Monday, December 31, 2007
Simmer canellini beans with lots of chopped fresh sage, garlic, and pepper. Dress the cooked beans while still hot with a vinaigrette of olive oil, red-wine vinegar, chopped fresh sage, and garlic.
Considering the way I've been eating since Thanksgiving, I'll probably be eating stuff like this a lot over the next few weeks.
Sunday, December 30, 2007
No wonder ex-Gov. Jim McGreevey writes in his recently published autobiography, The Confession, that the most important political decisions in New Jersey are made inside diners.
Traveling through central N.J., heading east to visit friends in metro New York, I stopped and ate at The Spinning Wheel Diner a few nights ago. It is located on Route 22 in Hunterdon County. The hot pastrami sandwich was excellent; the onion rings were not.
Yesterday for lunch, it was the Riverview Diner in Weehawken, N.J. It is aptly named, as it may have the best view of any diner in the Garden State, only 40 feet from the western bank of the Hudson River with the sleek skyscrapers of Manhattan looming in the distance, spread out like a line of dominoes.
As we left the Riverview Diner, I overheard a customer speaking to a waitress in a Tony Sopranoesque voice. "I don't wanna be no trouble," he said, "but could I get a few meatbells wid my ravioli?"
The waitress nodded, barely making eye contact.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
The amount of alcohol (2 cups of bourbon and 1 cup of brandy) seemed a little high, but my sister-in-law understandably placed herself in Emeril's experienced hands.
The result? Egg nog that was so heavily laden with booze that it could have doubled as lighter fluid.
A question for Mr. Lagasse: Are you participating in a particular 12-step program at the moment? Your undrinkable egg nog recipe makes me wonder.
I know from experience and from my reading that MacIntosh apples are wonderful for making applesauce, but disasterous for baking in a pie. MacIntoshes don't hold their shape well and turn bland and mushy in a pie.
Tonight, unfortunately, another relative baked a pie with MacIntosh apples. It did not come out well. My pie was tasty (based on voluntary praise from a houseful of eaters). I wish I could attribute this to my culinary skills, but it really boils down to the variety of apples I used -- a combination of Granny Smith and Fuji apples.
All of you apple-pie bakers out there, heed this warning. Buy MacIntoshes for homemade applesauce, but don't dare use them for pie.
Friday, December 21, 2007
The recipe? It's quite simple.
4 medium to large-sized sweet potatoes
5 tablespoons of butter
1-1/4 cup of unsweetened applesauce
1 tablespoon of nutmeg, freshly grated
2 tablespoons of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of allspice
granulated sugar (to your taste)
1 tablespoon of apple-jack brandy or calvados
Optional: chopped walnuts or pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel the sweet potatoes, cut them into chunks and then bring them to boil in a pot of water. Reduce to a simmer and continue until the potatoes are cooked through.
Drain the sweet potatoes and set aside. Place the butter, cut up into a few pieces, in the bottom of a stainless steel bowl. Pour the sweet potatoes on top and begin mixing with a hand beater (a large mixer can also be used) until the butter is incorporated into the sweet potatoes.
Now add the applesauce and continue beating until the apple-sweet potato mixture is smooth. Add the nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice, beating the mixture to incorporate the spices. Add the sugar, starting with a 1/2 cup and then tasting before adding more until you get it right. (Why don't I specify an amount of granulated sugar to add? Because sweet potatoes and applesauce can vary widely in their sweetness.)
Now add the apple brandy and mix it into the apple-sweet potato mixture. Then beat two eggs into the same mixture until well incorporated -- at least one full minute. Pour the apple-sweet potato mixture into an ungreased casserole dish and bake for 30 minutes.
Optional: sprinkle chopped walnuts or pecans on top. Allow it to cool a little, then serve.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
The daughter of an interfaith marriage, I chose Judaism, but Christmas cookies chose me.
. . . This year I reconsidered the cookies of my youth, baked each Christmas by my grandmother. I had neglected those recipes in recent years . . .
Many recipes were titanic and laborious. The royal fans required washing the butter, a throwback to the days when most butter was salted, and carefully pinching the dough to shape the creases, each painstakingly painted a different color.
. . . Even though I fashion my gingerbread into dreidels and menorahs, as I bake from her recipes I feel close to her arms, crepe-thin and marked with pronounced veins, working the dough.
These days my grandmother is suffering from severe dementia and lives in a nursing home. I called the other day to discuss white bark balls, but she kept speaking about the beach. I don’t know where this beach of her mind exists, but I’ll bet they wash butter there.
Monday, December 17, 2007
The experience reminded me of a meal described in The Physiology of Taste, a book written in 1825 by the Frenchman Brillat-Savarin.
In a section of his book entitled "Mighty Appetites," Brillat-Savarin recalls:
Some forty years ago I paid a visit to the vicar of Bregnier, a man of great stature, whose appetite was renowned throughout the district.Wait a minute. I thought gluttony was one of the seven deadly sins.
Although it was hardly noon, I found him already eating. The soup and boiled beef had been served, and after these two traditional dishes came a leg of mutton a la royale, a handsome capon, and a generous salad.
. . . alone and without help from me, he easily got rid of the whole course, which is to say, the mutton down to its bone, the capon down to its several bones, and the salad down to the bottom of the bowl.
Next came a good-sized white cheese, from which he cut a wedge-shaped piece of precisely ninety degrees; and he washed down the whole with a bottle of wine and a carafe of water . . .
. . . during this entire operation which lasted about three quarters of an hour, the good priest seemed completely at his ease.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
So I peeled two large sweet potatoes, boiled them until they were cooked through, mashed them with about 4 tablespoons of butter, 3 tablespoons of molasses, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon-sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg (freshly ground), and 1/4 teaspoon of ground coriander.
High in protein and quite yummy.
According to this website, sweet potatoes were among the new foods that Columbus "discovered" and brought back with him to Spain.
The Spanish relished [sweet potatoes] and began cultivating them immediately. Soon they were profitably exporting them to England where they were included in spice pies to be devoured at the court of Henry VIII.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Everything I've tasted from ASF is wonderful -- especially the items they call "fruit perfect," which ASF describes as "the closest thing to fresh fruit ever captured in a jar." It's great over waffles, pancakes or ice cream.
ASF's preserves are far superior to the bland, overly sweetened mush that appears in jars labeled Smucker's.
Anyway, if you love fruit and you haven't heard of ASF, they are definitely worth checking out. Here is ASF's website.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Monday, December 10, 2007
As it turns out, La Bodega is a Texas winery and much of the wines served at the wine bar are also produced in Texas. The wine bar at DFW also offers wines from California, New Zealand, Argentina and South Africa. Wines are sold by "the taste" (roughly 4 ounces), by the glass (6 ounces) and by the bottle.
I drank a red zin produced by California's Hullabaloo. It wasn't dazzling, but it was pleasant enough to serve as a welcome diversion from the evening's hassles. Other than La Bodega, DFW Airport is basically a food wasteland -- much like O'Hare.
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
The entree, long the undisputed centerpiece of an American restaurant meal, is dead.I'd like to hear officials at the Scripps National Spelling Bee ask a 14-year-old to spell "tapafication." The entire article is here.
O.K., so maybe it’s not quite time to write the entree’s obituary. But in many major dining cities like New York, San Francisco and Chicago, the main course is under attack.
Although the entree’s ills were first diagnosed in the late 1990s, when the rise of small plates kicked off the tapafication of American menus, the attacks have become more serious lately.
Westend Bistro"How catty," was my first thought — the Post is dissing Ripert's newly opened Washington restaurant. I almost skipped past the article written by the Post's Tom Sietsema, assuming I already had the gist of it. As it turns out, however, the Post was not taking a shot at Ripert's Westend Bistro.
How does Eric Ripert's D.C. spot compare with his Le Bernardin in New York? It doesn't.
I doubt that I was the only reader who assumed that the Post was giving Westend Bistro the thumbs-down. That's bad news for Westend if those readers never get around to reading the actual article.
This same story appears in the Post's online version, but there is no teaser — only the headline, which is hard to misinterpret. The headline reads: It's Not Le Bernardin, and That's the Point.
Sunday, December 2, 2007
The standard [food] was usually too dull to be mentioned, unless it was spectacularly bad, which is why, in early nineteenth century novels, great meals are usually on par with outstanding orgies, with which they often coincide.
Few people would have guessed that France would one day be the goal of gastro-tourists. Beyond the homes of the rich and a few restaurants, recipes were unusual. The word "recette" (meaning "recipe" in French) referred primarily to the preparation of pharmaceutical remedies.
For tourists who ventured beyond Paris, the true taste of France was stale bread. ... This was bread that had lived through the year with the people who baked it, as hard as stone, immune to the weather and able to travel great distances. The tougher varieties out of storage [were] fossilized crisps that had to be smashed with a hammer, boiled five times with a few potatoes and perhaps flavoured with milk.
Most travellers quailed at the thought of eating local bread and took their own supply of biscuits.
... some salted lard on Sunday to change the taste of the bread.