Eating Well in Asheville

Photo credit: Michael Whiteman

Photo credit: Michael Whiteman

Asheville is a lovely town in North Carolina where hipsters meet farmers, artists meet artisans, street food meets street people, and where adventurous restaurants lure masses of hungry tourists. With an influx of Floridians escaping the heat and New Yorkers escaping the cold, it feels less “southern” and more small-scale cosmopolitan.

On business a few weeks back, I took in both its thriving arts scene and its far-reaching gastronomic offerings. I say far-reaching because (for example) you can queue for a biscuit as big as your fist at Biscuit Head, filled with regionally appropriate salty country ham buffered by a fried green tomato, some cheese, a runny egg and one of seven gravies. But this is no sloucher place — on the menu are: sriracha slaw, smoked chevre grits, kale salad, seitan sausage, brie, and smoked tomato hollandaise. There’s a stupendous marmalade bar with at least a dozen varieties of freshly-made jams to pile onto your still-warm biscuit.

At the other end of the gastro-spectrum is Curate, an always-crowded tapas restaurant run by (now famous) chef Katie Button who rose to stardom after working under José Andrés and Ferran Adrià. You’ll find a deep list of authentically Spanish dishes and a curated assemblage of Spanish sherries and wines. Don’t miss warm octopus with Spanish paprika and silken Yukon gold puree; spicy chorizo wrapped in a crisp potato chip; Moorish-spiced lamb skewer; patatas bravas (a must-have) and Spanish tortilla (a classic potato-and-onion omelet). Curate has an open kitchen with a bar-counter where you can watch a dynamo of cooks turning out small plates and excellent cocktails.

White Duck Taco’s food is equally worldly. Non-traditional fillings include Bangkok shrimp, jerk chicken, Korean bulgogi, duck with mole and banh mi tofu. They’re cheap so order lots for lunch, then walk off your meal by exploring numerous nearby galleries and workshops in the River Arts District. There’s also a branch downtown.

Not easy to find, but so worthwhile is The Bull and Beggar, which abuts the yellow-ish, hipster-ish, biker-ish Wedge Brewery, with an outdoor cinema and food trucks serving creative snacks to the assembled thirsty. The menu at rustic Bull and Beggar looks “frenchified” with terrines, rillettes and shellfish platters, but it is a rock-solid restaurant run by an extraordinarily talented chef. You’ll want one of everything, but we reveled in chef Matt Dawes’ fatted, truffled duck liver parfait; charred octopus with a memorable romesco sauce; seared broccolini with chili and anchovy; beets with fromage blanc and cumin; and roast baby chicken with wild mushrooms, red currants, game chips, upland cress and liver toast. Quirky, wonderful wine list.

Formerly chef at much-lauded Blackberry Farm in Tennessee, where he re-invented Southern cookery, John Fleer now runs Rhubarb in Asheville. Rhubarb specializes in boldly flavored dishes that range across the globe. Roasted oysters with country ham and greens, Mongolian lamb ribs with collard green kimchee, rhubarb glazed duck confit with sweet potatoes Anna and shaved asparagus, and IPA-marinated cauliflower steak with flageolet cassoulet and arugula pesto (Whew! The ingredients just keep coming). Well organized wine list that’s easy on the wallet.

The Bull and Beggar, Rhubarb and many others in town get their vegetables and greens from Evan Chender’s Culinary Gardener, which I wrote about two weeks ago.

Barbecue addicts can’t do better than 12 Bones, on the edge of the arts district. A big smoker out back slowly transforms all manner of protein into redolent and succulent barbecue sandwiches or platters. A go-to sandwich is Hogzilla, a layering of sugar bacon, bratwurst, pulled pork and pepper jack cheese. Although I can’t quite wrap my mind around the concept, blueberry-chipotle is their most ordered sauce.

Here’s how to start a perfect evening: Head over to Battery Park Book Exchange in the Grove Arcade. This quirky used-book store contains a lovely champagne bar with a large by-the-glass selection and comfy places to sit, sip and snack.

Here’s how to end a perfect evening: Climb the stairs to Nightbell, a restaurant-lounge run by Katie Button. Signature cocktails are perfect and desserts are first-rate.

And here’s how trendy Asheville is: The menu at Table includes barbecued fish collars, asparagus chawanmushi, and striped bass with nasturtium butter. All Souls Pizza mills it own flour and offers hand-cut rye noodles with fermented turnips and charred spring onions, and smoked sardines with salsa verde. Curate’s menu tells you which dishes are vegan or gluten- lactose- and tree-nut free. At the hot Mexican restaurant Limones, your “Mayan margarita” glass is crusted with chapulin salt, “chapulin” made of dried, ground crickets. Down at a nearby farmers market, Cricket Girl sells cricket-based protein bars and is aiming for veggie packed smoothies thickened with her insect protein-flour combination. Toto… we’re not in Brooklyn anymore.

Sugar and Sweets


In my formative years as a budding chef and food writer, I did an unusual thing and read the mammoth Larousse Gastronomique, all 1,168 pages with its thousands of entries, cover to cover – or shall I say, from abaisse (a term used in French cookery for a sheet of rolled-out pastry) to zuppa inglese (a Neapolitan pudding). The first English edition appeared in 1971, when I was 17 and already a bartender mixing Negronis in Queens, New York. (For those who might remember, it was the Olde London Fishery on Union Turnpike.)

This memory was triggered when a voluminous book, The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets (Oxford University Press, 2015) about the size of a three-pound box of Godiva chocolates, appeared on my desk last week. With more than 850 pages and 600 articles about the arresting history of sugar and sweets, I have decided to repeat my own history and take this encyclopedic work to bed with a cup of tea or a pony of alkermes. Poignantly, this book, too, ends with an entry about zuppa inglese (written by author Clifford A. Wright) with an interesting debate over the dessert’s true origin (is it from Naples as friend and food writer Arthur Schwartz insists, or Lazio, or Tuscany, as others suggest?)

The book begins, not with abaisse but with another nod to the French, a la mode – followed by a three-page entry about sugar addiction, contributed by Ashley Gearhardt. Such is the width and breadth of this alluring new tome. Under the brilliant baton of food writer and historian Darra Goldstein, 265 experts in the culinary world have weighed in with well-researched commentaries about an irresistible subject. A la mode, by the way, translates to “in the current fashion.” According to contributor Carolin Young, “In France a la mode refers to a traditional recipe for braised beef, which at one time was considered a new fashion,” whereas in America the phrase refers to a scoop of vanilla ice cream served with a slice of pie.

Evocatively, the first line of the book’s foreword begins: “I can remember easily the first time I stood deep in a field of sugarcane in full bloom, a field already marked for harvesting. It was spring of 1948, and I had just begun fieldwork in Puerto Rico.” Written by Sidney Mintz (who is 92 and considered “the godfather of food studies”), this triggered another profound memory. The year was 1962 and I was standing deep in a field of sugarcane when I was eight years old. The location was Belle Glade, Florida, where my cousins ran a plantation and owned the local movie theater. I will never forget the sickeningly sweet smell of extracted molasses wafting through the wet heat of the day from the factory nearby. It made me woozy. Which, of course, is what sugar does, and accounts for, in part, why we love it and sometimes loathe it.

The history of sugar is not all sweet. There is much suffering in the quest for this cherished foodstuff. Our hunger for sugar fed the institution of slavery, led to ugly legacies of racism, to the invasion of weaker nations by stronger ones to manipulate sugar prices, and to the exploitation of children and minorities who worked the fields. Bravo to the book’s editors for not sugar-coating the more painful aspects of its past.

Whereas this is an encyclopedia, meant to be dipped in and out of at leisure, it is unlike any other I’ve seen. There are hundreds of illustrations including mouthwatering paintings by Wayne Thiebaud (a personal favorite), Andy Warhol, and Will Cotton, a handful of historical recipes, and more than 600 erudite essays by pastry chefs, neuroscientists, food historians, and chemists, about what has become a grand metaphor for human pleasure. Equally satisfying are the book’s comprehensive appendices – anthologies of films, songs, outstanding pastry shops, and museums around the world, dedicated to our universal, and historical, predilection for sugar and sweets, first evidenced by Eve and an apple.

I’m not sure if I’m more excited learning about wasanbon (the most famous sugar used in traditional Japanese confectionery), or sitophilia (which describes sexual arousal involving food), but lurking between the candy-coated endpapers of The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, is something gratifying for everyone.

The Culinary Gardener

A saute of celtuce, saltwort and young garlic. (Photo credit: Shayna DePersia)

A saute of celtuce, saltwort and young garlic. (Photo credit: Shayna DePersia)

For years I have been citing a directive of my own making – that one should eat, when possible, from one’s own zip code. More poetry than practical, I came up with this notion way before the farm-to-table movement, way before “local” became a destination, way before “sustainable” became a slogan. I wrote about the pleasures of eating from my window box in my first cookbook Little Meals, in 1993. Back then I pulled a few zucchini from my Park Slope backyard garden, culled a pint or two of little tomatoes, and had enough basil to keep me well supplied with freshly made pesto most of the summer. Some friends nearby grew figs and grapes in their yards, which we occasionally swapped.

Just last week, in a small organic farm in Asheville, North Carolina, I had the giddy pleasure of digging for my own lunch and then preparing the “materie prime” (prime ingredients, as the Italians would say) an hour later in the home kitchen of Evan Chender. Evan is a young soil farmer by way of Vassar College who developed his formidable skill and passion at chef Dan Barber’s world-famous Stone Barns, a sustainable farm and Michelin-starred restaurant on the Rockefeller estate in Pocantico, New York. At the age of twenty-six, Evan and his new bride, Claire (also a Vassar grad, a surfer and foodist) moved to Asheville as the town itself emerged from a sleepy enclave to a vibrant community of artists, brewers, and buskers with a burgeoning restaurant scene, daily farmer’s markets, and bespoke food.

Evan first worked as a cook in nearby Weaverville and then decided, with the help of Asheville’s great climate and sustainability vibe, to begin his own organic farm. Only 8,000 square feet, it supplies Asheville’s top restaurants (The Bull and the Beggar, most notably) with topnotch ingredients – many of which I never heard of, let alone eaten. May I extol the virtues of his saltwort, celtuce, Kailan (Chinese broccoli), menegi scallions, borage leaves, and wild vetch tendril? These, my friends, are the ingredients of the future (and some cultures’ past). If you want to partake, call Evan. He tends to every square inch of the soil, scours the world’s seed markets via the internet, and seduces the town’s voracious chefs into taking everything he grows, no matter how unusual. He is a well-tuned, one-man band. He plants every seed by hand, knows when to water, when to rotate, when to turn, turn, turn. He has already had enough seasons under his belt to make a living and live his dream. Coming this season? Aleppo pepper, fenugreek shoots, purple shiso, vegetable mallow, flageolet shell beans, and yes, tetragonia, a kind of spinach indigenous to Australia and New Zealand. In the fall you can expect to see a crop of yokatta na, shunkyo radish, oca and mashua. This is the language of poets.

And so was our zip code lunch. Freshly-dug potatoes were gently broken apart when tender and tossed in a homemade mayonnaise with freshly picked radishes, fennel fronds, and nasturtium flowers. There was a beautiful, radically fresh salad of just-picked gem lettuce, variegated lusia radicchio, powerful arugula, and fragrant bits of coriander flower, gilded with an emulsion of spicy mustard, local maple syrup, Greek olive oil, and homemade vinegar that Evan secrets in his top cupboard. Shavings of an excellent parmesan tied it all together. The most exciting dish of all contained nuggets of celtuce (hard to describe but with a slight cucumber taste, firm flesh, crisp and briny, waterchestnutty), sauteed with strands of saltwort (I am a huge fan of this sea-like veg), slivers of young garlic and finished with purple shiso. We drank a bottle of Reuilly, a crisp, aromatic white wine with subtle minerality from the Loire. The experience was nothing short of a thrill.

And how do I know Evan? He was a culinary savant at the age of fifteen who cooked lunch for me and later helped me with a cookbook I wrote for teens called Eat Fresh Food (reviewed in the science section of the New York Times in 2009). Who knew he would take it so seriously.


Chocolate + Tahini

Photo by: Jonelle Weaver
Photo by: Jonelle Weaver

I was among the first to make ganache from chocolate and tahini (instead of cream) and invented a recipe in 1999 for a Gourmet magazine cover story.  I created a chocolate petits fours for a kosher-style meal where the mixing of meat and dairy was not allowed.  This idea is now a hot new trend and lots of chefs are exploiting tahini (sesame seed paste) to the max.  Here's my recipe from Gourmet for Chocolate-Tahini Cups.  They are radically simple to make and taste like a sophisticated Chunky bar.  A great idea for Valentine's Day.

Chocolate-Tahini Cups

1/2 cup dried currants
1 cup boiling-hot water
8 ounces best quality semi-sweet chocolate (like Valrhona)
3-1/2 tablespoons tahini (Middle Eastern sesame seed paste)
vegetable cooking spray1
8 - 1-inch candy papers/liners

Soak currants in hot water for 5 minutes.  Drain and pat dry with paper towels.  Melt chocolate with 3 tablespoon tahini in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring until smooth, and stir in currants.  Lightly spray liners with cooking spray and spoon chocolate mixture into candy paper liners.  Cool 5 minutes.

Decorate candies by dipping tip of a skewer or toothpick into remaining 1/2 tablespoon tahini and swirling over tops.  Chill until set.  Makes 18.  Will keep, covered and chilled, for 1 week. 

New Food Trends 2015


At the end of every year, platoons of food professionals -- consultants, chefs, writers and research firms -- race to predict the trends that will influence foodies all over America and ergo the world. According to Carol Tice from Forbes, the forecast released in mid-November by Baum+ Whiteman international restaurant consultants, was "one of the most fascinating." You can check out their full report of 11 dining trends plus 22 hot restaurant buzzwords for 2015 here.

Although I am married to Mr. Whiteman, his prognostications were unknown to me until they were released on Nov. 11th. The trends sit in telling categories: how the importance of technology will profoundly change the way restaurants function; how the notion of authenticity has less relevance, and how our lust for new and different has resulted in "restless palate syndrome" -- meaning that we can't leave simple food alone. One upon a time we liked salty, sweet, spicy, smoky, fatty and bitter flavors -- but now we want them all at once. In other words, "too much ain't enough."

The report, picked up by an Arabic newspaper, focuses on the importance of hummus, which Whiteman says, is probably the most mispronounced word in our country's food vocabulary. It gobbles up shelf space in our supermarkets because of a profusion of flavors added to what simply is a chickpea dip eaten in Israel and Arab countries. It now comes in dizzying variations including red pepper, chimichurri, lemongrass-chili and even chocolate mousse! (I've recently discovered a hummus ice cream in Tel Aviv).

Or take beer. Cocktails with beer are finding favor in trendy bars. Meanwhile, Micheladas are creeping up on us. Micheladas are Mexican beer concoctions that invite you to dump in all manner of spices -- bloody Mary mix, chipotle-tomato juice, soy sauce, beef broth and tequila get the idea: beer for restless palate people who've become blase about just a pint of IPA.

They also note in their predictions that honey is being "enhanced" with ghost peppers; that bourbon is being flavored with honey and chili pepper or with pumpkin pie spices; that while the fixation of everything-bacon may be abating, now there's 'ndjua, a light-up-your-mouth spreadable sausage from Calabria that's finding its way onto pasta, melted over pork chops, even blended into vinaigrettes as sauces for fish. "If bold flavors are a trend" they say, "this eye-stinging, red-peppered mushy salami is next year's bold flavor."

Do strawberries taste sweeter on a black plate or a white plate? On a square plate or a round plate? Their forecast about "neurogastronomy" -- how your mind and body can be manipulated to enhance how you sense and taste food --is required reading. So is their comical rant about overpriced avocado.

Among their predictions: The death of tipping, and a reduction in the vast earnings gap between tipped waiters and low-paid cooks and dishwashers; fine dining chefs ditching flowers, linens, reservation systems and expensive china, instead going downscale to develop fast-casual restaurants; insects as food as we search for renewable sources of proteins; savory ice creams and yogurts as consumers realize how much sugar they're getting in sweetened cold treats; the war on waste is gaining traction; pistachios will be the nut of the year; authentic Jewish delis and also Jewish-ethnic mashups; savory waffles and waffle sandwiches; matcha (green tea powder) in fancy beverages and even seafood stocks and sauces; night markets, building on food truck rodeos, growing around the country with multi-ethnic festivals that bring thousands to riverfronts and public squares.

In their trend called "Soda Fountain Crashes the Bar," Baum+Whiteman sees childhood treats boozed up as adult shakes and smoothies with bourbon, gin, Frangelico, Galliano, Chartreuse.

Even coconut and cucumber waters, promoted as somehow being "purer," are being overlaid (or adulterated) with flavors like coffee and mango and with energy-boosting ingredients. Now maple water and birch sap are being tested.

Finally, clever computer programs now allow high-end restaurants to sell tickets for dinner rather than take reservations. Eating out could become as hateful as dealing with the airlines, the consultants say, with cancellation penalties and price shifting based upon demand for seats or time of day.

My adds? Cabbage. Food as medicine. Page oranges from Florida. Tahina is the new mayonnaise. It will come in as many colors (and flavors) as a box of crayons. See you in 2015.

You can also check out the National Restaurant Association's list for the coming year, Carol Tice's report from Forbes, and this article from Cosmopolitan.

More Holiday Books 2014

During the next few weeks, I will be cooking from and reviewing some of the year's best books for gift-giving. They mostly are personal selections from chefs whose work I know well plus a few I don't know at all. I always am enamored of cookbooks from Phaidon, Artisan, Chronicle and Ten Speed Press, but am impressed this year with the quality and variety of cookbooks published by smaller presses; Monkfish and Interlink among them. In addition to their more obvious purpose, cookbooks are great sources of inspiration and bedtime reading. They are often the gifts we don't give ourselves but, like a good box of chocolates, we're thrilled to be the recipient. Happy Holidays!

2014-12-10-FreshCookingfrontcover.png Fresh Cooking by Shelley Boris Monkfish Book Publishing, New York , 2014, ISBN: 978-1-939681-15-7

The subtitle of this compelling book - a year of recipes from the Garrison Institute Kitchen -- tells the tale of a talented chef cooking for hundreds of guests in a beautiful monastery on the Hudson. Garrison Institute, created by inspired thinkers, Jonathan and Diana Rose, has served as a beacon for the world's great spiritual and educational leaders, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama who has dined there on several occasions. Shelley Boris, the chef at Garrison for more than ten years, has wowed me with her intelligent, countrified sensibility since my first visit a decade ago. There have been many visits since and I was honored when asked to write the foreword to her book. Shelley's compassionate approach to cooking, deeply rooted in the seasons, is always mindful of the communal table - which is literally how one eats in the Institute's massive sun-lit dining room. From her large gracious kitchen, Shelley delights in the daily planning of her menus, each a short story revealing something immediate in nature. January brings her comforting Onion Soup with Sprout Creek Cheese and Sour Rye Toast, baked white beans, and crimson quince blanketed in phyllo. May is more spontaneous and carefree - braised lamb and rhubarb chutney, rice with sorrel, garlic chives and mustard greens, and strawberry shortcakes. The book's recipes range from simple creations - pan-quiche with cauliflower and cheddar, savory chickpea cakes with tahini sauce; winter root vegetable salad with sherry-hazelnut dressing - to dishes that require slow seduction to coalesce their flavors -- Thai-style eggplant curry with coconut milk, lemongrass and shiitakes, and braised spicy lamb with apples. Other standouts are Shelley's breakfast scones - the best I've ever had -- and her dizzying array of addictive vinaigrettes -- carrot-lime, ginger-grapefruit, pear-beet, creamy shallot.

Personal and idealistic, she calls her repertoire friendly-to-meat eaters: rich in vegetables, yet not strictly vegetarian. "We flip the typical equation," she purports. "Rather than cutting back on meat, these recipes help you think about where you want to add meat and fish to your diet." Nice. Family-style and deeply practical, she rids her recipes of extra steps and superfluous ingredients in order to focus on the essence of each dish. Working within a limited budget became a driving force of creativity and resulted in recipes that are inexpensive to produce. This is exactly what a home cook desires and why she decided to write the book in the first place. Perhaps it will sit nestled next to like-minded tomes such as the Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook, Perla Meyers' The Seasonal Kitchen, and Moosewood cookbooks - older iconic examples serving as game-changers in the way that people think about, and connect to food and cooking in a larger context - where taste and ethics need not be at odds.

2014-12-10-5748539_311781.jpg Mexico, The Cookbook by Margarita Carrillo Arronte Phaidon Press, New York, 2014, ISBN: 978-07148-6752-6

When authors such as Arronte compile cookbooks about a national cuisine as vast as Mexico's, the goal is to produce a well-rounded exploration that evokes and authenticates, the inherent spirit of a nation's cultural foodways. Margarita Carrillo Arronte, Mexico's global ambassador for all things culinary, has certainly accomplished this along with the remarkable design team at Phaidon Press, headquartered in London with offices in New York City. This massive tome, feeling like a work of art or runway fashion statement, is undoubtedly among the most beautiful books this year. Replete with 650 recipes and 200 photos, the book draws inspiration from various sources, some from which have been altered to the author's own taste by adjusting ingredients, measurements or methods. Ms. Arronte wants the dishes of her homeland, and its many regions, to be cooked and experienced by audiences who have not yet plunged into the depths of mole (mole-lay) making - including an intriguing beet mole - to the more familiar tamales, enchiladas, and fresh fish Veracruz-style, to the less familiar rabbit with prunes and chili, ox tongue in pecan sauce, and birria, a fragrant lamb soup from Jalisco. Much admired in Mexico for the last 35 years, Ms. Arronte has owned restaurants and food companies, hosted television food shows, researched and taught all over the world. She is a formally trained teacher, turned chef and activist, involved in the decade-long effort to have traditional Mexican cuisine recognized with a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity designation.

Although I wish that head notes were included with each recipe, I understand how daunting a task this would be. The recipes, both classic and traditional, with a swath of contemporary recipes from restaurant chefs, feel mostly accessible - but some ingredients - specific chilies, epazote, avocado leaves -- may be hard to find. This does not diminish the book's pleasures. Part of Ms. Arronte's research is to delve into other references and oral traditions for inspiration and to re-create recipes that are considered seminal in the development of the cuisine. This is the true nature of recipe transmission and the way that dishes evolve and national cuisines are created. There is an extensive bibliography that includes the important work of Mexican culinary guru, Diana Kennedy. It is a great gift to go hand in hand with a cup of Mexican hot chocolate, in bed if not in your kitchen.

Two Great Cookbooks for Hanukkah 2014

My private cookbook collection can't compare to that of many of my colleagues -- my 500 or so seem paltry next to collections in the thousands. But at this stage of life, I carefully curate the books I want around forever. Here are two of them -- both recently published and perfect gifts for Hanukkah. 2014-12-01-61er1osP9gL.jpg Jewish Soul Food: From Minsk to Marrakesh by Janna Gur Schocken Books, New York NY 2014 $35.00 ISBN 978-0- 8052-4308-6

This is a rave. With striking photos and vibrant spirit, here is a cookbook that reads like a luscious travelogue built around the culinary narrative of the Jewish diaspora. The book's author, Janna Gur, is among the most knowledgeable representatives of Israeli cuisine (her first book, The Book of New Israeli Food, 2007 is already a classic) and of Jewish food and identity around the globe. Her new book, Jewish Soul Food: from Minsk to Marrakesh, is both prequel and sequel to Jerusalem by Ottolenghi. In a world cluttered with cookbooks, hers is a standout, a poignant journey of enforced migration and authenticity cast in a contemporary light. There is much to learn. I have never seen, eaten, or made many of these dishes: Her sabich (an egg and eggplant sandwich often eaten for breakfast) is gorgeous, as is hamim macaroni, mafroum (meat and potato "sandwiches"), Bulgarian feta-stuffed pepper "cutlets," and tantalizing fluden, made with poppy seeds, walnuts and apples, for dessert. Its diverse recipes paint much of Israel's culinary landscape, where Ms. Gur resides and publishes, with her husband, Israel's most prominent food and wine magazine called Al Hashulchan (At the Table). Born in the former Soviet Union, Ms. Gur emigrated to Israel in 1974 and since that time has scholarly untangled the global threads woven into the Israeli kitchen.

Some of my favorite dishes include sabzi polo, rice pilaf made with equal amounts of basmati rice and fragrant fresh herbs, and addictive ijeh b'lahmeh which are herb and meat latkes perfect for Hanukkah. Also appropriate for the holiday are bimuelos, a Sephardic dessert of fried dough, drizzled with cinnamon-scented honey syrup and garnished with walnuts. I look forward to making her orange flower butter cookies studded with almonds for gift-giving this season.

This book is important because of Janna's strongly held belief: The only way to preserve traditional cuisine for future generations is to cook it. Without her careful attention to this repertoire of priceless artifacts -- recipes from vanquished times and cultures -- these hand-me-downs would be all but lost. Jewish cuisine is unique because it reflects the histories of so many nationalities, wars and displacements. How Ms. Gur captures its essence in 100 recipes is the magic of this book.

2014-12-01-Delancey.jpg Eating Delancey: A Celebration of Jewish Food by Aaron Rezny and Jordan Schaps powerHouse Books, Brooklyn, NY 2014 $35.00 ISBN 978-1-57687-722-7

I don't know exactly where my grandparents lived as Hungarian immigrants in the early part of the last century, but they certainly climbed tenement steps and shopped on Delancey Street, as depicted in this sumptuous book with lovely essays by famous fressers (eaters) -- Calvin Trillin, Paul Goldberger (architecture critic of the New York Times), food maven Arthur Schwartz, legendary graphic designer, Milton Glaser -- and mouth-watering recipes. There are spectacular images of food, people, storefronts, and culinary ephemera, and an unexpected black-and-white photo of Janis Joplin smoking a cigarette at Ratner's, which is fabulous.

Eating Delancey, is Mr. Rezny's personal homage to the vanishing flavors of his youth. Similarly, Mr. Schaps waxes nostalgic about his bubbe Ethel Raben and the meals he consumed in her Russian-Yiddish-American kitchen. Mr. Rezny photographs the semaphores of their combined history -- bagels, halvah, knishes, seltzer bottles -- with the same intention. The photographs of iconic quaffs -- a bottle of Cherry Heering, Slivovitz, a bottle top of Cel-ray soda, tea in a glass are stunning in their simplicity. And the luster of the finished dishes -- a slice of creamy cheesecake, Schwartz's sweet and sour flanken, even matzo brei, a monochrome dish if there ever was one, here looks sensuous.

Joan Rivers would have kvelled from this book. Her poignant introduction, which in itself is poignant, is brilliantly alive with affection for Jewish food. She describes her mother, "a chic woman, very well read, a great hostess, and a horrible cook" and goes on to confess her love of singed chicken feet and gefilte fish with freshly grated horseradish.

Many books have delved into the psyche of Jewish people through their food -- but this book succeeds as a true work of art. I, for one, regret not knowing more about my grandparents' path, that of Joseph and Louise (Goldstein) Gold, who walked and ate with the best of them. More nostalgia: My best friend threw me a surprise wedding shower at Sammy's Roumanian on Chrystie Street -- imagine how classy that was -- a place where chicken fat is poured from a pitcher, garlic fills the air, and where time, for a moment, stands still.

Good Stock Farm: A Great New Cooking School

Here's why my husband and I raced up to Good Stock Farm two weeks ago. Michael, who was the founding editor of Nation's Restaurant News, had decades earlier met Sandy D'Amato, a multi-starred chef from Milwaukee. When we learned that Sandy and his wife sold his eponymous restaurant Sanford and moved to Hatfield, Massachusetts -- to open a cooking school -- we immediately packed an overnight bag!

En route, we passed farm stands selling butter + sugar corn, honor-system butternut squash, the season's last few tomatoes, and fresh-picked flowers, all tres charming. But nothing prepared us for the lush expanse of land behind their house-cum-cooking school on sleepy Main Street, replete with an experimental garden, trellised vines, herbs and artichokes, and a blanket of grass that led down to the Connecticut River flowing with an equally sleepy calm. You could hear an apple drop.

The house, designed with pencil and paper by Sandy's wife Angie, is built around an elegantly professional and capacious kitchen. Large marble work table, pizza oven, convection oven, industrial refrigerator and sinks, with no separation between the living/dining area -- all merged into interior landscape that felt more like a SoHo loft than a rural dwelling. The weather was warm and, settled on their screened porch, we shared tales about famous chefs and their legendary foibles, about restaurant life in New York in the 1970s, about Sandy's and Angie's myriad reasons for leaving their revered restaurant but not actually retiring. With my first sip of Vouvray, to accompany one of Sandy's fantastic homemade breadsticks, I uttered the word "Provence." I could have just as well said "Paradise" or "Providence." But Provence it was, for I recalled author Patricia Wells' well-known cooking school and home there, known as Chanteduc, and declared Good Stock Farm its worthy counterpart. No passport needed.

Sandy has top-of-the-line credentials, decades of experience, and a newly acquired desire to share it all. A student, literally, of Le Repetoire de la Cuisine - Sandy went to the Culinary Institute of America, housed at the time in one cramped building in New Haven, CT -- but he grew up "eating Italian." One sensibility informed the other, coalescing into his uniquely own style. His food is stunningly contemporary and yet reminiscent of the culinary pedagogy one used to find at Lutece or La Grenouille or perhaps the more rarified Italian kitchen of San Domenico in Imola, Italy. I will never forget his sweet corn soup, served at room temperature, made that morning with a mysterious touch of mace (does anyone use mace anymore?). Nor a spot-on Italian plum tart with its toasty brown sugar-almond crust.

Sandy opened restaurant Sanford in 1989 to rave reviews - Bon Appetit, Gourmet,Esquire, Wine Spectator all called it among the country's best - ran it with Angie until 2012, and sold it to his longtime chef de cuisine. Three signature dishes - Provencale fish soup, grilled marinated tuna with cumin wafers, and grilled pear and Roquefort tart (which he made for Julia Child's 80th birthday party), remained on his menu from day one. When he teaches these beloved recipes at Good Stock Farm, we'll be there!

Speaking of Julia, Bob Spitz, author of best-selling Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child, says this about Sandy's contribution to American gastronomy: "What sets Sandy apart is his full experience of having worked with the French masters. He is a serious chef who cares deeply about each dish he makes. While everyone seems to be talking about local and indigenous ingredients, Sandy is literally growing the recipes he's teaching at his school."

Good Stock Farm is open all year long for demos, learning, eating and meeting new people. Hands-on classes, with a maximum of 8 students, include lunch or dinner spread over a generous time frame of 4-1/2 to 5 hours. Demonstration classes are 2-1/2 hours. October's line-up includes a hands-on lunch called "A Nip in the Air" - roasted beet and garlic soup, juniper-braised shortribs, cranberry walnut tart; and a demo-dinner from Sicily featuring shrimp and green pea arancini, grilled escarole salad, beef spedini, and crispy dessert cassata.

Students either drive or fly to Bradley International Airport, only 50 minutes away, and stay at the Old Mill Inn, a charming B&B less than a mile down the road, or at the Hotel Northampton, five miles away. With five colleges nearby, including Smith and Mount Holyoke, the area sizzles with cultural activities, so you can indulge in a long weekend full of things to do.

Before a visit -- or just on its own -- you will enjoy Sandy's wonderful new memoir, Good Stock, Life on a Low Simmer (Midway Books, 2013). Cook your way through the book and you will be schooled indeed. On its cover is a quote from Esquire: "D'Amato has proved not only that you can go home again but that you can continue a tradition of making people very happy through your talents." Check out the schedule at For reservations call 413-247-6090.

Food and Fireworks

tumblr_mp43muLq3t1rsdtszo1_1280While these sparkling recipes are designed for July 4th fireworks, they are perfect for entertaining all summer long. Three cheers for the red, white, and blue! Hope you have a festive holiday weekend.  

WATERMELON, FETA & SLIVERED BASIL SALAD This is the essence of summer entertaining. It is a marriage of sweet and salty delights. Nice to mix red and yellow watermelon if you can find it.

- 6 thin slices of ripe watermelon, plus 3 cups of cubed watermelon, chilled - 8 ounces feta cheese - 1 cup slivered basil - 24 oil-cured black olives - ¼ cup olive oil

On a large platter, place overlapping slices of watermelon and scatter cubed watermelon on top. Crumble cheese and scatter on top.  Scatter basil on cheese and garnish with olives. Drizzle a little olive oil over fruit and cheese. Add a grinding of black pepper. SERVES 6.


tumblr_mp3yc4OIpy1rsdtszo1_1280SUN-DRIED TOMATO-BEEF SLIDERS with PESTO

These will surely become a family favorite – whether big or small. If making large burgers, they are sublime cooked on an outdoor grill.

- 1 pound ground beef (chuck or sirloin) - 7-ounce jar sun-dried tomato in oil - 1 cup finely diced yellow onion - 1 tablespoon olive oil - 12 little dinner rolls, split and toasted - ½ cup prepared pesto - 3 tablespoons Greek yogurt - Handful of mesclun or baby arugula

Drain oil from the sun-dried tomatoes and set aside. Finely dice enough tomatoes to get ½ cup. Cut remaining tomatoes into slivers and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat reserved oil. Add onions and cook over medium-high heat until onions are soft and golden, about 10 minutes. In a large bowl, combine beef, diced sundried tomatoes, cooked onion with all the pan juices, ½ teaspoon salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add ¼ cup ice water and mix well. Form into 12 small patties. Heat oil in large skillet and cook burgers on each side for several minutes until desired doneness. Stir together pesto and yogurt. Place the burgers on the buns and top with pesto mixture. Garnish with a few leaves of mesclun or arugula, and the remaining slivered sun-dried tomatoes. MAKES 12 SLIDERS.


tumblr_mp2it2CMwI1rsdtszo1_1280BOMBAY TURKEY SLIDERS with HURRY-CURRY SAUCE

These are a cinch to put together and both the sauce and the sliders can be prepped early in the day.


- ½ cup light mayonnaise - ⅔ cup plain yogurt - 4 teaspoons curry powder - 2 tablespoons ketchup - 1 small clove garlic, finely minced


- 1¼ pounds ground turkey - 2 teaspoons curry powder - 1 teaspoons ground cumin - Large pinch chipotle chili powder - 3 tablespoons finely minced scallions - 4 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro or basil - 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger - 3 tablespoons light mayonnaise - 1 tablespoon olive oil - 12 little dinner rolls, split and toasted - 12 thin slices Kirby cucumber - 12 thin slices plum tomato

Stir together ingredients for sauce. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Put turkey in a large bowl. Add the curry, cumin, chili powder, scallions, cilantro or basil, ginger and mayonnaise, plus 1 teaspoon salt. Mix until blended. Form into 12 small (2 ounce) burgers. Heat the oil in a large skillet and cook burgers over medium-high heat for 2 minutes, turn over and cook 2 minutes longer. Place the burgers on the buns and slather with curry sauce. Top with a slice of cucumber and tomato. MAKES 12 SLIDERS.


tumblr_mp4dvrL0St1rsdtszo1_1280RED, WHITE AND BLUEBERRY SHORTCAKES

This luxurious dessert is worthy of fireworks. Wonderful if you can get tiny ripe strawberries from your local farmer’s market. The light touch of lemon zest in the biscuits and thin layer of lemon curd makes these truly memorable. Garnish with edible flowers.


- 1½ cups flour - ½ teaspoon salt - 2 teaspoons baking powder - ½ teaspoon baking soda - 2 tablespoons sugar - 4 tablespoons unsalted butter - Grated rind of 1 lemon - ⅔ cup buttermilk


- 1½ cups heavy cream - 3 tablespoons confectioners sugar - 1 teaspoon vanilla - ½ cup lemon curd - 3 cups fresh berries: raspberries, tiny strawberries, blueberries - Edible flowers for garnishing

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Sift together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and 1 tablespoon sugar. Cut butter into small pieces and incorporate into flour mixture. Add lemon zest and buttermilk and mix lightly. Turn dough out onto floured board. Roll out to 1-inch thickness. Cut out 3-inch round and place on ungreased baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with sugar. Bake 16 to 18 minutes until golden. Let cool.

Whip heavy cream with confectioners sugar and vanilla until very thick.

Cut biscuits in half. Spread lemon curd on bottom half of each biscuit. Spoon whipped on top and add fruit. Top with biscuit “hat” and add more berries and whipped cream. Garnish with edible flowers. SERVES 6.

Olives, Lemons & Za'atar

2014-06-15-4b18f811676713e51f4f40443c6ce38d_full_size-thumbI've been writing about za'atar for decades. The haunting spice mixture, which looks like marijuana and smells like Jerusalem, has had a home in my pantry since my first trip to Israel in 1980. I use it as an earthy rub for chicken with blackened lemons; as a zippy dip mixed with good olive oil and grated parmesan; as a coating for grilled swordfish, or tossed with heirloom tomatoes and feta cheese. So I was thrilled to see its place on a banner headline for this year's standout cookbook: Olives, Lemons & Za'atar: The Best Middle Eastern Home Cooking by Rawia Bishara (Kyle Books). Everything about Ms. Bishara's evocative new book made me want to run to the kitchen or get on a plane and wander in the Old City. Instead, my family and I hopped in our car and drove to Ms. Bishara's acclaimed restaurant, Tanoreen, located in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. All praise bestowed upon it by my colleagues rang true about the excellent food Ms. Bishara serves. But no one warned me about her exotic warmth and hypnotic intelligence.

Ms. Bishara's first name, Rawia, means storyteller in Arabic. She uses her imaginative food as her words to share an intimate bond between her mother's recipes and her personal narrative, which illuminates the history of her homeland, Nazareth, in southern Galilee. I have been there: It is beautiful.

Born into a food-obsessed Palestinian family, Rawia grew up eating food that has recently become trendy currency: the flavors and spirit of the Arabic kitchen found along the Eastern Mediterranean and in Israel, or Palestine, depending on your point of view. Ms. Bishara, once head of an organization that helped new immigrants settle in New York, became a grand hostess and entertained often. Friends encouraged her to open a restaurant which she did in 1998. Named for the majestic Lebanese town, Tanoreen, Rawia said it is a name far easier to pronounce than her own. The tiny storefront restaurant with only 12 tables has grown into someplace quite spacious, but it retains Rawia's aura of personal attention. .

Clearly there are dishes not to be missed. Brussels sprouts with a tahini-yogurt sauce and crunch of panko; mouthwatering eggplant napoleon brightened with a "salata" of tomatoes and basil and layered with baba ghanouj; and lamb shank marinated in herbs and rosebuds, are signature examples of redefined authenticity. Thankfully instructions for making these delectables can be found in her new book.

Allspice, cardamom, lentils, sumac, freekah (smoked green what berries), maftool (a traditional tiny pasta), pomegranate molasses, cumin and ghee, lentils and, of course, za'atar, lemons and olives - are part and parcel of this vibrant cuisine. In Nazareth, baba ghanouj is called mutabal (and I have recently seen this word on restaurant menus in the city.) Rawia adds tomatoes, chilies and cumin to her rendition. And I can't wait to try her recipe for cauliflower salad. In Nazareth it is simply fried and tucked into Arabic bread, sprinkled with lemon juice and sea salt. At Tanoreen, Rawia dresses nuggets of caramelized cauliflower with thick tahini laced with pomegranate molasses, served as a mezze. We couldn't get enough. This was also true of makdous -- tiny pickled eggplants stuffed with walnuts and red pepper, which my brother and sister-in-law loved when they visited Syria. Also of note was the baked kibbeh and sayadiyya, or fisherman's meal, which Rawia said her family ate every Friday night. I would run back for musakhan, a homemade flatbread topped with sumac-spiced shredded chicken with slow-cooked onions and toasted almonds.

For dessert, I would order her supernal knafeh, the best we've had, where layers of shredded phyllo are filled with warm homemade cheese and anointed with orange blossom water and crushed pistachios.

It's all in Rawia's book, complete with beautiful photographs and arresting design. It is a heartfelt documentation of the mystical wind gently blowing these flavors from the Levant. But if you don't feel like cooking, make a reservation at Tanoreen. Rawia will be there, waiting.

Techno-Gastronomy in the Big Apple

logoImagine lots of food for thought by inspired thinkers who inspire others to probe both the virtual and the tangible corners of the edible realm. This is the food + technology conference taking place in New York City on April 3 through April 5th, and I can't wait to go. More auspiciously called The 2014 Roger Smith Conference on Food/ From Flint Knives to Cloned Meat, the line-up includes more than 100 presenters, 31 panels, workshops and receptions but, most importantly, the event promises an extensive three-day flirtation with culinary luminaries and like-minded scholars - more than 250 of them. From Modernist Cuisine to The Brave New World of 3-D Printing, there is something here to satisfy anyone's taste for knowledge and thirst for the unknown.

Last year, the conference, held at the Roger Smith Hotel, was devoted to the erudition of cookbooks and featured a tantalizing array of speakers - from Mollie Katzen to Amanda Hesser. This year, Andrew Smith, the conference founder and driving force (along with organizers Roger Horowitz, Cathy Kaufman, and Anne Mendelson), imbues today's food vortex with "ambiguity." The sympathetic tag to the event's flinty name is, after all, "Our ambiguous love, hate, and fear of food technologies." I'm there.

The conference's leaders describe food technology as "any imaginable means of using and manipulating food, from cracking nuts with a rock to molecular gastronomy. The very act of deciding what is or isn't food is intrinsically bound with up technology." Wylie Dufresne, a leader of the movement to integrate science with food preparation and presentation will be there. So, too, will be experts in milling, flour and bread baking techniques, sensory profiling, wine and terroir, and biotechnology. Other compelling subjects include "The Eight Minute Egg" and "The Technology of Cake." A lecture on coffee would go nicely right here.

And there are workshops in social media for food writers, on the history of chocolate, and the truth about olive oil, led by Nancy Harmon Jenkins, the author of The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook.

Andrew Smith, a prolific writer and assistant professor of food studies at The New School, is particularly excited this year to have panelists coming from all over the United States and from six countries to participate. His latest book is New York City: A Food Encyclopedia (AltaMira, 2014); and his 3-volume Food and Drink in American History: A "Full Course" Encyclopedia was released by ABC-CLIO in November 2013. This is a man who can clearly handle a lot of information and knows a heck of a lot about New York City. If you already live in New York, this conference is a must. If you live out of town, it is an excellent reason to visit. For more information, to register, or book a room at the Roger Smith Hotel, go to or

And why does this conference matter? We are a nation obsessed with food and technology. The flow of one has always influenced the outcome of the other. Now we need to find out how they go together on one plate.

Spring Review

springreviewIt’s time for a Spring Review since beginning my blog in 2010. I’ve written more than 300 entries and wanted to share the best with you. Because of instantaneous access to one another via the Internet, the “world’s table” is now on public view. It is my goal, then, as a journalist, chef, author, restaurant consultant and food trends junkie, to help set the table with decades of perspective. When Vladimir Nabokov got around to writing his memoir, he called it “Speak, Memory.”  When writing my blog, I issue a similar command to myself:  “Taste, Memory!” I seek ways to connect the reader emotionally to his or her own gastronomic wavelength. Just as Anna Quindlen writes about her keen observations about life – tying together politics, family, and one’s inner experience, often with whimsy -- I have written my voice into daily, and weekly, connections to food, dining, cooking, history, biography and memoir. Each entry is a deliberate serving of the past, present and future – whether connecting the uprising in Egypt to my respect for Naguib Mafouz and my fondness for Egyptian cooking (with a contemporary photo of a young man preparing an ancient dish of ful mudammas); or experiencing the soul of Philadelphia-chef Marc Vetri through his singular approach to food and cooking and told his story by deeming him a “culinary bodhisattva.” A posting about “white carrots” informs the misinformed (which at times can be most of us), with an observation backed up with a bit of history, some speculation, and a few recipes to make the point. Included is a mesmerizing photo of carrots.

I believe that a younger generation of “food passionistas” – a term I coined for the group of dedicated, enthusiastic, and obsessively curious types about the world of food, chefs, and cooking – are in need of less hype, and more information, in an accessible  way. Inspired by the daily experiences of life in my kitchen, life in other people’s kitchens, learning at the hands of some of the industry’s most influential tastemakers, the purpose of my blog is not to attract advertisers or lure masses of readers; rather, it is an intimate, highly personal, often funny view of the world of food. Every blog posting puts my readers in-the-know about something timely. As a bonus, there’s always a “goody bag” in which one finds original recipes, ways to use new ingredients, food and wine pairing ideas, tips for entertaining, news about the coolest chefs and hottest restaurants. Or something more personal – a taste experience (ever try bitter chocolate, Parmigiano-Reggiano and sweet red grapes?); a mind stimulant (what about making marmalade from carrots?), or a new technique (like my deconstructed “wined-and-brined turkey,” or making cream cheese via “drip irrigation”).

Cooking is not merely about measurement and temperature, and the culinary world is not merely about gastronomy or nutrition. Food has deep historic and emotional resonances, and profound historical connections -- think about “feast” or “famine” or “bread riots.”

Food is familial and simultaneously social: We break bread together and then divide the world into pig-eaters or pig-shunners.

When one writes well about food, all these factors come into play, consciously or not. One should know that The Gleaners in Millet’s famous painting reach backward historically to biblical injunctions not to harvest to the corners of the field, but to leave food for the poor. One should know that without the discovery of the Americas, there would be no tomatoes in Naples, no paprika in Budapest, no chocolate in Zurich. One should know something about why certain foods connect to certain religious festivals – why, for example, we serve lamb at Easter and also at Passover, and why both “feasts” relate to activities around the table.

What my mother cooked for the her family is different from what my readers’ mothers did then or do today, but they all set standards for how we view not just what’s on our plate, but how we will relate to a larger world – one in which even the present seems to vaporize in an instant.

Please take a moment to enjoy the posts below, and I encourage you to search the archives for others that may be of interest to you.

Cooking in Silence

Chocolate Dirt: Is it Art or is it Dinner?

Insanely Delicious Fresh Figs

Oscar Gold: Red Carpet Recipes

Whether you are hosting an Oscar party tomorrow night or simply want to make yourself a festive feast, here are some recipes that I put together for Lenox that are sure to delight. tumblr_mhv3ppzdQt1rsdtszo1_1280SMOKED SALMON HORS D’OEUVRES

Here, three simple ingredients become bite-size luxuries: smoked salmon rosettes and smoked salmon pinwheels. Festive and sophisticated, these are the perfect match, in flavor and color!


- 1 hothouse cucumber - 8 ounces best-quality, thinly sliced smoked salmon - 1/2 cup whipped cream cheese

Wash cucumber but do not peel; slice into 1/4-inch thick rounds, about 24. Slice the smoked salmon into 24 strips that are 1-inch wide by 3-inches long. Roll each piece loosely. Curl back the edges and flatten slightly so that it begins to look like a rose. Spread about 1 teaspoon of cream cheese on each cucumber slice and place rosette on top. Arrange on a platter.



- 8 ounces best-quality, thinly sliced smoked salmon - 8 ounces cream cheese - 4 kirby cucumbers, sliced 1/4-inch thick

Put 2 slices of smoked salmon slightly overlapping. Spread with a thin layer of cream cheese to cover completely. Roll up like a jelly roll (beginning with short edge) and place in a piece of plastic wrap. Twist the edges so that you have a small tight sausage shape. Chill well. Slice thinly and place a slice on a cucumber round.


SEARED SCALLOPS ON SWEET PEA PUREEtumblr_mhv48ztfEe1rsdtszo1_1280

This is great any time of the year as frozen peas are always available. Trendy pea shoots can be found at this time of the year in many farmers markets. You can make the pea puree ahead of time and reheat while you’re cooking the scallops.

- 2 10-ounce packages of frozen petits pois - 8 tablespoons unsalted butter - 18 very large sea scallops - 6 tablespoons dry vermouth - Handful of pea shoots or microgreens

Put the peas in a saucepan with salted water to just cover. Boil 2 minutes. Drain well and save 3/4 cup cooking liquid in a blender. Process until very smooth and thick (adding more liquid if necessary.) Add salt and pepper and return to saucepan.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large frying pan. Season scallops with salt and pepper and sear over high heat for 2 minutes per side, until golden and cooked through. Reheat pea puree until hot; spoon a mound onto each of 6 warm plates. Arrange 3 scallops on puree.

Add the vermouth and the remaining 2 tablespoons butter to the pan. cook 30 seconds over high heat until syrupy. Pour over scallops and top with pea shoots.


tumblr_mhv5pluiI81rsdtszo1_1280FILET OF BEEF WITH WASABI-GARLIC CREAM

Kiss your butcher and ask him (or her) to cut you a nice 3-pound filet of beef and tie it like a roast. You can buy wasabi paste in a tube in most supermarkets and Asian food stores.

Serve with black rice tossed with a bit of grated ginger and your favorite vegetable: I’ve chosen diced carrots sauteed in sweet butter with fresh thyme.

- 2 tablespoons olive oil - 3-pound filet of beef, tied - 1 tablespoon sugar - 1 1/2 cups heavy cream - 2 very large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed - 1 tablespoon prepared wasabi

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Drizzle the oil on a rimmed baking sheet and toll the beef in the oil. Combine the sugar and 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Rub into the top and sides of the filet (but not the bottom or it will burn.) Roast 25 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer reaches 125 degrees for rare. Meanwhile, bring the cream and garlic to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce the heat and cook stirring until reduced to 1 cup, about 15 minutes. Push the softened garlic through a press; whisk back into the sauce. Add the wasabi, cook 1 minute, and remove from the heat. Add salt. Transfer the beef to a cutting board. Let rest 10 minutes. Gently reheat the sauce. Remove the strings from the beef and thickly slice.

Serve with the sauce.


AWARD-WINNING CHOCOLATE MOUSSE CAKEtumblr_mhv7mjvQM21rsdtszo1_1280

This is the world’s simplest and moistest cake: just be sure to remove it from the oven while the center is still quite soft. Edible gold leaf is available in food stores specializing in Indian food products and in specialty baking shops.

- 10 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter - 5 extra-large eggs - 16 ounces best-quality semi-sweet chocolate - 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, espresso powder, or fresh orange zest - 2 pints fresh raspberries, washed and dried - A few sheets of edible gold leaf, optional

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper. butter the sides of the pan with 1/2 tablespoon butter. Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs with a pinch of salt until tripled in volume, about 8 minutes. Melt the chocolate with the remaining 10 tablespoons butter slowly over low heat in a medium saucepan; stir until smooth. Fold the chocolate mixture into te egg mixture with a flexible rubber spatula until completely incorporated. Add the vanilla (espresso or orange zest). Pour into the pan. Bake 18 minutes; the center will be quite soft. Let cool. Arrange the raspberries side by side on top of the cake. Top with gold leaf, if using.


Olympic Gold: Veal Steaks "Stroganoff" with Shiitakes & Portobellos

AFP 520158322 S SPO SPO RUS -I hope you have been enjoying watching the Olympics as much as I have. I've found myself wanting to indulge in a few hearty Russian classics, but how about a new-fashioned Veal Steaks "Stroganoff?" Priyatnogo appetita! Veal Steaks “Stroganoff” with Shiitakes & Portobellos (Radically Simple, Rodale, 2010)

Flavors of fino sherry, espresso, and lemon “lift” an old-fashioned dish, generally made with beef, to something lighter and special.

4 thick veal steaks, about 9 ounces each 1 tablespoon olive oil 2 teaspoons sweet paprika 1 cup heavy cream 6 tablespoons fino sherry 8 ounces baby Portobello mushrooms, sliced 8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced 2 teaspoons chopped fresh lemon thyme ¼ teaspoon espresso powder 2 tablespoons finely minced fresh chives

Preheat the broiler. Rub the veal with the olive oil. Season with the paprika and salt and pepper and arrange on a broiler pan. Heat the cream in a large skillet until bubbly. Add 3 tablespoons of the sherry and all the mushrooms. Cook over high heat, stirring, until the mushrooms soften, 4 minutes. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons sherry, thyme, espresso powder, and salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the mushrooms exude their liquid and then absorb much of the sauce, 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, broil the veal six inches from the heat for 3 to four minutes on each side, until just cooked through. Let rest 5 minutes; thickly slice on the bias. Top with the mushroom sauce and sprinkle with chives. Serves 4

Game Day Drumettes

photo(30)According to Claire Joyes, editor of Monet’s cooking journals, Monet had “perfected a ceremony” for his favorite fowl. He would remove the wings, sprinkle them with nutmeg, ground pepper and coarse salt, and hand them over to his cook to be flame-broiled. Since duck wings can be very tough, the James Beard Foundation blog has a recipe suggesting multi-step cooking. Here's a recipe that younger Super Bowl fans can help make. Not quite wings, but just as delicious.

Crazy-Leg Drumsticks (Drumettes) From Kids Cook 1-2-3 (Bloomsbury, 2006)

The nice herby taste comes from pesto—an uncooked Italian sauce made from fresh basil, garlic and pignoli nuts. You can find it in any supermarket. A dusting of Parmesan cheese turns into a crispy coating.

1/3 cup prepared pesto 4 chicken wings and 4 drumettes ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Spread pesto all over each chicken leg to cover. Sprinkle cheese all over leg (except the bottom where they will sit on the baking sheet—you don’t want the cheese to burn). Lightly press the cheese onto the chicken so it will stick. Add freshly ground black pepper.

3. Lightly spray a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Place legs on baking sheet.

4. Bake 35 minutes until chicken is crispy and golden. Makes 4 servings.

Super Bowl Recipe Countdown (Day 5)

chocolate chiliChocolate Chili with Cauliflower PopcornFrom Eat Fresh Food: Awesome Recipes For Teen Chefs (Bloomsbury, 2009)

This delicious vegetarian chili is made dark and mysterious with a touch of semisweet chocolate and cinnamon. Chocolate and cinnamon are used together in several Mexican dishes. Small roasted florets of white cauliflower turn a simple idea into something that looks really dramatic.

½ pound dried black beans 2 large garlic cloves 4 tablespoons olive oil 2 cups finely chopped onions 1 ½ tablespoons chili powder 1 tablespoon ground cumin 1 tablespoon dried oregano leaves 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon 1½ ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped 1 large cauliflower ¼ cup chopped cilantro or parsley

1. Put the beans in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. Drain the beans in a colander.

2. Peel the garlic and finely chop. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a 4-quart pot. Add the garlic and onions and cook over medium-high heat for 10 minutes until soft. Add the chili powder, cumin, oregano, and 1teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes until fragrant. Stir in the tomatoes, drained beans, cinnamon, and 5 cups water. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover the pot, and simmer for 1½ hours, stirring often. Add the chocolate and stir until melted. Cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes until thick.

3. About 40 minutes before serving, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the cauliflower into ½-inch florets. Put in a bowl and toss with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and salt to taste. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 35 minutes until golden. Shake the pan often during baking to prevent sticking. Remove from the oven. Ladle chili into bowls and top with “popcorn” and herbs.

Super Bowl Recipe Countdown (Day 4)

Photo: Linda Greene Shrimp Veracruz with Rice, Corn & Green Olives

This is fabulously easy to make and so good to eat.  Serve with warm flour tortillas or crispy tortilla chips.

Prepare the components of the salad early in the day, then toss in the shrimp just before serving.  Serve with wedges of lime and hot sauce – green and red. Drink beer or tequila or make a pitcher of pomegranate margaritas.

Easily doubled for a crowd.

2 cups uncooked long-grain brown rice (or basmati rice) 1-3/4 cups fresh corn kernels, cut from the cob (or 10 ounces frozen corn, thawed) 6 scallions, finely chopped 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped 1 green bell pepper, finely chopped 1 cup coarsely chopped pimiento-stuffed green olives 1 pound very large cooked shrimp 16-ounce jar thick and chunky salsa (mild or medium) 1/3 cup olive oil 1 large lime, grated zest and juice 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin 1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Put 6 cups water, 2 cups rice, and 1-1/2 teaspoons salt in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook 30 minutes until rice is just tender. Stir in corn, then drain. Transfer rice mixture to large bowl. Refrigerate 1 hour, stirring occasionally.  Mix in scallions, bell peppers, and olives. Blend salsa, olive oil, lime zest, 1 tablespoon lime juice, cumin and smoked paprika. Stir half of the dressing into rice mixture. When ready to serve, add shrimp and remaining dressing to rice salad. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serves 8

Super Bowl Recipe Countdown (Day 3)

wingsRosemary-Lemon Chicken Wings (From Little Meals, Little, Brown 1993) Move over, Buffalo; here's a Tuscan-style recipe for chicken wings bathed in olive oil, rosemary and garlic, resting on a bed of escarole. The marinade makes a quick dressing for the crunchy, bitter greens.

16 chicken wings (about 2 1/2 pounds) 1/2 cup fruity olive oil 1/2 cup lemon juice 3 bay leaves 3 tablespoons whole fresh rosemary leaves 5 cloves garlic, minced 2 teaspoons sea salt 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce 1 head of escarole 8 thin lemon slices

Remove wing tips and discard. Cut chicken wings in half. In a bowl, mix oil, lemon juice, bay leaves, rosemary, garlic, salt, and Tabasco sauce for marinade. Add chicken wings and cover. Refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove wings from marinade. Pat dry. Put on baking tray and cook in oven for 25 minutes. Put under broiler for 5 minutes until golden brown.

Heat marinade just until it boils.

Line platter with escarole leaves. Pile chicken pieces in center. Drizzle platter with warm marinade and garnish with lemon slices.

Super Bowl Recipe Countdown (Day 2)

miso 008Miso-Ginger Chicken with Scallions I created this recipe years ago for Real Food magazine and didn't remember how good it was! I made it the other night for "the food maven" (I mean who isn't these days?) and a bunch of friends. Love at first bite...and the second...and as delicious the next day right from the fridge. I even brought a few pieces to a neighbor. (A rare thing for me to do.) It is a great do-ahead dish because it marinates for at least 8 hours and bakes at a super-high temperature for under 20 minutes.  (And a flash under the broiler).  That's it!  I bought two large packages of small chicken thighs (24!) and piled them high on a platter when they were all dark golden brown and crispy.  A shower of slivered scallions finished the dish.  It is the white miso (known as shiro miso) that tenderizes the flesh to make it silky and lush.  Miso is also a "flavor carrier" and helped the garlic and fresh ginger permeate every crevice. Shiro miso, and mirin (sweetened rice wine) can be found in Asian markets, health food stores and most supermarkets.  Great with beer, sauvignon blanc, chilled sake, and even beaujolais. The recipe is easily doubled and tripled and is great hot, warm, room temperature, or chilled.

1/2 cup shiro miso 3/4 cup mirin 4 large cloves garlic 3-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped 12 chicken thighs (with skin, bone-in) 8 scallions Put miso, mirin, garlic and ginger in food processor. Process until smooth. Put chicken in a large bowl and pour marinade over chicken. Finely chop white and green part of 5 scallions and stir into chicken. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours. Preheat oven to 450. Transfer chicken with some of its marinade to rimmed baking sheet. Bake 18 to 20 minutes (depending on size of thighs) and then broil 1 to 2 minutes until dark golden brown and cooked through (do not overcook.) Finely sliver remaining scallions and scatter on top.  Serves 6

One-a-day Great Superbowl Recipes (Day 1)

Photo by Hans Gissinger Three-Cheese Pimiento Mac with Parmesan Crumbs

I created this recipe for Bon Appétit magazine and it became the cover photo. It's a comforting, American-styled baked pasta loosely based on a southern favorite – pimiento cheese – whose red bell pepper-cheddar-y taste profile is totally satisfying. The secret ingredient is sweet-and-spicy peppadew peppers. The components can be prepped ahead of time, assembled, and baked 20 minutes before serving. The recipe is easily doubled or tripled for a crowd and perfect for a Superbowl gathering.

1 large red bell pepper, 7 ounces 2 large garlic cloves, peeled 12 peppadew peppers, drained 1 tablespoon peppadew brine 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened ¼ teaspoon ancho chile powder 5 ounces extra-sharp yellow cheddar, in small pieces 1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano 4 ounces shredded whole-milk mozzarella 8 ounces gemelli or medium shells ½ cup panko 3 tablespoons slivered fresh basil

Cut the pepper in half and remove seeds. Cut pepper into 1 inch pieces and put in a small saucepan with 1/2 cup water and 1-1/2 cloves garlic. Bring to a boil, lower heat to medium and cover. Cook 15 minutes until peppers are very soft. Transfer contents (with water) to a food processor. Add the peppadews, brine, 2 tablespoons butter, chile powder and remaining ½ garlic clove. Process until smooth. Add cheddar and ¼ cup parmesan and process until very smooth.

Boil the pasta in salted water until tender, about 11 minutes. Drain under cold water and pat very dry. Toss pasta with the red pepper sauce. Stir in the mozzarella. Add salt to taste. Pack into a large soufflé dish.

Stir together the remaining ¼ cup parmesan and panko. Add the remaining tablespoon butter and, with your fingers, thoroughly moisten the crumbs. Add salt to taste. Sprinkle on pasta and bake 20 minutes until golden. Scatter basil on top. Serves 4