Thursday, January 28, 2010

"I do stones, I don't do bread!"

That's what the owner of the Graham Ave Monument shop told me when I walked in looking for a loaf of Eye-talian bread.
I have been to two too many funerals these past couple of weeks so it's morbidly appropriate that I am buying bread in a place that sells gravestones.
The owners cousin who lives in the other Brooklyn bakes it and he sells it to the happy old ladies of Williamsburg and to my friend Paul, who used the bread to make an excellent White Bean Kale Tuscan Bread Soup.
"Where did you get this bread, Paul?"
"Thd grave stone place."

"Don't Forget Morta Di Fame"

"And don’t forget Morta di Fame, which means dying of hunger, in case your Italian is rusty."

From an article called Pizza Bloggers: They're a saucy bunch on written by Peter J. Genovese.

I guess this is officially a pizza blog? Okay.

Thanks for alerting them to the blog, Paulie Gee!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Taste of Lima: Oraibi's Peruvian Creamy Spicy Pasta

I try to eat local, I try, but I can't resist buying berries in the middle of the winter, because in places like Chile, Peru, and Argentina, its the middle of summer, and berries are just so sweet on the other side of the world.
Don't tell Oraibi this. He is going to change the world one mouth and septic tank at a time. He is developing a sustainable community that will have an extremely low environmental impact. When visiting Maria in Florida, he was filling us all in on his Oraibiisms. These are his very convincing statistics he uses during his very passionate speeches. You can get him going on anything, he loves to argue, and right now his topic of choice is local sustainability. I think he might have convinced Maria and Lynda to actually start recycling and maybe even turning off the TV for a few hours while they are not home. And while shopping for the dinner, he gave the bag boy a 10 minute speech on why he shouldn't double bag. I think the kid got it.
Oraibi was on his way to Peru, so to make me even more jealous that he would be going from summer in Florida to summer in Lima, while I would be returning to winter in New York, he prepared a pasta dish he learned how to make while living there.
It was a fresh creamy pasta sauce made with feta cheese, jalapeno peppers, milk, onions, garlic and milk. These are not flavors that I am accustomed to, which is why I love having guest recipes on the blog. He made it seem so easy and I was wondering why before he even started he already had the pasta water boiling.
It was because you don't cook the sauce. Instead, you put all the ingredients into a blender then stir it into the hot pasta. It was really delicious and spicy, not so much from the peppers but from the raw onion. We topped it with buffalo sausage and parsley. Superb. It went really nice with a chardonnay and we served it alongside a watercress fennel salad. Maria hates watercress. Dessert (no pics): berries and fresh cream! And they weren't local.
Oraibi's Peruvian Creamy Spicy Pasta
8 oz. feta
1/2 C. fresh milk
1/4 large onion
2-3 garlic cloves
1/2 cooked potato
5-6 jalapeno peppers, seeds and veins removed
olive oil
grated parmesan cheese (optional)
parsley for garnish

Start with the milk, feta and oil in the blender. Add the rest of the ingredients slowly, tasting as you go along. Pay attention to your onion. This can overpower the sauce. You will be left with a thick and creamy light green sauce that should have a kick from the onions but a nice flavor of fresh pepper. If you need to thicken, add more potato, if you need to thin it, add more milk. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve over rotini pasta and garnish with fresh parsley.

Monday, January 25, 2010


I love visiting my best friend Maria down in Florida. Especially in January! Its the perfect relaxing mini-vacation. She has a gigantic kitchen where we cook together like two old ladies, then eat and hang and chat and drink wine the entire time. There's no, "I have to go here and have to see this." Its just lets do nothing and be together. I cannot complain.
Going to the store with Maria is interesting for a few reasons. First, driving to the store with Maria, who is a typical high strung NY driver in Florida where there is an imposed speed minimum because of the old farts on the road, is always where I start keeping Maria's running, "I hate list." After a while, she would just name something and say, "you can put that on the list." A few key items: cilantro, old people, watercress, children, raw onions, walnuts, people she doesn't know touching her. It goes on and on.

Once we get in the store, food shopping becomes a demonstration in extreme brand loyalty. We went to this fancy Whole Foods type supermarket with all these organic specialty foods, but Maria bee-lined it for all her childhood favorites. It was hilarious.

For dinner she taught me how to make her delicious chicken with vinegar, lot of garlic, roasted potatoes and peas. It cooked for three hours and was crispy and just fell off the bone. She couldn't remember the name so I am calling it Maria's Roasted Vinegar Chicken. We ate it with a salad and some stuffed mushrooms. Maria is an awesome cook.

She is also a character. Her famous one-liner from dinner was, "you know those Italians, who aren't really Italian. You know what I mean, they go to the Olive Garden."

For dessert we made a birthday cake for Christine. We used Maria's Nanny's white cake recipe.

It was so simple and good. A perfect time tested recipe I will use again and again. I like recipes where you just thrown everything into the bowl, mix it and bake it. Nice and simple. It was a double decker and we iced it, inside and out, with a crazy too sweet vanilla buttercream icing I found online. It was so sweet it hurt our teeth. We adorned it with this pretty flower from a tropical tree outside. Florida is awesome.

Vincent loved it. It was midnight and he was propping himself up on one arm, barely awake trying to eat his cake. So adorable!

With the same recipe we also made two perfect crumb cakes. It was my first homemade crumb cake. We (rather I) ate it all weekend and there was enough to take home. Thanks for a wonderful mini-vacation, Maria!
Stay tuned for more recipes from this trip...

Maria's Vinegar Roasted Chicken
Bone-in Chicken
Garlic Powder
Red Wine Vinegar
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper
Red Potatoes, cubed

In a big roasting pan, season chicken and potatoes with salt and pepper and lot of garlic powder. Poor red wine vinegar and olive oil over everthing. Bake for 2-3 hours at 350 degrees. Baste often. About 20 minutes before you take it out of the oven, add the peas.

Maria's Nanny's White Cake Recipe
2 C. Flour
1 C. Sugar
1 stick Butter
3/4 C. Milk
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp baking powder

Mix everything in a bowl and bake 20-30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Crumb Cake Topping
2 C. Flour
1/2 C. white sugar
1/2 C. brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon to taste
1 stick of butter

Mix and crumble onto cake before baking.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


When I was a kid I thought hunters were just a big bunch of mean a-holes. Since I've grown up my ideas have changed radically. I think its very respectable and extremely healthy to hunt for your own food. Animals foraging for food in natural forests are eating nutritionally dense and varied foods and when we eat them we are eating what they ate. When we eat a cow that grew up eating genetically modified corn feed, we are eating just that. And from a quality of life standpoint, I'd rather be the deer in the forest than a cow on a factory farm. For the record, I think trophy hunters are still total a-holes.
So when Clarina, my bestest friend, told me her dad Joe took down a deer and had a freezer filled with venison, I did what all shameless best friends do and invited myself and my main squeeze over for dinner. Apparently, Joe didn't butcher the legs, so they had two gigantic and unmanageable deer legs in the freezer, plus some chopped meat. What does a 100% Irish chick do with a bunch of chopped meat? Shepherd's Pie of course!
Claire ran me through the process. Brown the meat with butter, onions, salt and pepper, onion soup mix and worcestershire sauce and some peas and carrots, put it in a baking dish topped with homemade mashed potatoes and bake it at 350 for a half an hour covered. Then put it under the broiler for the mashed potatoes to brown. Simple and delicious.
We all had our plates in front of us and wanted to dig in, but we were waiting politely for Claire's dad, the man of the house, to give us the go ahead. He looked at everyone and said in his Irish accent, "Go!" It was a race to see who could shovel their shepherd's pie in the fastest. It was so good. The venison had such a great flavor and was very moist. It kind of tasted like lamb to me, which is fantastic. I could have eaten three pieces easily.
For dessert I made a poached pear with creme anglaise and a port wine reduction. It was fancy looking but the pear could have poached a little longer. We had to eat it with a knife and fork. I was of proud the cream sauce because I had to temper the eggs and ran the risk of cooking them, but it turned out right and was tasty. The pear was nice and fresh after a stick to your ribs Irish meal. And Claire promised me when they butcher one of those legs in the freezer, we will have another feast!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Last night Rocco made Pasta with Potatoes. You heard correctly. And of course, the table is not set unless there is a loaf of bread ready to be tackled. Would you like some carbs with your carbs? Oh and here is a side of carbs. If there is an ultimate comfort food in my family, its this dish. Sicilians are known to be a guilt ridden people, but there is no guilt when it comes to consuming demented amount of starch. Oh its just so so good.
My cousin Pino, Rocco's first cousin, has been through a lot these past few weeks with his mom, Aunt Grace, dying in the hospital. I really admire how supportive Rocco has been of Pino who is more like a brother to him.
Yesterday Aunt Grace passed and our family sadly mourns her loss. She was an awesome beautiful and funny woman, and a great cook. It is impossible to alleviate the pain a person experiences when he loses his mother, but there are little things we can do that can comfort him along the way, things he needs to do, that he doesn't have the strength to do for himself, like feed him. Rocco is good at that. He has been cooking for Pino and his wife Roseanne almost every night since Aunt Grace went into the hospital, without any question. He mumbles in half Sicilian, "Pino, come over for dinner." And its Rocco's way of showing love and sympathy when Pino needs it most.
The sauce itself is really simple, onions, potatoes, bay leaf tomatoes, Sicilian grated cheese, which is like parmesan and fresh basil. Its stewed in a heavy pot for about a half an hour. So easy. And what's really fun about this mouthwatering pasta dish, aside from the amazing experience your brain has for getting all that starch injected into it, is that Rocco uses all the leftover pasta he has in the cabinets, all the different shapes and sizes, so the textural experience of all the pasta that cook at different times is really nice.
And if all those potatoes aren't enough, Rocco made pizzaiola. This is an Italian meat and potatoes dish with peas. More potatoes! I love the oregano flavor of this dish but I really do not like the meat. I just can't get into it. But more potatoes and starchy peas, fork them right over.
This meal was not about food. It was really about love. And for me it was about learning from Rocco how to love someone when they need you and all you can do is just be there and do whatever you can do to make them feel a little better when they are in a sad place. Like all of our meals, there was laughing and yelling, and even some crying and hugs, and old family stories that leave us hysterical. And we all agreed that in honor of Aunt Grace we are going to make her infamous Calamari Stew. Well, Rocco is going to make it.

4-5 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 bay leaves
1/2 can or less tomato puree
vegetable broth or water with bouillon, enough to cover
fresh basil
grated cheese
mix of different pastas

In a heavy pot, sautee onion and garlic in olive oil. Add bay leaf and tomato puree. Season with salt and pepper. After a few minutes add potatoes and enough vegetable broth to cover. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20-30 minutes until potatoes are tender but not falling apart. Add vegetable broth as need so potatoes don't stick. At the end add some fresh basil and some grated cheese. Serve with a mix of different pastas.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


As a kid I used to eat dumplings at Pastor Penny's house. The filling was simple: ground beef or pork seasoned with ground pepper. Sometimes some finely chopped cabbage. Now that I know how to make them myself I have been experimenting with different fillings. For this dumpling session I made a few different fillings: shiitake mushroom, carrot ginger, shrimp and a dessert apple pie dumpling. The rule is if you can stuff it in there, its a dumpling, no matter how untraditional.

The procedure is the same for all the dumplings. Set your wonton wrapper on a plate with some cold water nearby. Fill the center of the dumpling with about a teaspoon of filling. Wet the edge of the dumpling with the water. Fold it over and pinch it shut. Easy.
This is a great to do as a team. One wraps, the other fries.
Use canola for frying and don't crowd the frying pan. Fry until golden on each side but not overdone. These dumplings became more like wontons but they were still delicious.
As they are done frying set them on some paper towels.
Once everything has fried, add them all back into the pan, add a tablespoon of water, put a lid on it and let them steam to ensure the filling has cooked through. For the vegetable dumplings this step may not be necessary but I would not skip with meat or fish filling.
Enjoy your dumplings with a gyoza dipping sauce or just some plain soy sauce. Scallions make a nice fresh crunchy topping.

Shiitake Dumpling Filling
1 box of Shiitake Mushrooms, chopped
1 Scallion, chopped
1 TBSP fresh grated ginger

Sautee everything in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Cool slightly before filling the wonton wrappers. Follow directions above to cook dumplings.
Carrot Ginger Dumplings Filling
3-4 carrots, grated
1 TBSP grated ginger
1 scallion, chopped
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Sautee everything in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Cool slightly before filling the wonton wrappers. Follow directions above to cook dumplings.

Shrimp Dumpling Filling
1/2-1 lb shrimp, clean deveined and chopped finely
1 TBSP soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
2 TBSP chopped scallions
cayenne pepper

Mix ingredients. Season with salt and pepper. Fill wonton wrappers. Follow directions above to cook dumplings.

Apple Pie Dumpling Filling
1 apple, chopped finely
1 TBSP fresh grated ginger
2 TBSP brown sugar

Sautee all the ingredients in a pan. Cool slightly before filling wonton wrappers. Follow directions above to cook dumplings.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Pasta With Fava Beans

Pasta with Fava Beans is Rocco's favorite pasta. Mine, too. Fava beans, also known as broad beans, can be found fresh for a short period of time in the summer months, when they are green. Other times, they are sold dried and must be soaked like other beans. This simple and hardy pasta dish really warms you up on a cold winter day. This is true Sicilian comfort food.
Rocco arrived just as I was about to add the fettucini to the boiling water. From watching him make this my whole life, I remember that he always breaks up the pasta into smaller pieces because of the somewhat soupy nature of this sauce after the fava beans break down to a chunky paste. He was not happy with the size I broke up the pasta, too big. And he seemed worried about the amount of pasta I was making for two people, a half of a pound was not enough in his estimation. Upon serving Rocco was also disappointed because I did not serve him his usual mound of pasta in a giant serving bowl like he is used to.
"Dad, you can't eat so much pasta, the doctor said so."
"Then I'll just go find another doctor."
Another illustration of the Sicilian way. There were obviously seconds for both of us. We really enjoyed our father daughter lunch, which is always followed with a nice shot of espresso, which Rocco said I made too, soupy. Remember, when a Sicilian is complaining, he is happy.
Pasta With Dried Fava Beans
1/2 lb or just over 1 C. of dried fava beans soaked overnight
3 cloves of garlic chopped finely
hot red chili flakes (pepperoncino) to taste
2 bay leaves
extra virgin olive oil

1/2 -1 lb fettucini, depending on how many bowls of pasta

In a heavy duty pot, briefly sautee the garlic and bay leaf with the pepperoncino in olive oil. Add the beans and sautee for a few more minutes. Add about 1-2 C. of water, enough to cover the beans. Add a little salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer covered for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. The beans will break down to a soft chunky paste. Season with more salt and pepper. Add sauce to pasta and top with a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil. Makes enough sauce for 4 bowls of pasta. Adjust amount of pasta accordingly.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

WINTER GASTRONOMY SWAP - I ended up being "the douche"

So the swap happened. The Gregarious Homebody, the swap host, warned us: "do not be a douches." Meaning: don't say you are going to participate then leave your swap partner high and dry. I really wasn't planning on it. I started gathering local goodies from the Greenpoint Food Market, then a few things around town, and lastly planned on some homemade goods. I emailed my partner my address and asked for hers. I thought I was following the rules. Then about a week before the deadline, I was accused of being "the douche." I had missed a follow-up email from my partner, she freaked and thought I had bailed. In the end, we kissed and made up and in the holiday spirit we moved forward with the swap. My douche badge was revoked.
I have to admit it was difficult to figure out what to get, especially in NY for $25. I wanted to give some variety, but all of my ideas sent me over the limit. Like the $10 chocolate bar from Pierre Marcolini. My partner also expressed her love of the Snoopy character and her extensive collection. I love Snoopy but I hate collections so I figured I'd do her a favor and not add to it. Sorry, if you're disappointed, but its for your own good.
In the end I am happy with my picks and what I made. And what really brought it all together was the wrapping. Some brown paper bags, tissue paper, ribbon, and decimating the Sunday NY Times for cut-out phrases and cute graphics, and I am very proud of my wrapping job.
What I gave:
FIKA Chocolate Covered Hazlenuts
Chocolate Almond Toffee from Bean and Apple from GFM
Quinoa Bark from Keen-wah: a quinoa company from GFM
Bread and Butter Chocolate Bar
Homemade Spiced Candied Pecans
Homemade Ginger Molasses Cookies
Homemade Cherry Brandy Holiday Cake from GFM

Stay tuned for what I got...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


When I was invited to Paulie Gee's for a special pizza tasting, I offered to bring dessert. I have a few go-to crowd pleasers, like the Almond Olive Oil Cake, but I get bored with the same old cakes. Whenever I try a new recipe out on my family I always say, "I hope its good, if not they can just suck it!" But its not a good idea to try out new recipes on non-family people because of inevitable cake anxiety. So I freaked when I made this Chocolate Almond Torte to bring over to Paulie Gee's house.
I chose this particular cake because its flourless and we were going to be eating a lot of dough during the pizza tasting. The cake requires 7 egg whites, to be whipped until they have soft peaks. That right there can cause major cake upset but everything was fine until I realized I didn't add salt to the cake. Crap! So I just added sea salt to the top. Should be fine right? I couldn't be sure unless I tasted it. It was delicious and moist. But I couldn't bring a cut cake to the party. So I had to make another cake. This time I decided to use only 5 eggs, because they were XL not L like the recipe called for. The peaks didn't quite get there because I got a little yoke into the mix. Oh no! But I did add the salt. After all that I think the first one turned out much moister and better, and I really like the sea salt on top, but the one I brought was still pretty good. Now that Mommy gave me a new Food Processor for Christmas I will be making this torte again. Its so chocolatey and divine. And I love that its just chocolate, almonds, sugar and egg whites.
That left me with 12 egg yokes. Pound Cake! This recipe turned out amazingly. I ate one and froze one. This recipe is perfect. Even the defrosted pound cake was delicious.

*My only change would be to add sea salt to the top of the torte instead of in the batter.

1 cup (5 ounces) unsalted, unblanched whole almonds.
7 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate, broken into big pieces (no need to chop)
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
7 large egg whites (about one cup), room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a nine-inch springform cake pan.

Combine the almonds, chocolate, ½ cup of sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse until the almonds and chocolate are very finely chopped but not completely pulverized. Set aside.

Beat egg whites with remaining ¼ cup sugar until stiff peaks form when the beaters are lifted.

Gently fold one third of the nut mixture into the egg whites until just incorporated. Repeat with another third of the nut mixture, then once more with the last third.

Scrape batter into prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, or with just a little melted chocolate, about 30-35 minutes.

Cool cake completely and remove from pan. Cover or wrap tightly, and store for up to 3 days at room temperature. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Orange Pound Cake Adapted Diana Rattray's Lemon Pound Cake

6 TBSP butter
2/3 C. sugar
4 egg yolks
1 1/4 C. cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/3 C. soy milk
1 TBSP grated orange zest
1 TBSP orange juice1/2 tsp vanilla etxract
1 TBSP cointreau or other orange liquor

Preheat oven to 35 degree and grease a loaf pan.

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter with sugar until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks until light and fluffy then blend thoroughly into creamed mixture.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually add flour mixture to the cream mixture, alternating with the milk. Beat well.

Blend in the orange zest and juice and extracts. Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake until a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean and the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan, about 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in pan on rack for about 45 minutes; remove from pan and cool thoroughly.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Traveling is rough on the digestive system. Airplane food is a bad way to start off any trip. And on a road trip options are slim short of fast food. Even if I am eating out at great restaurants for most of a vacation, there is nothing I miss more (besides my kitty cats) than home cooked meals.
When I was in college Mary and I visited our friend Alia who was studying abroad in Florence. I am not going to bash Tuscan cuisine; all I have are good food memories from that portion of our trip, especially the lardo smeared on crunchy bread. When we headed to Rome we shamefully dined on McDonald's hash browns every morning. (Italians don't do breakfast so we weren't missing anything.)
The last leg of our journey was to Genoa, to visit some of my family. And thats where I had one of my most memorable meals that I have recreated countless times since that visit.
My Aunt Emma besides being one of the most beautiful women I know, is one of the most nurturing and caring individuals I have ever met. During summers spent in Sicily, just Rocco and I, Emma treated me like her own. Rocco would stay in campagna, the country, and I would stay in town with Emma and her family and she gave me all the love and affection and food I needed to battle the weary homesickness I endure whenever I go away, but especially as a very young girl who was away from her mother. So after not seeing Emma in over 10 years, nothing changed. She was her same lovely fun self and she prepared for us this unbelievable delicious Pasta in Creamy Broccoli Sauce that made me feel right at home again. I remember she used Gemelli, the little twisted pasta for this sauce. Mouth shovels ready? Go!
Emma's Creamy Pasta with Broccoli
1 head of broccoli, trimmed of stalks, cut into small crowns and steamed (don't overcook)
1 shallot or 1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
Peperoncino to taste
1 C. vegetable broth
1/2 C. milk or heavy cream
1/2 C. parmesan or pecorino romano cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/2 lb. gemelli pasta

Sautee shallots and garlic with peperoncino in olive oil. Add the brocolli and sautee for a few minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the vegetable broth. Reduce. Add the milk. Reduce until the sauce is a nice creamy thickness and the broccoli is broken down completely. Turn the heat off and mix in the parmesan cheese. Serve over gemelli pasta.

Monday, January 11, 2010


When I visited my cousin Sally she prepared delicious homemade veggie burgers. I was inspired. Since then I have been trying to come up with a good recipe. She gave me some helpful pointers and after a few trials I came up with this recipe that formed really tasty and nicely held together burgers and it was a great excuse to use my new food processor. Since I was using black beans I wanted them to have a latin flavor so I used cumin, cayenne, paprika, fresh cilantro and roasted peppers. I used barley because its very glutenous and helped the patties stick together, but brown rice would do fine as well. And I just love mushrooms and thought the celery and carrots would pack the burgers with nutrients. Markus' roasted garlic mayonnaise was the perfect topping. And these babies are great to freeze and a perfect lunchy food!

Barley Black Bean Veggie Burgers
1 C. dry black beans, soaked for 8 hours then boiled for 3o minutes or 2 C. canned black beans
3/4 C. uncooked barley
2 roasted peppers (red or green), seeded and peeled
1 package of mushrooms
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1.5 onions, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 eggs (optional)
Cayenne Pepper
Soy Sauce
1/2 C. fresh cilantro leaves

Presoak and cook the black beans. Set aside.

Prepare barley. Combine 3/4 C. uncooked barley with 1.5 C water in a rice cooker or on stove top with salt pepper and olive oil. Set aside.

Under broiler carefully roast 2 peppers until skins are black. Cool, peel and remove seeds then roughly chop. Set aside.

Clean and stem 1 package of mushrooms and sautee in olive and 1/2 onion until soft. Season with salt and pepper at the end. Set aside.

In a large skillet sautee celery, carrots, onions and garlic with turmeric, paprika, cayenne pepper and salt and pepper. Add the mushrooms, roasted peppers, barley and beans. Sautee until all flavors are combined. Turn off heat and add cilantro. Add some soy sauce to taste.
Let mixture cool slightly then pulse in a food processor. Do not pulverize. Transfer to a bowl and mix eggs into mixture. (optional)

Heat oil for frying. Form patties and fry until golden on each side. Serve with salad and roasted garlic mayonnaise.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Move Over Rover: 2009 Best of List - Revised

Just a quick note: Van Leeuwen got booted off the 2009 Best Of List because I remembered how much juicy sausage and brisket I enjoyed at Fette Sau this past year. Sowwy ice cream, I like you but I love BBQ better. And Fette Sau serves Manhattan Special, my favorite local coffee soda beverage. The sides there still leave much to be desired but who needs to fill up on sides when there is all that juicy meat to enjoy!

Saturday, January 9, 2010


Everyone at work always oohs and aahs at the "gourmet" lunches I bring in. Usually its some simple homemade vegetable soup I grabbed out of the freezer. Soups are the easiest to make and freeze so well for meals on the go. And, they are really hard to screw up. While I usually freestyle all my soups, these are the basic steps I always follow when I make a vegetable soup:

1. Extra virgin olive oil goes in a heavy pot with some garlic and onions or shallots.
2. Consider your spices: red pepper flakes, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, curry, bay leaf, turmeric, ginger zest, rosemary, nutmeg - all of those ingredients should go into the onion garlic mix. This will be the base flavor of your soup. Sautee until soft.
3. Now your main vegetable goes in, squash, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, leeks, etc. Chop them up for quick cooking and season with salt and pepper. Sautee a few minutes.
4. Potato time. Skin on or off. Dice them small and let them sautee for a few minutes. They will lend a creamy thickness to your soup.
5. Vegetable Broth, enough to cover the veggies. Bring this to a boil then simmer until everything is soft. Usually 20 minutes is perfect. You can also use a bouillon with enough water to cover, or even concentrated broth packets.
6. Time to puree. A hand blender works best. If you use a blender be very careful.
7. Going creamy? This is the time to add the milk or cream. Coconut Milk is a great alternative to cream and amazing with curried soups. Continue to simmer on low until you have the desired consistency.
8. Salt and pepper to taste. Always taste your soup. Its easy to make bland soups.
9. Add butter to punch up the richness right at the end or some type of fancy oil, like truffle oil or hot chili oil.
10. Garnish with parsley or cilantro, croutons or toasted nuts, sour cream, yogurt.


1/2 onion
1 clove of garlic
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 potatoes
cayenne pepper to taste
grated nutmeg
1 TBSP fresh grated ginger
1 Bay Leaf
2 Cups of vegetable broth, or enough to cover
Toasted Pecans for garnish

Follow above directions.

Friday, January 8, 2010


Vegetarians are funny. Most vegetarians I know aren't vegetarians because they don't like meat, its usually for more ethical, environmental or health reasons. They agree that meat is tasty. Because of this often times vegetarianitis is a temporary condition. How many of you, raise your hands, at one point have been vegetarians? This year alone I was a vegetarian probably eight times. My intentions are good, but bacon usually evilly lures me back to the dark side.
For some people being a vegetarian is like being in the closet. The meat is out there, and you wants it. So instead of giving up the act, you takes secretive nibbles here and there, hoping no one will find out, but everybody knows you're a carnivore at heart. Did you see how he is walking? He is totally a vegetarian.
When my "vegetarian friend," and I went to the New Amsterdam Market, the local meat offered was unbelievable. I thought I was making a joke when I asked, "Let's make duck for dinner?" His eyes widened. "Duck it is!" Then he went crazy and bought a couple of dozen mussels! Duck and mussels: maybe a weird combination, but when there is good meat for the taking you have to get it while the getting is good.
I had never made either duck or mussels before. Why? Why? Why? So easy and so delicious!
The duck man recommended a duck confit. Thats made with a duck leg that is salt cured overnight then cooked in a small pot at 250 for 3 hours in its own fat. We didn't have time to cure it, so I rubbed it down with sea salt and seasoned it with pepper, olive oil and rosemary. Thats it.
While that was cooking we worked on the mussels. After a quick rinse they were ready to go, no beards to scrub off. We sauteed shallots in olive oil, added some white wine and water, then the mussels to steam for five minutes. We topped them with fresh parsley and served them with Italian Bread and a side of melted butter (which was in my opinion unnecessary but its butter, so its good.) Meat appetizer out of the way. But this "vegetarian" was not done.
After 3 hours that duck was falling off the bone and my vegetarian friend was drooling over the exquisite aroma in the air. We ate the Duck Confit with Sauteed Bok Choy and Broccoli Rabe over Carrot Linguini.
Next time we agreed: two duck legs or maybe an entire duck. It was one of the most delicious meats I have ever prepared. And so easy. You just let the duck fat do all the work for you.
And what was also lovely is that I was left with a vat of duck fat that I can use for other things like muffins or frittatas or braising greens. Ducks go a long way. And they are a great way to lure a vegetarian over to the dark side.
I know I am a meanie but to be fair, this local "good meat less" lifestyle, which I 100% support and try to live by myself, makes a lot of healthy sense. Good quality, locally and healthily raised , grass fed and unprocessed or wild meat eaten seldom and never any poor quality, ammonia treated, inhumane factory raised meat EVER! If you want to find "local good meat" in your area visit, Eat Wild.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

CROSNES: rare tubers and other fun Farmer's Market finds

Whenever I see a weird veggie at the Farmer's Market I have to try it. I am now hooked on sunchokes or jerusalem artichokes and can only find them there. If you just roast them with salt and pepper and olive oil in their skin at 450 degrees they melt like butter inside and are really delicious. Although my favorite way to prepare sunchokes is to make Sunchoke Bruschetta.
On my weekly search for sunchokes I saw a bin of Crosnes. The sign reads: "Crosnes (crow'nz) A rare tuber often grown in France. Radish-like crunch. In the mint family. Water chestnut flavor. Not a potato. Similar to jicama. $16/lb. Sautee quickly in butter. Good raw in salads."
I sauteed them in olive oil with some rosemary. They were good. They were a mix between a radish in crunchy texture and potatoes in flavor. Its not a potato!
I also saw these strange alien green balls called Osage Orange that look like a decoration from Pier 1. They are roach repellents. I don't have roaches, (thank god!) so I didn't buy any. There are no roaches in Queens.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


After our "Can't Say No Country Tasting Menu," AKA "Butterfest," I solemnly swore that I would avoid butter on our New Year's Weekend Menu. While packing the groceries I took some gorgeous shrimp out of the freezer to make a fast hot chili tomato sauce for pasta with shrimp for New Year's Eve dinner. Things didn't go down how I had planned.
He took a look at those shrimp and after a call to his mom in Florida, Markus was on his way to buttering up our dinner with her traditional New Year's Eve special shrimp dish. I saw him eyeing the butter in the fridge.
"At least half a stick..."
The last time we were up we left poor Rocco with a measly pat of butter, which Charlie the dog ate off the table and Rocco had "no choice" but to spread olive oil on his scone. I was fearing the same fate after this weekend.
"Let's do this!" High five to butter.
Thats a whole lot of butter with a whole lot of garlic. Add the shrimp and broil for 5 minutes.
Look how good those little suckers look! And they tasted even better over some spaghetti with a side of broccoli rabe.
Move over Rachel Ray. This was a 10 minute meal. Plenty of time to watch the ball drop.
For brunch on New Year's day we made Latkes with runny farm eggs. They were so oniony and fried to perfection and a great sopping device for over easy yokes.
We also made another family recipe, Markus' Mom's Stuffed Mushrooms. Boy, were these special. We ate them with a side of roasted carrots and fennel. Yes, there were butter in these Stuffed Mushrooms. I couldn't escape the butter no matter how hard I tried. (Note: I didn't try very hard.)
As the days grew colder, we needed to warm things up. I stole this awesome party idea from Melissa. Its zero degrees outside so have a beach party inside! We made Beer Battered Fish Tacos with some Alaskan halibut and Tim's Special Margaritas! Pardon the wine glass; it is salt rimmed.
The special creamy spicy sauce is key on proper fish tacos. I didn't have chipotle peppers so I roasted a red pepper and added plenty of cayenne. We also topped them with homemade salsa, fresh guacamole and cilantro. I was craving fish tacos and these totally hit the spot. I will be making these again soon. Next time I will make my own corn tortillas from scratch.

Happy eating in 2010! And lay off the butter... (Yeah right!)

New Year's Eve Buttery Garlic Shrimp

2 dozen medium shrimp, clean and deveined
Half stick of butter, at least
2 cloves of garlic chopped finely
1/4 C. chopped fresh parsley

Add all ingredients to a baking dish and broil for 5 min. Do not overcook the shrimp!
Serve over pasta.

Mama Koelbl's Shrooms

1 large basket of mushrooms (or 2 small)

1 1/3 cup Italian style breadcrumbs

½ onion chopped very finely

3 big cloves garlic chopped finely

½ cup parmesan cheese

½ cup oil

½ cup water

½ stick butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Clean mushrooms with a damp paper towel. Remove stems and set aside.

Cook stems 4-5 min in water. (We sauteed them in olive oil.) Drain and cool.

Chop up stems and mix with the rest of the ingredients (except butter) and add water as needed. Shouldn’t be too wet or dry. Let stand 10 min.

Butter a baking dish and cut up the rest of the stick into pats for the bottom of the dish.

Stuff mushrooms liberally (you will have plenty of stuffing). Line mushrooms in buttered baking dish.

Baking time varies. Could be 25 min, depending on oven. You want the mix to have a nice crust on top and the mushrooms dark brown.

Its Getting Cold Outside Fish Tacos, adapted from Baja Fried Fish Tacos

1 Can Beer
1 C. of flour
Salt and pepper
2lbs of halibut or other white flakey fish, cut into strips
Cayenne to taste
Paprika to taste
Special Creamy Sauce (recipe to follow)
Corn tortillas
Homemade Salsa
Homemade Guacamole

Combine beer, flour, salt and pepper in a bowl. Season fish with salt and pepper, cayenne and paprika. Coat fish in beer batter and fry in vegetable oil until golden.

Serve on corn tortilla with salsa, guacamole, special creamy sauce and cilantro.

Special Creamy Fish Taco Sauce adapted from Chipotle Tartar Sauce

1 Red Pepper Roasted, peeled and deseeded
1/4 C. onion relish
1 C. mayonnaise
Cayenne pepper
Salt and Pepper

Combine in a food processor. Season to a taste.