural influences (sorry, I sort of ache at the word fusion) and top the fish with sauteed leeks and squash blossoms inspired by the Sole with Zucchini Blossoms recipe I read about in La Cucina Italiana magazine. The leeks were a nice addition surely, but the frozen and stuffed breaded blossoms I had purchased in error turned to a mushy mess when I attempted to sautee them and more so, when in a panic, fried them afterward. They should have just been baked I think. Really I should have bought fresh, as in the recipe from La Cucina Italiana. Thankfully, nobody saw them at all or the act of my throwing them out! Anyway, at least they were inexpensive. The big slab of Filet Mignon came out perfectly medium-rare, in a delicious red wine reduction. I also made a summer favorite, from Saveur magazine that I've been making for about a hundred years now--Trenette col Pesto Genovese, Linguine with Pesto, with potatoes and string beans. It's such a good dish, single-handedly takes care of starch and vegetable sides, and goes very well with either meat or fish, or in this case, both.

La Tur cheese carries the moniker of being the "ice cream of cheeses" and after one luscious, extraordinary bite, I'm sure you'll agree. Seemed like a good idea for dessert. We also got the old girolle out (I wrote a post about it back in May) and spun frilly slices of Tetes de Moine (translating to monk's head) cheese. We put some blanched almonds and dried apricots out and filled an egg cup with quince paste to round out our cheese plate.

Oh and P.S. if a dish really doesn't come out well, then just start plying your guests with a lot of wine. Or order pizza. At least you tried.

Soundtrack: Henry Mancini, Martinis with Mancini; Antonio Carlos Jobim, The Man From Ipanema, Disc 2; Stephane Grappelli, Shades of Django; Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, Everybody's Boppin'; Frances Faye, No Reservations

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Design For Dining

As Baby and I had invited a few friends from the design biz (two interior designers, a lighting designer and an event director for an interior design magazine) over for dinner, I set out to design a menu, having already designed a perfect salon comprised of guests with shared interests.

The new Gourmet magazine arrived and in it I found the Garden Party article which reaps the bounty of August's best. I didn't make all of the line-up (nor was any of it presented in a garden, as I don't have one) and took some shortcuts here and improvised there, but it's a great menu and I think ultimately, it all came together very well. My goal is to always spend as much time with my guests and as little time in the kitchen (Baby is even teaching me to use pots and pans more economically) and here, Gourmet's recipes are also very helpful in offering what to prepare beforehand in the Cook's Notes.
To begin with, Melon Coolers were far more interesting with a few splashes of prosecco instead of seltzer or club soda. Reggie absolutely swooned! I have long loved serving salted radishes and butter as an appetizer, the leafy greens still attached, colorfully spread out on a serving platter or a wooden cutting board. BNO went for the elegant, elongated, pink-tinged French Market radishes, less strident than the rounder, bright red variety. Alongside, the anchovy butter was delicious, and frankly I can't wait to make again and slather it on a lobster.

The shortcakes for the Chive Shortcakes with Smoky Corn and Okra Stew didn't happen. I very unapologetically used scrumptious Pillsbury Grands and sprinkled fresh chopped chives on top instead. Having browned the corn in a skillet (the cobs, corn silk, and a smoked turkey leg stewed separately first before being removed) and combined all with simmered okra and onions, it was very good. And despite our own designs, some things are a happy accident--I didn't know Southern has a penchant for okra, having grown up in Virginia.
I didn't make the Cool Jade Soup or the Pickled Baby Squash made with maple syrup, preferably dark amber, but since I just happened to have some on hand, I thought to pull out a single element (the syrup) used in the Squash recipe as a wonderful drizzle for the Stew, as sweet and smoky are amiable companions. So yes, the syrup made it to the table but I forgot to tell anybody to try it.
Ace loved the Baked Tomatoes with Hazelnut Bread Crumbs--a gorgeous display, easily prepared, and can be made ahead of time, as it certainly holds its heat for a while. But I would toast the hazelnuts only a short time before you need them as they can become soggy. Farmers Market Salad with Aged Gouda and Roasted Portabellas went over very well and the unique flavor of the cheese, simply dressed and mixed with the mushrooms and an assortment of spicy greens was a welcome addition to the table.

A whole sheet cake for the Yogurt Cake with Currant Raspberry Sauce seemed a touch taxing, so I purchased a striking Sorbetto di Lampone, raspberry sorbet, from Buon Italia in the Chelsea Market instead, topped with a chiffonade of basil. Having swallowed oceans of delicious Sancerre wine, we still had designs for a little after-dinner drink (or two), so we finished off with some cherry brandy, St. Germain elderflower liqueur and shared a bar of Swiss chocolate filled with the shameless pear liqueur otherwise known as Poire William.

Soundtrack: Bossa Brava, Tropicale!, Bebel Gilberto, Tanto Tempo; The Girl From Ipanema, The Antonio Carlos Jobim Songbook, Sergio Mendes and Brazil '66, Foursider; The Mike Flowers Pops, a groovy place

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Red Sauce

Reggie and I ducked out of our respective offices to have a little lunch one afternoon not too long ago. As an illicit getaway in an afternoon may take you through any number of discussions, I happened to mention a recipe for Oven-Roasted Tomato Sauce that I like from Cuisine at Home magazine. Her eyes grew wide. She grew up in South Philly as part of an Italian family, but the roasting of the tomatoes for sauce was news to her. Even though the recipe is a sauce for pizza on the grill, I like it over meatballs or even pasta. It is delicious indeed. Our conversation swiftly turned to red sauce and she led me through the different types of tomatoes to use depending on what kind of sauce you're making stove top, on the boil, as it were, as she had learned growing up. I thought I should pass the information along.

Marinara Sauce
Use canned or whole plum tomatoes (blanch them in boiling water and slip them out of their skins when cool enough to handle) with simply some garlic, good olive oil, and basil at the end, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Reggie loves to squeeze the tomatoes with her hands, right in the pot, instead of breaking them down with a wooden spoon as they simmer over time.
Gravy or Meat Sauce
Use strained tomatoes (Reggie recommends Pomi, out of a box) and tomato paste. Add garlic, olive oil and basil with onions, red wine and a mixture of ground veal, beef and pork or chicken.
Pizza Sauce
Use canned crushed tomatoes with olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper. Reggie suggests a good, local Philly tip: put your cheese on the pizza dough first and add the sauce on top before baking.
Jar Sauce
Use fresh New Jersey Plum Tomatoes while you may, in July and August.
Crabs & Spaghetti
Use canned or Pomi strained tomatoes for this classic and simmer your crabs in garlic, tomato paste, olive oil and basil.
This is such an unusual dish that sounded just too delicious and was totally unfamiliar to me, so I had to include the recipe here, in Reggie's own words:
"Use Maryland blue hard shell crabs. Heat olive oil and garlic in a big pot. Add two large cans of your favorite brand of strained tomatoes. Add a small can of tomato paste and fresh basil. Throw in cleaned whole crabs--this means removing the backs, which is best to have done at the fishmarket for a service fee. If you can't have them cleaned, then put them in the sink in warm to hot water for 15 minutes and they are ready to clean without crawling over your sink and counter top! Keep the crabs in the sauce for 10 minutes. Take most of them out and leave three in the pot to flavor the sauce. Simmer low for at least an hour and a half or longer. A few minutes before the sauce is ready remove and discard the three crabs (they are too mushy at this point to eat). Add the rest of the crabs back into the pot to warm them for a few minutes. Be sure not to overcook the crabs. Add to cooked spaghetti. It's all really messy but absolutely worth it and leftover cold crabs are fantastic the next day."
So then, mangia!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Recipes Of Our Mothers - Phyllis Lippmann's Coffee Torte


Submitted by Susan Kaden:

"This recipe reminds me of growing up with the best cook ever on the planet and how she always let me cook and bake with her. She inspired me on my journey with food and cooking. She is the best, most loving and supportive mom!"

Phyllis Lippmann lives with her husband, Henry, in Croton-on-Hudson, New York. She is a social worker who believes that nothing is more therapeutic than the pleasure of sharing great food with family and friends. She grew up in a small town in upstate New York and fondly remembers her family's victory garden. Picking fresh vegetables for a salad each night was a happy summer ritual. Her favorite recipes are the ones handed down through the generations and coffee torte is no exception. It was first introduced to the family by her mother, Rose. Phyllis appreciates that her delightful daughters, Deb and Susan, are both excellent cooks and bakers. She is also glad that her grandchildren, Sammi, Zach and Sydney are all learning their way around the kitchen.

Phyllis Lippmann's Coffee Torte

Line sides and bottom of buttered 8" springform with split lady fingers. Split sides on inside of pan. Melt 1/2 lb. marshmallows in top of double boiler. Dissolve 3 heaping teaspoons instant coffee in 1/2 cup boiling water. Add to melted marshmallows. Remove from heat. Cover. Stir occasionally. When cooled - fold into 1 pint whipped heavy cream. Pour into springform. Sprinkle with chopped pistachio nuts. For 9" tin use 3/4 lb. marshmallows, coffee with 3/4 cup water 3/4 cup cream.
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Phyllis comments, "It may also become a Mocha Lady Finger Dessert but adding the chocolate is tricky. The coffee flavor is lovely on its own, a light and scrumptious dessert."