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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Lex and the City

My niece Alexzandria is no longer a little girl; somehow the years have slipped by and she's become an extraordinary young lady. The first article I had published back in 2001 was about Lex (her affectionate nickname), as I imagined what a trip to Manhattan might be like for her and what we'd do. She was only six when I wrote it, and now she has a driver's license and a boyfriend.

We've spent many fun summers together, Lex and I, at the family cottage in Friendship, Maine but she hadn't been home to New Hampshire for Christmas in about 12 years and she'd never been to New York. Lex turned 16 over the summer and since we were unable to be together for that important event, Baby and I flew her from Lavergne, Tennessee to see the Big Apple at Christmastime as a birthday present. After a wild four days in the city, we whisked her to New Hampshire to meet up with her father and my parents.

Naturally, I started planning the itinerary weeks before her arrival.

Saturday, the week before Christmas: After traipsing the Highline, a beautiful elevated railway-turned-park in our neighborhood and taking her to one of our favorite Chinese places nearby, we threw a party in her honor. It wasn't a huge affair, just about 20 people. They all sat and chatted with her, absolutely adored her and were thoroughly impressed by her demeanor. We made Chasen's chili, chicken mole, mac n' cheese and pork cracklins corn bread to make Lex feel right to home. Of course, we brought out a cake with 16 flaming candles on it and sang Happy Birthday to her.

Sunday: Manicures and pedicures with Baby's niece, who is also 16 years old! They had never met before but had texted each other for some time and of course they are facebook friends. We took them to Laurent Tourandel's burger joint, BLT Burger for lunch, before taking them to Rockefeller Center to see the tree and then letting them loose in Saks to go shopping. Before long, they were walking down 5th Avenue arm in arm, like old pals. We stopped into a penthouse punch party at Royalton hotel and then made our way to the Village to Cowgirl Hall of Fame for nachos, quesadillas, chicken fried chicken and mashed potatoes.

Monday: Oak Bar in The Plaza for a lunch of lobster bisque, Cobb Salad with lobster, a tuna melt and the most outrageous chocolate and cream something or other for dessert. What a gorgeous, warmly paneled room! The afternoon sun was winding down while we took a leisurely stroll through Central Park, up to the American Museum of Natural History for the wonderfully fun Journey To The Stars show in the Planetarium. The Hurricane Club, a marvelous tiki bar/supper club styled after exotic monsters of yesteryear such as Trader Vic's finished us off for the day.

Tuesday: Hudson Hall in Hudson Hotel for lunch, where Lex confirmed just how much she really could eat! A walk to Times Square and thereabouts led us to the Phantom of the Opera theater where we found a couple of reasonably priced seats for that night. While we waited for the curtain to rise, we ducked across the street to have some New York pizza at John's with Baby. Then home and time to pack!

Wednesday: En route to New Hampshire on the bargain and remarkably clean megabus, we stopped off in Boston for a tour of Faneuil Hall and a night at Ames hotel. We all had a delicious, eat-way-too-much dinner at Woodward in the hotel with some friends before collapsing into bed in our respective rooms only to depart the next day to wrestle with relatives over the ensuing holiday.

I was nervous how everything would turn out, but I'm very happy to say it was just perfect. I just wanted to do something good and perhaps toss in a little inspiration along the way. We should inspire children.

Ah, my dear Lex. She may very well be on her way to growing into womanhood, but she will always be a sweet little girl to me. Happy Birthday Lex! And Happy New Year to everybody! Thanks for reading Evenings With Peter!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Shouldn't You Just...?

Fling cashmere, wool or flannel scarves on your table to create an appropriately wintry warm setting when entertaining?

Modern advice on etiquette for the not-so-new millennium.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


21 W 52nd St (btwn 5th/6th Aves)
212 582-7200

Perhaps we’re not quite 21 anymore, but ‘21’ remains ageless. At least one of the good things about growing older is being able to duck out of the office from time to time for an illicit lunch and perhaps knock back a few dry Martinis. The storied ‘21’ Club is the perfect place to do just that—and there are colorful jockey statues to greet you at the door! ‘21’ is expensive to be sure and although the $30 burger off the menu might be considered a little excessive at lunch time (or any time for that matter), $30 also gets you a three-course prix fixe that is hard to beat.

Remember in All About Eve when Margo and Karen planned to meet at ‘21’ for lunch—with hats on? Too gorgeous. How about when Grace Kelly ordered a lobster dinner from the joint for the house-bound Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window and the elegant waiters brought it right into the apartment, table, chafing dishes and all. ‘21’ is like that, more than happy to comply with their patrons’ wishes without the attitude like some of the upstarts that have filtered through the city over the years. They don’t need to. It’s ‘21’ for God’s sake.

In the cozy dining room, by the bar on the main floor, checkerboard cloths cover the tables and all manner of things are strung up on the ceiling such as toy trucks and planes, and other bric-a-brac, gently lit by glowing lanterns. The whole atmosphere is much more casual than the other proper dining rooms above—but jacket and tie are still required, and should you have left yours in a cab or somewhere, they are kindly provided. Hats optional!

Prix Fixe Luncheon Menu

Seasonal Soup, a selection of ‘21’ classics
Romaine and Radicchio Salad cherry tomatoes, celery, shaved Parmesan, pomery mustard vinaigrette
Cured Mahi Mahi with watermelon, mizuna, radish and citrus dressing
Grilled Calamari olive purée, pickled cucumber salad, black garlic

Main Courses
Horseradish-Crusted Salmon warm summer bean salad, smoked bacon,
red spring onions, lemon emulsion
Smoked Pork Belly honey vinegar glaze, pulled pork, sweet potatoes, corn, roasted poblano peppers
Spring Vegetable Risotto peas, asparagus, zucchini, aged Parmesan, truffle butter Grilled Organic Chicken Breast hominy, sautéed spinach, lemon, natural jus

Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée chewy chocolate brownie
Blueberry Upside-down Cake lemon cream sauce
Milk Chocolate Tart toasted raspberry meringue

Cocktails or other far less interesting beverages, tax and tip are not included and naturally, the menu is subject to change.

First published in part in Next magazine.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Impromptu Bananas Foster

The time honored Bananas Foster dessert got a slight re-tweaking the other night when our neighbor down the hall was over for a casual dinner. We had a stash of crepes, a rogue banana and some brandy put by the by so we made this very impromptu dessert, riffing on Bananas Foster. She supplied the hazelnut butter, or Nutella, as is more commonly found.

Impromptu Bananas Foster

Take 1/2 cup turbinado sugar stirred until melted, with a tablespoon or two of melted butter until liquid. Add 1 banana, sliced thinly and throw in a splash of brandy. Carefully light it on fire. Slather 1 crepe with Nutella (or hazelnut butter), decorate it with your mixture of sugar, bananas and brandy. Do enjoy!

Serves one, or two if your guest is interested in sharing.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Speakeasy: Classic Cocktails Reimagined

Bathtub gin! Sloe-eyed vamps in flapper skirts dancing the Charleston! Long, late nights fraught with illicit behavior! Although it may not have seemed so for everyone at the time when speakeasies served booze on the sly during Prohibition, I can’t help but think this particular part of the past must have been a blast.

In Speakeasy: Classic Cocktails Reimagined, From New York’s Employees Only Bar (Ten Speed Press), Jason Kosmas and Dushan Zaric shake up the past and the present with their ingeniously concocted cocktails. The duo behind Macao Trading Co., Kosmas and Zaric first became a team at SoHo’s Pravda and also formed Cocktail Conceptions, a beverage consulting company.

A recent trip to their intimate West Village bar-restaurant, Employees Only, revealed just how these mixologists take a culinary approach to classic cocktails. Using only the finest spirits and a balance of fresh fruit, herbs and homemade syrups, time-honored classics get a highly reverent re-presentation. We loved sipping some of the hooch, such as the Provençale ($14)—lavender-infused Plymouth gin stirred with herbs de Provence-infused vermouth and Combier Royal. We also thrilled to the Manhattan Cocktail ($14) where Rittenhouse rye is stirred with Italian vermouth, orange curaçao and dashes of Angostura bitters.

From aperitifs to cordials, more than 80 luscious libations are presented in Speakeasy and all of the recipes are rife with detail as well as tales about their origins. Helpful tasting notes and which glassware to use when serving your swellegant guests some sauce make this a gift worth giving—or keeping for yourself!

Visit, for more info.

First published in Next magazine.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Swiss Chard Stew

This Swiss Chard Stew from (Bon Appetit, December 2005) with curried red lentils and garbanzo beans is extraordinarily good. Making it also happened to effectively dispatch a number of things we already had in our cupboard such as several cubes of vegetable bouillon, lentils, cayenne, and curry powder. We didn't have red lentils, so I used the green variety, cooked until tender, and although this recipe calls for canned garbanzos, I used a pound of dried, simmering them independently first, which lent a nice texture to the dish. We had a bunch of fresh kale patiently waiting in our crisper, so I subbed that for the chard. A hint: to remove the stalks, just grab onto them with one hand and rip the leafy fronds off with the other. We also used a little creme fraiche instead of the yogurt called for as that was what we had on hand. Such a warming dish for winter and very easy to make. Just don't go overboard in devouring it when it is placed on the table--as you might well imagine, it is very high in fiber!

Swiss Chard Stew
Adapted from
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
5 teaspoons curry powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 14-ounce cans vegetable broth
1 large bunch or 2 small bunches Swiss chard, tough stalks removed, coarsely chopped (about 12 cups)
1 pound red lentils (about 2 1/4 cups)
1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
Plain yogurt

Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté until golden, about 13 minutes. Mix in curry and cayenne. Add broth and chard. Increase heat; bring to boil. Add lentils and garbanzos; reduce heat to medium. Cover; simmer until lentils are tender, stirring twice, about 10 minutes. Divide stew among bowls. Top with yogurt.

Photo credit: Scott Peterson

Monday, December 6, 2010

Nuts for Peanut Brittle

Seems like Baby and I have been a little obsessed with all things peanut lately. Well, why not? Making peanut brittle was very easy and inspired by our dalliance not too long ago with peanut butter ice cream with candied bacon!

Here's what to do, adapted from a recipe we found on Of course, we upped the amount of peanuts used by about half a cup and added fried bacon into the mix before cooling on the cookie sheet.

Peanut Brittle (with bacon)
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water
1 cup peanuts
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon baking soda

Grease a large cookie sheet. Set aside. In a heavy 2 quart saucepan, over medium heat, bring to a boil sugar, corn syrup, salt, and water. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Stir in peanuts. Set candy thermometer in place, and continue cooking. Stir frequently until temperature reaches 300 degrees F (150 degrees C), or until a small amount of mixture dropped into very cold water separates into hard and brittle threads. Remove from heat; immediately stir in butter and baking soda; pour at once onto cookie sheet. With 2 forks, lift and pull peanut mixture into rectangle about 14x12 inches; cool. Snap candy into pieces.
Thanks to for the photo.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Shouldn't You Just...?

String festive holiday lights all about the place?

Modern advice on etiquette for the not-so-new-millennium.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Coconut-Sweet Potato Cheesecake

I nabbed this recipe from and it was a big hit a few Thanksgivings ago. It really is fabulous. I decided to make it again this year and as several friends asked for the recipe, I thought I'd share it here on Evenings With Peter. It's separated into three parts--the sweet potato mixture, the crumb coating, and the filling. It's a little time intensive but I think you'll agree it's worth the effort. Do enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

Coconut-Sweet Potato Cheesecake

Adapted from Bon Appetit, November 2004
Makes 10 servings

Sweet potatoes
4 cups 1/3-inch cubes peeled red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams)
1 cup water
1/4 cup orange juice
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon (packed) finely grated orange peel
1 teaspoon (packed) finely grated lemon peel
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1 large egg
2 tablespoons whipping cream

Crumb coating:
Powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 1/2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
3/4 cup sugar
4 large eggs
1 15-ounce can sweetened cream of coconut (such as Coco López)*
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon (packed) finely grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon vanilla extract1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
Additional sweetened flaked coconut, toasted

For sweet potatoes:
Combine first 13 ingredients in large saucepan. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer uncovered until potatoes are very tender and most of liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally, about 40 minutes. Transfer mixture to processor; puree until smooth. Whisk egg and cream in medium bowl to blend. Add 2 1/3 cups sweet potato puree and whisk to blend well. Cover and chill sweet potato mixture until cold.

For crumb coating:
Butter 10-inch-diameter springform pan with 2 1/2- to 2 3/4-inch-high sides; dust with powdered sugar. Mix graham cracker crumbs and melted butter in medium bowl until crumbs are evenly moistened. Press crumb mixture evenly over bottom and up sides of pan (coating will be thin). Chill 30 minutes. (Sweet potato mixture and crumb coating can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover; chill separately.)

For filling:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese, ricotta cheese, and sugar in large bowl until smooth. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Add cream of coconut, lemon juice, lemon peel, and vanilla; beat until smooth. Fold in 1 cup flaked coconut and sweet potato mixture. Pour filling into prepared pan. Place pan on rimmed baking sheet and bake cake until filling is just set in center, about 1 hour 20 minutes. Transfer cheesecake directly to refrigerator and chill uncovered overnight (center may sink). (Can be prepared 3 days ahead. Cover and keep chilled.) Run small knife between cake and pan sides to loosen cake; remove sides. Place cake on platter. Sprinkle toasted unsweetened coconut over top edge of cheesecake. Serve chilled.

*Available in the liquor section of most supermarkets.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Peanut Butter & Candied Bacon Ice Cream!

A friend recently told me the reason why her marriage has lasted for so long is because her husband never questions her. Don't question me on this. Peanut Butter Ice Cream with Candied Bacon. Serve it with small glasses of blueberry port as we did for our guests, like a deconstructed PBB&J sandwich. That's all you need to know. And do enjoy!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Baby's Cranberry Compote

Baby's been making this combination of dried fruits and juices for years. This year we also added a good throttle of blueberry port! It's a perfect complement for turkey and any leftover compote you have may be served on top of ice cream for dessert.

Baby's Cranberry Compote
Serves 12 generously

12 oz dried cranberries
4 oz each dried sour cherries, dried currants, golden raisins
1 vanilla bean, split
Zest and juice of one lemon
Zest and juice of one orange
4 whole cloves
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp freshly grated cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground grains of paradise
1 tsp real vanilla extract
Pomegranate juice (any Pom Wonderful variety will do) and orange juice

Combine first 12 ingredients in 4-quart Dutch oven. Add the pomegranate and orange juices to cover. Over medium heat, bring to a simmer. Let simmer 3 minutes and then cover. Turn off flame and let sit for 4 hours to cool. Place in refrigerator overnight.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Friend Writes...

Just in time for Thanksgiving!

"This is a really simple recipe and it's quick and still tasty."

Pumpkin Chiffon
3.5 cups graham cracker crumbs (1 box of crackers equals 4 cups of crumbs)
½ cup sugar
1 cup melted butter
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup milk
2 3-ounce packages of vanilla instant pudding mix
2 cups canned pumpkin
Cinnamon to taste
Large container whipped topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine first 3 ingredients in 9x13-inch dish. Press over bottom. Beat cream cheese, eggs and ¾ cup sugar in bowl until smooth. Pour over crust. Bake for 20 minutes. Cool. Combine milk with pudding mix in bowl. Beat for 2 minutes. Add pumpkin and cinnamon. Stir in 1 cup whipped topping. Spread over cooled cream cheese layer. Spread remaining whipped topping over pudding mixture. Chill until serving time. Sprinkle top with cinnamon.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Peanut Butter Beer Chicken

I don't know about you, but peanut butter, beer, and chicken are certainly three of my favorite things. Here they are gloriously combined in one delicious dish!

Thanks to Chad Carns, author of The Gourmet Bachelor cookbook, for sharing with me here on Evenings With Peter!

Peanut Butter Beer Chicken
Adapted from

½ eggplant, cubed
4 T olive oil
1 lb chicken breast, cubed
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 onion, chopped
1 T ground cumin
1 T ground coriander
1 T crushed red pepper flakes
1 pt Stout (Guinness Beer)
2 T brown sugar
¼ c peanut butter
2 oz cilantro, chopped

DIRECTIONS: Coat eggplant with 2 tablespoons olive oil and bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes. Sear chicken in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until golden brown. Remove. Saute garlic and onion for 3 minutes. Add cumin, coriander, red pepper, beer, brown sugar and peanut butter. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in chicken, eggplant and cilantro.

PAIRING: Stout, Ireland

Chad Carns author of The Gourmet Bachelor: Global Flavor, Local Ingredients cookbook invites you into his Greenwich Village kitchen every Friday night to show you how easy it is to cook gourmet! Chad picks up a few fresh, local ingredients from his Bleecker Street markets and shows you how to prepare a quick and easy gourmet dinner paired with wine for your next Friday night date. Stop by every Friday for a new Date Night Recipe!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Shouldn't You Just...?

Set a proper table with as much room and resources as you have?

Modern advice on etiquette for the not-so-new millennium

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Next Magazine Review - Macao Trading Co.

Macao Trading Co.
311 Church St (btwn Walker/Lispenard Sts)

Although Executive Chef Joshua Blakely’s wide ranging influences at Macao Trading Co. in Tribeca stem from China, Spain and Portugal, the highly skilled and adorable firecracker himself hails from North Carolina. Blakely formerly trod the culinary boards at Babbo, Tia Pol and Employees Only and based on our experience the night we dined at Macao Trading Co., it’s all a perfectly good arrangement.

Despite the dim, subterranean recesses to which we were ushered, we were able to observe the various touches of Orientalia and things admirably scattered about us as we sipped a gorgeous Mai Tai ($15), crafted with Santa Teresa 1796 Rum. Several of them in fact went down quite smoothly as mint and lime garnishes tickled our noses.

From Small Plates, loosely formed Bacalhau Fresco Tartar ($12) was a tasty starter but it took some doing to eat even given our nimble fingers. Chicken Dumplings ($9) were delicious although we felt the dipping sauce was largely salty regardless of chili oil’s fiery intentions. Giant Grilled Blue Hawaiian Prawns ($15) were wonderful and except for the head and tail, I ate shells and all!

From Large Plates, sumptuous Sauteed Diver Scallops ($26) had just the proper consideration of curry and the dish was furthered by country ham, smartly taking a cue from one of our cocktail party favorites, bacon-wrapped scallops.

How to praise the Braised Heritage Pork Belly ($15)? Kale and mustard greens shared the plate with a wondrous complement of grapefruit and balsamic dressing and it was all rather divine with the white Grapes of Roth Riesling ($50/bottle) from Long Island. Grilled Lamb Chops ($16) narrowly escaped being overly gamey, but we did like the green mango slaw that accompanied. Crispy Fried Whole Fish (MP) arrived, eyeing us curiously. It was good, but we just couldn’t look back at it. The house-cured bacalhau fried rice that came with however was an entirely different matter and we graciously devoured it.

We had to leave before Malasadas ($8), Portuguese style doughnuts, with guava and rum sauce were thrust upon us. So, until our next excursion, ciao for now, Macao!

First published in part in Next magazine.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Brunch of Bourbon

Can’t decide what to serve for brunch? Kentucky’s Knob Creek is here to help. We at Next have adapted several suitable recipes featuring the excellent, small batch bourbon to create a cheeky menu that is as filling as it is fabulously smooth—but please, brunch responsibly.

Begin with a morning constitutional; something fizzy that is not an Alka-Seltzer.

Knob Creek Mimosa
1.5 part Knob Creek Bourbon
Chilled sparkling apple cider
Apple for garnish
In a fluted glass, add Knob Creek and then a floater of apple cider. Garnish with a thinly sliced bit of apple and perch it on the rim. Feel free to actually eat the rest of the apple. You know what they say about an apple a day.

For a second course, try the hearty version of Knob Creek’s Bloody Mary—it’s got bacon and cheese in it!

Mary 9

1.5 part Knob Creek Bourbon
4 parts Bloody Mary mix (try to make your own)
Celery salt
2 slices of thick sliced crisp bacon
Bacon salt (yes, this really is a thing) mixed with kosher salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese for rimming the glass
Fresh basil for garnish
Dip a tall glass rim slightly in to Bloody Mary mix and then into the bacon salt mixture and rim the glass.
Make a Bloody as you do, but sub Knob Creek for vodka.
Garnish with fresh, fragrant basil sprigs, crisscross the bacon and insert it into the glass, much as you would a straw.

Naturally, you’ll want a tasty dessert.

Bernie’s Bourbon Cream
3 parts vanilla ice cream
1.5 parts Knob Creek Bourbon
Simply spoon ice cream into a nifty snifter, and pour the Knob Creek on top.

Bon appetite and a votre santé!

First published in Next magazine.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Get Cooking With Foodista!

If you haven't already bought your copy of Foodista's Best of Food Blogs Cookbook, or even if you have, buy another one! Because now, as part of a sales promotion, if you order the innovative, grand culinary tome online on November 3rd between 10:00-11:00am PDT and forward your purchase confirmation email to, you will be entered in a drawing to possibly claim some of the great prizes that are being awarded! So get cooking--and click here for details on the exciting giveaway!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Olive Oil and Yogurt Cake

Here's a wonderful recipe courtesy of Pichet Ong and his disastrously divine dessert cookbook, The Sweet Spot which feasts upon Asian-inspired confections. Baby and I had sampled this cake at Ong's restaurant Spot and were so compelled that we just had to try it on our own! Instead of orange marmalade, we used peach jam and it was in fact all very peachy!

Olive Oil and Yogurt Cake
Adapted from Pichet Ong's The Sweet Spot
Makes one 9x13 -inch cake, about 24 servings

1 table spoon unsalted butter, at room temperature for greasing the pan
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
3 cups plain whole-milk yogurt
3 1/4 cups sugar
9 large eggs
2 tablespoons grated orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup orange marmalade
1 tablespoon fleur de sel or other mild sea salt, such as Maldon

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 9x13-inch cake pan and set aside.
2. Sift together the flour and baking powder and set aside.
3. Put the yogurt, sugar, eggs, orange zest, vanilla, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on medium speed until well combined, about 2 minutes. Turn the speed to low and whisk in the flour mixture until well blended, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and stir the batter a few times.
4. In a small bowl, whisk together 1 cup of the batter with the oil until smooth and homogeneous. Add the oil mixture into the remaining batter in a slow, steady, stream, folding continuously.
5. Transfer the batter to the cake pan. Bake until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes.
6. While the cake is baking, stir the orange marmalade together with 1 tablespoon water.
7. As soon as the cake is done, brush the top with the orange marmalade mixture glaze and sprinkle with the fleur de sel. Cool completely in the pan on a rack.

Night and Day Souffle

I created this souffle of sorts back at my parents' home in New Hampshire over the holidays a few years ago. I was staring into the fridge in hopes of coming up with something to make for dinner, and the result was excellent with a glass of red wine. I've also made the souffle for breakfast and it was just as satisfying with orange juice and coffee. The flexible dish can be served as a terrific nosh anytime, or made ahead of time and quickly reheated.

Night and Day Souffle
Serves 4

6 eggs
1 chopped onion, sauteed in butter
4 dinner rolls
4 slices of cheese
4 strips of bacon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a casserole dish, whisk eggs with a little milk and add salt and pepper to taste. Incorporate the onion. Add dinner rolls (baked Pillsbury Grands would be a lively idea) to the dish and place bacon over them crosswise. Top with slices of your favorite cheese such as American or Swiss and bake for 40 minutes. Cut into four portions and serve.

First published in part in Next magazine.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Bacon Meatballs

My cousin Kelle is the sister I never had. As kids, we suppressed giggles in church, shared a Mrs. Beasley doll, tortured our neighbors, and once, we made it rain. As adults, we celebrate our own special holiday by cooking together. Recently, we conspired to make a white pasta (with ricotta cheese and crisped shallots), fusing elements of a traditional carbonara, while creating the perfectly complementary meatball, wrought from bacon!

Bacon Meatballs
Serves 4-6 (about 24 meatballs)

12 oz. applewood smoked bacon, slightly frozen
1 egg
1/2 cups each Italian and Japanese panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated pecorino Romano cheese
1/2 cup chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Slice or cut the bacon into 1/4-inch pieces and let thaw. Put in a medium size bowl. Add egg, breadcrumbs, cheese and chopped parsley to the bacon and dive in, mixing with your hands. Form into little orbs, roughly the size of ping-pong balls (about 24). Place on a rack over a pan to catch drippings and bake for 10 minutes till browned. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 10 minutes till cooked through.

This is great with an alfredo--and with scrambled eggs the next morning. Giggles left to your own discretion.

First published in part in Next magazine.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sing A Song

I wanted to write here about my experience singing in a Master Class taught by the incomparable, legendary Ms. Marilyn Maye but I dismissed the idea at first thinking it had nothing at all to do with my food blog. Then I thought this scribing does make sense: it's hardly a secret to the people who know me, that as much as I love to eat, I love to sing too and sometimes the twain do meet, on more than a few of my wine-eclipsed dinner parties--if music be the food of love, you know, sing on. But apart from these occasions, my penchant for piano bars and kick out of karaoke, I haven't sung on an actual stage in front of sober people or had musical training for 20 years, since I was in college! Until recently...

When a friend told me Marilyn Maye was teaching a 5-hour Master Class, I immediately signed up and sent in my deposit. I'd been feeling like I wanted to sing more, thinking about what I used to do, I guess, and here was a chance, a grand opportunity to present two songs and be critiqued by the legend. My feelings changed as I pulled, from a suitcase I'd first carried to New York, old sheet music imprinted with high-reaching notes I could no longer sing. I hadn't given a thought to an accompanist to practice with and when it was too late to do much about any of it, petrified as an old tree limb, I seriously wondered just what on earth I'd gotten myself into or rather, how to get myself out of it. Through various orchestrations too involved to go into here, I found and transposed some music I would bring and try to work with.

On the day of reckoning, there we all were: a schlub like me, in an intimate cabaret room full of pros, hopefuls, and auditors, assembled for a Master Class being taught by the great lady. As each took their numbered turn, mine growing ever closer, I discovered everybody had memorized all the words to their songs and seemed like they had performed them often. That didn't help. I. was. nervous. as. a. cat.

I hadn't eaten anything all day. I couldn't. I didn't dare. And all I'd consumed during the session was chamomile tea with honey, Ricola cough drops, bottled water and some chap stick that I'd rubbed on my lips so they wouldn't stick together from dry mouth.

But you know what? When it came my turn to perform, the old bones pulled together apparently, memory spurred, the voice rose up to a fair timbre. After I'd finished, Marilyn Maye was most complimentary to me, and added, as I resumed my seat, "make sure you tell your father that I love his son!" Imagine?

And suddenly, oh how I was full: full from having had the courage to try singing again as I'd thought about doing, wanted to do, hadn't dared to do, but did, steeling myself to the actual task; eyes full of brimming tears; and finally, realizing I was so full from having fed my soul.

What a thrill and absolute privilege indeed to meet the marvelous Marilyn Maye! Thank you, dear one!

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Friend Writes...

About recipes for Fall!

"I made some delicious Autumn recipes a few weekends ago - started with the Lentil and Sausage Soup, which I served with crusty French bread of which I had half a loaf left over - so was then inspired to make the Panade which required day-old bread! The Panade is like a savory vegetable bread pudding - really delicious and surprisingly hearty for something that is totally vegetarian (though not vegan - lots of dairy - milk and cheese). Both will fill your home with delicious aromas while they cook on a weekend afternoon, and will keep for a few days in the fridge or freeze very nicely for leftovers."

Published in The New York Times Magazine, 9/8/10
Adapted from “Tartine Bread” by Chad Robertson

6 tblsps butter 2 leeks, white part only, finely chopped (about 1 ½ cups)
6 cups whole milk
Salt 4-8 slices day-old country bread or French bread, each 1 inch thick
1 small butternut squash, about 1 lb, peeled, seeded and cut into ¼ thick slices
1 bunch black kale or Swiss chard, center stems removed
1 head cauliflower, about 1 ½ lbs, trimmed and cut into ½ thick slices
½ lb fontina cheese, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Melt 2 tblsps of the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the leeks and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the milk, the remaining 4 tblsps butter and 2 tsps salt. Bring to a boil and then remove from heat. Cover the bottom of a heavy, ovenproof 5-qt pot with bread slices (I used my enameled cast-iron Dutch oven). Arrange the squash slices in an even layer on top of the bread. Pour in 2 cups of the hot milk mixture. Add a layer of bread slices, and then the kale/chard. Arrange the cauliflower slices over the kale. Press down to compact the ingredients if they don’t quite fit in the pot. Pour the remaining milk mixture over the top. Stop adding milk when the level is almost to the rim. Season with salt. Cover the pot with a lid or aluminum foil. Bake for 30 mins. Uncover and arrange the cheese over the top. Return to the over uncovered and bake until the liquid is absorbed and reduced and the cheese has melted and browned, 30-40 mins.

Lentil Sausage Soup
Adapted from the “Barefoot in Paris” cookbook by Ina Garten

1 lb French green lentils
¼ cup olive oil
4 cups diced yellow onions (3 large)
4 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts only (2 leeks)
1 tblsp minced garlic (2 large cloves)
1 tblsp salt
1 ½ tsps black pepper
1 tblsp minced fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp ground cumin
3 cups medium diced celery (8 stalks)
3 cups medium diced carrots (4-6 carrots)
3 quarts chicken stock
¼ cup tomato paste
1 lb kielbasa or firm French-style sausage (I used a duck and fennel seed sausage from Trader Joe’s)
2 tblsps balsamic vinegar
Freshly grated Parmesan for serving

In a large bowl, cover the lentils with boiling water and allow to sit for 15 mins. Drain. In a large stockpot over medium heat, heat the olive oil and sauté the onions, leeks, garlic, salt, pepper, thyme and cumin for 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are translucent and tender. Add the celery and carrots and sauté for another 10 minutes. Add the chicken stock, tomato paste and drained lentils, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 1 hour, or until the lentils are cooked through and tender. Check the seasonings. Add the sausage and vinegar and simmer until the sausage is hot. Serve drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with grated Parmesan.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Pork Soup Dumplings

We didn’t get what the fuss was all about—at first. Grand Sichuan International (229 9th Ave @ 24th St, 212-620-5200) around the corner from our apartment is always packed, and quite often there are lines out the door! We’d ordered in a few times, working our way through tasteless Chicken & Broccoli and flaccid Sesame Noodles wondering “what are we missing?” Fairly recently, our lovely neighbors let us in on a little Chinese secret: there are two kitchens at Grand Sichuan! One kitchen is for take out and the other feeds the patrons seated at the restaurant.

Our neighbors took us one night and we instantly fell in love with the food. While the Corn Egg Drop Soup ($1.95/sm, $3.75/lg), Ginger Lobster (MP) and Cellophane Noodles ($9.25) are favorites, we can’t seem to slurp enough of the Pork Soup Dumplings ($5.75/eight). These plump beauties are chockablock full of minced pork wrapped in delicate wontons skins with a tiny aperture on top in which to pour a little soy sauce. Carefully lift the dumpling on to a spoon and shove the whole thing in your mouth, savoring the flavor as it bursts forth onto your taste buds. Soup’s on!

First published in Next magazine.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

In The Kitchen With Bill Telepan - Brown Butter Sauce

I had the enormous pleasure of cooking alongside Bill Telepan, chef and proprietor of Telepan, during the New York Culinary Experience over the weekend. We braised lamb shanks, mashed parsnips, caramelized shallots, and pinched pierogies into shape after stuffing them with beet greens. What I loved most was watching how butter, cream and white wine vinegar evolved to a brilliant brown butter sauce for our plump little Polish dumplings. This sauce is also a natural for gnocchi with some crispy sage or really anything you have in mind to make!

Bill Telepan's Brown Butter Sauce
2 tbs white wine vinegar
4 tbs unsalted butter
4 tbs cream

Put vinegar in a deep heat-proof bowl. Put butter and cream in a small heavy saucepan over medium-high heat and heat mixture until it boils. Turn heat down to medium-low and whisk constantly. It will thicken to the consistency of mayonnaise and then the milk solids will separate out.
When solids have separated and are floating on top of the mixture, remove pan from heat and pour mixture into a blender. Blend mixture for 20 seconds, breaking up the solids, and pour back into saucepan.
Cook mixture over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until it turns from reddish brown to a deep walnut-brown color, about 3 minutes. Pour sauce into bowl with vinegar (it will foam up a bit). Add a pinch of salt and swirl the sauce and vinegar around.
Telepan adds, "You may notice little bits of milk solids in the mixture; don't worry about them. They're sweet, nutty, and delicious."

Toques off to you, Chef Telepan!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Catered Affair

A few years ago a friend asked me to help throw a swank cocktail party for 50, on the scale of a Breakfast at Tiffany’s blowout. Done. Vodka and gin alternated the martinis with offerings of blue cheese stuffed green olives, smoked salmon stuffed black olives and lemon twists as garnishes. In keeping with the idea of pomp as well as the circumstances, I did a riff on breakfast food, serving hors d’oeuvres that featured thinly sliced, savory egg soufflés on walnut toasts with a dollop of crème fraiche, bloody mary steak shots, and in an ode to pancakes, blinis with caviar. I also served Jean-Georges Vongerichten's 27 Vegetable Salad as a starter and then Edamame Finger Sandwiches. Silver dragees, white pearls of tapioca, and black caviar lentils were spilled on the serving platters to coyly suit the evening and further set the mood.

The hostess had asked that a subtle dessert also be served, so as not to send the guests rushing home, as cake and coffee might suggest. I thought a cheese course would be right in line. Taking a cue from Mario Batali and how he drizzles truffle honey over a wedge of cheese at Otto to tempt the taste buds and remembering how my Nana used to spread cream cheese over the most delicious molasses pantry cookies when I was a wee ain, I served a wheel of D’Affinois cheese (a sweet, gooey brie) drizzled with white truffle honey and good old ginger snaps alongside. It was just gorgeous (and quickly consumed)!

The recipes are below but if you are wondering about the blinis, I just bought mine as they may be purchased easily enough already made--and check out black paddlefish caviar for a thrifty yet elegant solution to the more pricey stuff. As for the souffles, perhaps quotations should be attached as I improvised on tradition, but eggs briskly whisked with pepper, finely chopped sage and thyme will rise admirably once placed in a casserole dish and then baked in a more than moderately heated oven closely observed. Cautiously slice the expansion and then serve on your walnut toasts.

"27" Vegetable Salad With Jean-Georges Vongerichten
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living

This salad is a wonderful start to any party, dinner or otherwise and with or without all of the entire 27 vegetables readily serves a reasonable crowd--I've served it often and in return, it's served me well. The involvement is well worth it, and keep this platter of vegetables warm, finally flourished with the herb garnishes.

coarse salt
14 cups mixed baby vegetables
1 cup chopped fresh chives
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
1/4 cup water
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pinch cayenne pepper
10 medium chopped shiitake mushroom caps
ground black pepper to taste
2 cups grape tomatoes
1 1/2 cups mixed herbs and edible flowers
Bring two large pots of salted water to a boil. Prepare an ice-water bath; set aside. If using red beets, blanch in one pot, and transfer to water bath to prevent any further cooking. Remove from ice bath, and drain. Set aside. Discard blanching water as it will discolor any additional vegetables.
In the second pot, blanch the remaining vegetables separately, beginning with the lightest in color and proceeding to the darkest in color, until just tender. Transfer to ice bath. Remove, and drain. Set aside. In a blender, combine chives, grapeseed oil, and salt. Puree until smooth. Let rest until mixture has settled. Strain through a fine sieve, and set chive oil aside. In a small saucepan, bring 1/4 cup water and 4 tablespoons butter to a boil. Season with salt and cayenne. Divide remaining 2 tablespoons butter between two large skillets. Heat over medium heat until melted.
Divide mushrooms between skillets, and saute until tender. Season with salt. Pour half the butter-and-water mixture into each skillet.
Divide vegetables between skillets, and cook until just heated through. Season with salt and pepper.
Add tomatoes, and toss to combine.
Transfer vegetable mixture to a large platter. Top with herbs and flowers. Drizzle with chive oil and prepare to stun.

Edamame Mousse
A shout out to my friend Stacey who created a better recipe than I did. Slather your mousse on crustless white bread for terrific tea sandwiches!

3 cups edamame (Stacey buys this frozen and out of the shell, or else it is a major pain!)
½ cups butter
½ cup cream
½ cup truffle oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Onion sprouts or chopped chives

Boil thawed edamame until tender in salted water, about 10-12 minutes. Puree in food processor with rest of ingredients and season to taste. Serve room temp or slightly warmed sprinkled with onion sprouts or chopped chives.

Bloody Mary London Broil Shooters
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living
I took this idea and made individual servings, thinly slicing the meat on the bias and placing into egg cups! Rally 'round the recipe and the portions of meat depending on the number of your guests.

Serves 6
2 cups tomato juice
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons prepared commercial horseradish
3 tablespoons dry sherry
2 teaspoons crumbled dried marjoram
1 teaspoon crumbled dried basil
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3 1/2 pounds London broil, about 1 1/2 inches thick, trimmed
cooking spray
coarse salt

Stir together tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, sherry, marjoram, basil, and pepper in a small bowl. Place steak flat in a glass or ceramic dish. Spoon the tomato-juice mixture over the meat, spreading to cover. Turn the meat to coat the other side. Cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or set aside at room temperature for no longer than 30 minutes. Prepare a charcoal or gas grill. Lightly spray the grill rack with vegetable-oil cooking spray. The coals should be moderately hot to hot. Lift the meat from the marinade. Discard the marinade. Grill the steak for 8 minutes. Turn the steak, and grill for 7 to 10 minutes, longer for medium-rare. Let the steak rest at room temperature for about 5 minutes before slicing on the diagonal into thin strips. Salt to taste.

First published in part in Next magazine.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Next Magazine Review - Po

31 Cornelia St (btwn Bleecker/West 4th Sts)

It had been years since I’d been to Po—I believe Mario Batali was still at the helm then. His former partner, Steven Crane, now co-directs the honest, often soaring Italian fare along with Executive Chef Lee McGrath. After 18 years of being in business, the intimate results are still immensely satisfying.

Wine naturally began our progression. White Verdicchio di Matelica ($10/glass, $39/bottle) had a busy nose with a full palate of stone fruits, such as peach. The red Remole ($11/glass, $44/bottle) from Tuscany was a peppery blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet with a smooth finish.

White Bean Bruschetta
($2) as a starter was just a tease, with firm beans, balsamic, garlic, red chili flakes, and a burst of basil and rosemary amply spread across crostini. Tasty Po Cured Tuna ($13) was poached in olive oil and placed about a heap of frisee, radicchio, cannellini beans, raw artichoke slices, and chopped red onions with a wondrous drizzle of Spanish paprika oil and subtler parsley oil. Polpetta Di Carne ($12) a.k.a. meatballs were simply a-maz-ing! Were they pillows, I’d have rested my head and spent the night. Judiciously formed with perfectly moist ground lamb, beef and pork, they sat in a rich tomato sauce with simmered onions and basil that was just beyond.

The highlight of the dinner was White Bean Ravioli ($15), delivered in an envelope of sweet tomato pasta. The pockets filled with earthy beans in a tangy bath of balsamic brown butter were certainly good enough but when exquisitely paired with the ambient Nerello Mascalese ($10, glass/$39, bottle) red, redolent of black cherry, both wine and ravioli rose up together in sheer, lingering heaven.

Although the Porcini Crusted Cod ($22) featured fleshy, tender fish, alas the porcinis were burned—too disappointing! The boneless, pounded leg of juicy Guinea Hen ($20) having rested in a balsamic, mustard, black pepper and onion marinade, set us right again, served with fregola and sweet corn. Panna Cotta ($7) with sweetly tart amarena cherries and “Affogato” Coffee Gelato ($7), chilled cappuccino with chocolate caramel sauce, were both extraordinary.

What a pleasure to revisit Po!

First published in Next magazine.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Next Magazine Online Exclusive - Fall For Pancakes

This October, IHOP is celebrating the fall season by serving pumpkin pancakes! Lucky for us, there are several IHOPs in the Greater Metropolitan Area—three of them, in fact: one way uptown on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd., another in Brooklyn, and one more in Jackson Heights.

Now although the famous restaurant chain guards its gourd recipe closely, they did share a few general tips with Next magazine (which we’ve adapted) on how everyone can make their own perfectly good pumpkin pancakes—but first, what about actually the making the batter? Well, as Jo’s on the Lower East Side recently hosted their 1st Annual Labor Day Delicious Pancake Contest, we tapped them for their fabulous Ricotta Buttermilk Pancake recipe that we really flip for.

-Start with your favorite pancake batter recipe (see below) and add canned pumpkin and a few appropriate spices such as nutmeg and cinnamon into the proceedings.

-Don’t be afraid of a few lumps! And don’t overmix—small-ish lumps of flour make pancake stacks so magnificently fluffy.

-Use an evenly heated 350-degree frying pan or griddle as random hot or cold spots can affect cooking time.

-Do judge a pancake by its looks! When dropping the pancake batter, watch for bubbles to form and for the batter to have a dull appearance, about 2 ½ minutes. After flipping, cook approximately 2 minutes more.

Jo’s Delicious Ricotta Buttermilk Pancake Recipe

Yields about 14 4-oz pancakes

Wet Ingredients
6 cups buttermilk
4 cups ricotta cheese
8 tbsp light brown sugar
4 large beaten eggs
6 tbsp melted butter

Dry Ingredients
4 cups all-purpose flour
4 tbsp baking powder
4 tbsp baking soda
2 tsp salt

Cherry Maple Syrup
1 kilo bag of sour Morello cherries
10 oz grade a maple syrup
1 piece cinnamon
1 piece star anise

In a large bowl, mix wet ingredients; in a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and lightly stir until combined. Butter a large nonstick frying pan (or griddle). When well-heated, drop a ½ cup of batter at a time—watch for those bubbles to form and continue to cook as previously suggested. Do not overcrowd.

To make syrup, combine ingredients and reduce over low heat until thickened. Remove cinnamon and star anise.

Pour Jo’s Cherry Maple Syrup over your flapjack stack and top with whipped cream!

For more information or to find an exact IHOP location, please visit; Jo’s is located at 264 Elizabeth St, 212 966 9640,

First published for Next magazine.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Matsuri's Seven Deadly Sins Menu

Congratulations to Matsuri, celebrating its seventh anniversary! In honor of the occasion, the fish forward restaurant housed in The Maritime Hotel is plying patrons with a Seven Deadly Sins Tasting Menu for $77.77 all throughout October--and a fanciful flight of sake pairings to accompany the transgressions is also available for an additional $37. With chef extraordinaire Tadashi Ono at the helm, the real sin would be missing out on the festivities!

The Maritime Hotel is also running a fun Seven Deadly Sins hotel package for two for $495/night plus tax. Call 212-242-4300 to book this package, which a complimentary bottle of red wine upon arrival, the gluttonous seven-course tasting menu for two, accommodations in a Queen Superior Guest room and sloth-like 2 p.m. late checkout the following afternoon.

Here's a look at the Seven Deadly Sins menu with the restaurant's tempting comments in italics:

PRIDE This dish is portioned for one, no sharing allowed.

Sashimi selection of tuna, yellowtail and salmon

ENVY Don’t be jealous of your dining companion. You know what they say, “The hijiki is always greener on someone else’s plate.”

Green salad with watercress, hijiki and soy dressing

WRATH You may have a boiling hot temper, but can your palate handle this heat?

Red hot shrimp skewers with yuzu marinade

LUST Eat at your own risk. This dish is nothing short of a love potion.

Aphrodisiac hot pot features oysters, sea urchin and yamaimo

GLUTTONY For those with elastic waistbands, this decadent dish will hit the spot.

Duck breast roasted with wasabi sauce

SLOTH This slow-cooked dish is nothing to race through, so relax and take your time!

Beef short rib slow cooked in miso broth

GREED For those with expensive taste, this dessert is as rich as they come.

Rich hot chocolate cake and raspberry sorbet

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Remembrance of Repasts Past

I joyously recall the Thanksgiving weekend some twenty-odd years ago spent at Hotel de Nesle nestled in the fulsome bosom of Paris. I had never been out of the country before, much less engaged in such a reckless a time in France over such an American holiday. I actually had a rare, bloody steak on Thanksgiving and red wine--what a thrill for a New England boy to be in Paris! How my young heart pounded, having emerged from Le Metro to gaze upon the City of Light, the breath of the city filling my lungs. We pulled into Hotel de Nesle on a Friday afternoon off the boat from London and what a trip indeed! Redolent of hippy incense, our hotel seemed more of a moony halfway house for the misbegotten, but it was so utterly charming too, and I remember feeling at the time that I had walked into a sort of dreamy Klimt painting.

Before we made a brisk trek through the Louvre during the day on Saturday, and had Thanksgiving dinner that night, I embraced Le Petit Dejeuner Parfait on just such a simple morning. If the best things in life are free, or at least included in the number of Euros (francs at the time) spent at a hotel stay, so be it. I had the best breakfast of my life in Paris at the Hotel de Nesle--a steaming, hand-painted bowl of strong coffee with creamy milk tipped in anticipated the freshest, crispy French bread, served with strawberry preserves which I slathered with a rich bright yellow butter that rivaled the rising sun.

I was just beside myself as you may well imagine, et maintenant...ah, mon coeur se brise encore!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pork Chops, Blue Cheese and Butternut Squash Puree

A friend recently asked for a butternut squash soup recipe--I immediately thought of this butternut squash puree which is a perfect side to accompany Blue Cheese Vermouth Pork Chops courtesy of Saveur magazine. So it's not quite soup but I've made both these recipes for years and am happy to share them with you. Do enjoy! Wonderful for the fall!

Vermouth Pork Chops with Blue Cheese and Butternut Squash Puree
For this recipe always use the best-quality corn-fed pork available, counseled Alan Hooker, founder of the Ranch House Restaurant in Ojai Valley, California.

1 2-lb. butternut squash, peeled,
seeded, and cubed
1 2" piece fresh ginger, quartered
2 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. Herb Salt
2 tsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. sliced almonds

1 cup dry vermouth
1 3⁄4 cups heavy cream
3 oz. Danish blue cheese, crumbled
Freshly ground white pepper

8 8-oz. loin pork chops, 1" thick,
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1. For the purée: Put squash and ginger in a pot, cover with water, bring to a boil over medium heat, and cook until soft, 30–35 minutes. Remove and discard ginger. Drain squash and mash to a coarse purée. Stir in butter, herb salt, and brown sugar. Cover and keep warm.

2. For the sauce: Bring vermouth to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Boil until reduced by half, about 7 minutes. Add cream and return to a boil. Reduce sauce by one-third, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, whisk in cheese, and season with pepper. Cover and keep warm.

3. Place an oiled grill pan over medium-high heat. Brush chops with oil and season liberally with salt and pepper. Grill until just cooked through, about 8 minutes per side. To serve, divide sauce among four plates. Put chops on top of sauce. Serve with a dollop of squash on the side, sprinkled with almonds.

This article was first published in Saveur in Issue #26

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Perfect Picadillo!

Behold the simmering stew! Unlikely as it may sound, we are actually friends with our neighbors and the other evening they taught us how to make this picadillo! You begin by sauteeing half of a large onion in olive oil and adding two links of chopped chorizo sausage. Three pounds of ground beef substantiate the mix along with four chopped carrots and one cup of water. Put two chipotle peppers, four chopped tomatoes, 1/4 of an onion and 1/2 bouillon cube in a blender. Add this to the meat mixture with three peeled and chopped potatoes, salt and cumin to taste. Simmer for 45 minutes or so until liquid is absorbed, adjust seasonings and add more spicy chipotles if you, as some do, like it hot!

While the picadillo continued to simmer, we served glasses of Baby's sangria and gazpacho, with roasted corn, sizzled bacon, chopped onion and parsley as a garnish. So refreshing and absolutely wonderful to look upon.

Taking a cue from Herba Buena, an excellent restaurant here in the city, we made a Cuban Sandwich Pizza much as they do. We made our own dough found in the pages of Jim Lahey's My Bread and slathered it with a bechamel sauce, tinged with Roland's mustard.

Pickles, slices of ham, Swiss cheese and slivers of this gorgeous porchetta that Baby made were piled on top of our Cuban pizza.

When we were done, there wasn't a dry eye in the house and only a single slice left!

We continued on with a classic Tortilla Espanola, a snap to make in the set of frittata pans from Williams-Sonoma with six eggs, a handful of potatoes and an onion. A glimpse of Baby's index finger is seen here, stirring the concoction.

The hearty result! We spruced it up with some Sriracha sauce, another one of our favorite things.

At last we had our fantastic picadillo, with a side of rice, corn tortillas and lime wedges for good measure. Coronitas for all! And eclairs for dessert!

Soundtrack: Forever Tango; Mango Santamaria, Watermelon Man; Perez Prado, Besame Mucho; The Antonio Carlos Jobim Songbook; later, lots of 80's music