Tastes of the Week

November 14  through 21, 2011 Had one of the loveliest brunches -- at Maialino -- in the cool, plush Gramercy Hotel overlooking New York's park of the same name. Sitting at the bar (in the quiet sunlight of November) a friend and I shared an $8 glass of a red wine from Tuscany served in a very expensive wine glass. I love when that happens. It is a very Danny Meyer touch to do that. Maialino is Danny's "Roman" restaurant (one of many in his empire) and is a divine place to dine. We ate the welcome basket of focaccia with gusto and then moved on to a "budino" -- an orange-scented olive oil "cake-lette."  Not quite muffin nor tea bread, it satisfied the morning urge for something sweet but not-too-sweet. It was hard not to notice the extra-thick pepper-crusted bacon sitting in front of our bar neighbor so we ordered that, too. It was hard to resist the autumnal offering of poached eggs on roasted brussels sprouts and squash puree -- heavenly morning food. And I LOVED my bowl of tripe with an olive-oil fried egg on top. I enjoyed the tripe at Maialino the first time I went and thought the idea for breakfast was inspiring. It begged for a few sips of red wine. Then something funny happened:  I was spotted entering the restaurant by the owner from his apartment across the street and so out came a few more dishes to try:  amazing paper-thin slices of ham made from suckling pig (!) -- soft and tender, it simply melted upon your tongue; and a helping of squash-filled agnolotti with fried sage, butter and a sunny hint of lemon. That was another bit of Meyer Hospitality: He is the master. Brunching at the bar is so special at Maialino that a lovely woman next to us told us we could find her there every Sunday -- with newspapers in hand and a whiff of Rome in the air.

As guest lecturer at a luncheon for the Junior League of New York last week, I was treated to a menu of my own food! It's always interesting when that happens and sometimes the results can be alarming. But Chef Patrick did a special job of interpolating my recipes for 4 into recipes for 75. Not always easy to do. So the next time you have a crowd for lunch you might want to try:  a salad of Pea Shoots & Greens with Goat Cheese & Cumin Vinaigrette; Crisped Chicken with Chimichurri & Avocado, Walnut-Onion Muffins (which are perfect for Thanksgiving so look for the recipe below), and "The Little Black Dress Chocolate Cake" topped with raspberries and a one-ingredient creme anglaise (made from a reduction of egg nog.) The topic of the lecture was "mindful" cooking, including the concept of radical simplicity, and the recipes can all be found in Radically Simple.

And one of the most special lunches in New York, now going on for 25 years, is the Power Lunch hosted by the "insatiable" food critic, Gael Greene. It is an extraordinary event of extraordinary women (and a smattering of men who pay $10,000 to attend!) to raise money for Citymeals-on-Wheels. Gael started it decades ago with legendary food guru James Beard and it has grown into a NY institution -- both the lunch and the organization for which multi-million dollars have been raised over the years. The most meaningful moments occur when we are treated to the voices of actors reading the words of the older people, many who are shut-ins, who count on Meals on Wheels for their very sustenance. Not only is the meal important but also the companionship and care that accompany each delivery.  For many elderly there is no one else who knocks on their door any more. For many years, Joe Baum and Michael Whiteman used to host the event at the Rainbow Room (which we owned and operated for 13 years). Now it is held at the glorious Taj Pierre Hotel. I thought lunch was delicious:  It's not easy to prepare 300 portions of perfectly cooked bass, brussels sprouts the size of your fingernail, roasted beets, and the best assemblage of miniature pastries -- macaroons, tiny lemon meringue tarts, genoise cupcakes -- ever.

A nice tuna sandwich with a fried egg and hollandaise at April Bloomfield's restaurant John Dory...at the hip Ace Hotel -- accompanied by a Finger Lakes wine, a dry riesling, called the Gotham Project. Now who wouldn't love that!

Walnut-Onion Muffins (yum!) In the 1980's, I helped create a three-star restaurant in New York called the Hudson River Club, whose menu was based on the region's local bounty. My friend Wendy Dubit, who had a farm in the Hudson Valley, found this recipe in an old cookbook. I just made it radically simple. Its yummy moisture and flavor comes from pureed onion.

1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped 2 extra-large eggs 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted 6 tablespoons sugar 1-1/2 cups self-rising flour 1 cup shelled walnuts, about 4 ounces, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Coat 16 muffin cups with cooking spray. Process the onion in a food processor until finely ground. Measure out 1 cup. Beat together the onion, eggs, butter, and sugar. Blend in the flour and chopped walnuts to make a smooth batter. Fill the muffin tins and bake 18 minutes until just firm and golden. Serve warm.  Makes 16

Make these muffins on Thanksgiving morning and enjoy. Today the muffins, tomorrow a pumpkin cheesecake...


Gael Greene's "Power Luncheon for Women" is the culinary equivalent of Quincy Jones' "We Are the World."  For the past 24 years, Gael has orchestrated formidable star power to raise money and support for Citymeals-on-Wheels.  In so doing, millions and millions of dollars have helped feed New York's elderly and elevated the level of awareness of their plight to mythic proportion.  Yesterday the event was held at the newly refurbished Pierre Hotel (now owned by the Taj Group from India).  The meal was first-class and an extremely generous offering, made no doubt, by one of the world's great hoteliers, Raymond Bickson.

The event was full of power and heart.  More than 400 women (and a smattering of men) gathered to praise the efforts of Gael Greene and Marcia Stein, who has been the executive director for years.   Instead of singing we ate, and talked to women we never met before.  Instead of planned seating, we each drew a number out of a big silver bowl and hoped for the best.  But it is always the best when you make it so.  I had the pleasure of sitting next to Ann Marie Borghese who, with her husband, bought the Hargrave vineyard on Long Island and created an exciting new venture, the "Borghese Vineyard & Winery." Next to me was a woman research scientist (a zoologist!), next to her an executive with American Airlines, next to her a lawyer who loves the organization, next to her Francine LeFrak, and so on. Gracing the stage were more formidable women, including glamorous Gael in her signature sailor's cap, Kathleen Turner, the screen icon and Citymeals board member who was a 2010 honoree (along with Diana Taylor, former chairwoman of the New York State Banking Board), Paula Zahn, and most importantly, on screen, some of the elderly who benefit daily from the hot meals and hugs delivered by the volunteers of Citymeals.

This event was first organized by James Beard, Gael Greene, Donald and Barbara Tober and other notables in the food world who fittingly decided to help "feed the forgotten."  In the beginning, it was Joseph Baum and Michael Whiteman who were "the angels" who hosted the luncheon at the legendary Rainbow Room atop Rockefeller Center.  Decades later, I am happy to say that the event is as elegant as ever and continues to inspire.

The mission statement reads:  "Citymeals-on-Wheels provides a continuous lifeline of nutritious food and human company to homebound elderly New Yorkers in need, helping them live with dignity in their own familiar homes and communities."   Simple and powerful.

So why not make a simple meal today and then make a simple contribution?  It will taste doubly delicious.

In honor of the wonderful scallop dish served at the luncheon, I will share one of my favorite recipes from Radically Simple.

Seared Scallops on Sweet Pea Puree This is one of the most beloved recipes from my original Recipes 1-2-3, but I've updated it with dry vermouth and a garnish of trendy pea shoots. It is a dish for any time of the year because frozen petits pois, always available, provide the base of the lovely buttery puree.

10 ounces frozen petits pois, thawed 4 tablespoons unsalted butter 20 medium-large sea scallops 3 tablespoons dry vermouth handful of pea shoots, mache, or microgreens

Put the peas in a saucepan with water to cover.  Boil 2 minutes.  Drain well and save 6 tablespoons cooking liquid.  Put the peas, 2 tablespoons butter, and the cooking liquid in a blender.  Puree until very smooth and thick. Add salt and pepper. Return to the saucepan.  Keep warm.  Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet.  Season the scallops and sear over high heat 2 minutes per side until golden and just cooked through.  Spread the warm pea puree in the center of 4 large plates.  Arrange the scallops on the puree.  Add the vermouth and the remaining butter to the skillet.  Cook over high heat until syrupy, 30 seconds.  Pour over the scallops and top with pea shoots.  Serves 4