Learn from your past mistakes and your past wins. When I mentioned I was working on my Thanksgiving menu for 2014, a friend asked to share what I was thinking of doing so he might gain some inspiration for his menu. I always write a menu, but I don’t know what I actually made until after I made it. So here’s what I actually made for my double Thanksgivings for the past six years. I could have gone further, but enough already!
Thanksgiving 2013 APPETIZERS
Roast Duck & Garlic Chive Steamed Buns (pink with beet juice), Mushroom Veggie Steamed Buns (yellow with turmeric juice) served w Soy-Scallion-Ginger Sauce & Sriracha
Shrimp & Grits Balls served with Creole Butter Sauce (David Leite inspired)
Buffalo Cracklin’ Sticks (blue cheese stuffed celery with hot sauced chicken cracklings)
Mega Mushroom Stuffing
Latke Stuffing (Laura Kumin inspired)
Orange Maple Walnut Scalloped Sweet Potatoes
Jax Mac & Cheese
Coriander Roasted Butternut & Shallots with Barley, Lentils & Chick Peas
Five Shade Of Greens: String Beans, Swiss Chard, Zukes, Scallions & Garlic Chives
No tomato left behind. That’s my gardening motto. Every year, I “farm” in my Brooklyn backyard. The crop that likes me best is tomatoes. In the spring, I’m full of hope, I pour over the Silver Heights farm catalog of hundreds of organic veggies which is pretty much like reading food erotica.
Who can resist:
“Honeydrop, 62 days, I. NEW The folks at Crabapple Farm in Chesterfield, MA, have developed a tasty 1” or a bit more, round cherry that has incredibly sweet, complex flavor – every bite tastes a bit like honey! Because this is a sport, most plants will produce their primary color of shades of yellow or even cream. The secondary color occasionally is a light rose. Some folks think this is a good rival to the hybrid Sungold, but shows much more resistance to cracking. If you are not too picky about the color of the tomato, this new variety is worthy of a try, especially if you are seeking a tomato that is perfect for snacking!”
“Principe Borghese, 65-75 days, D. Suitable for container growing, this prolific bush puts out long stems of clustered 1-2 oz., 2” long fruits with little juice or seeds. Tomatoes ripen early and hang on the vine a long time, making it easy to cut whole stems of mature fruits to hang and dry. This is a preferred variety for sun drying in Italy. These put store-bought dried tomatoes to shame. There are at least 8 strains of this variety, some with a pronounced sharp point at the blossom end, others without the point. Market growers sell these on full trusses as the fruits cling to the vine. Heirloom.”
“Rutgers, 74 days, D. Compact vines with heavy foliage bear reliable crops of 6-8 oz., red, globular, slightly flattened fruits with thick walls. Great for canning. Developed by the Campbell Soup Co. in 1928, a cross between Marglobe and J.T.D. Refined by Rutgers in 1943. We offer the unimproved older strain of Rutgers, as we prefer its flavor, fresh and cooked. Heirloom.”
“I need a kitchen.”
“Can you just rent a kitchen in New York City?”
“Where can I find a kitchen?”
“I need a space for a dinner with a kitchen.”
“I’m reaching out to you because (insert name) said you’d be the person to ask about finding a kitchen in New York City.”
When people keep asking me the same question over and over my solution is to write a blog post.
Here’s a list of kitchens you can rent in New York city which you can rent to:
cook (incubator) to create your own product short or long term
The Cole Porter song goes, “Everytime we say goodbye, I die a little.” That’s how I feel when I eat the crêpe cake from Lady M or Chickalicious.
Died and went to heaven is more like it.
I can still remember where I was the first time I saw the crêpe cake. I’m walking down 40th street across from Bryant Park, early last year and I see two well dressed gentlemen ogling something in the window. They were arguing about whether they should go into the store of what turned out to be the window of the Lady M Cafe. Wondering what the kerfuffle was about, I looked in the window. Ohhhh!!! the cakes — the gorgeous cakes! I didn’t know of crêpe cakes at the time. They seemed to have a zillion layers and I thought for a moment they were baumkuchen—the Hungarian cake where you bake a series of layers on top of one another. But these were ethereal looking, light and luscious.
I thought maybe I should go in, but I was trying to behave myself.
Take A Bow!: Anchovies with salsa verde, bread and butter
The main artery of Chelsea Market that stretches from 9th avenue almost to 10th avenue should be called the hallway of deliciousness. You walk into a barrage of temptations and treats coming on to you like street hookers, “Hey, baby, you like what you see? Come over honey and get a little taste of this.” I love the level of glutton-ability and the throngs of food lovers, shoppers and tourists who crush into the circus, their faces ranging from delight to overwhelm and perhaps a little panic.
Last Saturday, I ignored my way down the gauntlet. My taste buds had a very important date. I was invited to a tasting at Corkbuzz Chelsea with a bunch of bloggers and food media enthusiasts. SURPRISE! Our table was set up ringside. We got to feast on Michelin-star chef Missy Robbin’s amazing food, with a view of the sideshow of the HORDES and MASSES hitting Chelsea Market.
We watched them. They watched us. We created a spectacle by not only being a table of fierce-looking ladies, but by photographing every dish—Judy Kim, from The Judy Lab, even brought lighting. Cogitating, contemplating and cooing over every bite, we became an added attraction.
Blue cheese stuffed celery sticks have come a long way, baby. Along with deviled eggs and pimento cheese craze, you’re going to start seeing new spins on these hip 60’s party tray nibbles at the hottest restaurants. They’re gluten-free after all! My makeover features the addition of hot sauce chicken cracklings as an homage to Buffalo chicken wings.
I can remember going to my Grandma’s house for family dinners when she lived on Central Park West. She was a fantastic cook who specialized in HUGE DINNERS, but she never served appetizers or soup. She did love a cocktail. Harvey Wallbangers were her favorite. For cocktails she’d put out a tray of nibbles to tide everyone over until the feast was on the table. There’d be blue cheese stuffed celery sitting alongside pimento stuffed olives, pitted California olives and radishes. This recipe adds some heat and crunch to bring the vintage appetizer up to speed.
“Hey, can you make those wings you make?”
“If you’re gonna make those wings you make, I’ll be there.”
“Can you come over… and bring those wings you make?”
Me: Which wings?
“The crunchy ones with the sticky sauce.”
Me: The cooked the sh*t ones?
This is the recipe for my Cooked the Sh*t Wings, famous amongst my friends and family, that I sort of learned from my father, whom I’ve hardly seen my whole life—long story.
He’s a wonderful cook and loves food (it’s hereditary). I watched him make chicken when I visited him in San Francisco in the mid 80’s. He sprinkled it with salt and just cooked it and cooked it. The chicken skin came out really crunchy. I don’t recall if they were wings because I’m old, but it must have been some small-type pieces of chicken. No matter, because that moment from long ago inspired my Cooked the Sh*t Wings. I simply salt and pepper the wings and cook the crap out of them, then put some sort of sticky sauce on them and possibly something crunchy as well.
Wings have a lot of fat, from the skin, so they can take a long roasting. I say it makes them lighter because a lot of the fat cooks off. I don’t know if that makes them healthier, but they’re damned good.
You don’t have to sauce them, but I always do. I find some sticky stuff in the refrigerator and turn it into a sauce and baste them at the last minute, then throw them back in the oven for a minute. You can also buy a sauce. I made these with my friend Erika Kerekes, who has just launched a new line of fruit-based ketchups called Not Ketchup. I made a glaze based on the Spicy Fig one. I use 1/2 cup of Spicy Fig Not Ketchup, 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons of sweet chili sauce and some sesame seeds because sometimes I put an additional layer of crunch on top of the sticky glaze, because I can and I love another layer of flavor and MORE CRUNCH! (Queen of OVERKILL)
The 10-15 minutes it takes for me to cut a smoked duck breast out of its packaging, score the skin in both directions, put it in a cold pan, turn on the heat and render the fat is about as fast as I want any meal to occur.
The three things I love about a smoked duck breast are
Smoked duck breast: countless uses
Smoked duck fat: save it for frying eggs or roasting potatoes and veggies in. Maybe make a warm duck-fat vinaigrette to take a bath in?
Smoked duck skin: if you can manage to not eat it as soon as you pull its ultimate, crunchy goodness out of the pan, chop it up and put it on anything.
You want to get as much mileage as you can out of the breast because they can be pricey.
Smoked duck breast adds class to any dish. It just sounds fancy. Doesn’t my Smoked Duck Breast, Mango & Avocado Salad sound like it should be “today’s special” at the country club? I can totally hear Muffy saying, “Dahling, you simply must try the smoked duck salad. It’s to die for and only 100 calories.” Clearly Muffy is a lying scamp!
I always have one in my refrigerator so I can just eat it or turn it into a salad or make smoked duck hash, maybe smoked duck fried rice with duck cracklings on top, or a smoked duck stir fry. How about smoked duck breast bao or smoked duck breast summer rolls?
The first time I tasted garlic fried rice, I thought, “HELLO BEAUTIFUL, where have you been all my life?” The Maharlika-Jeepney crew, a local Filipino restaurant group, ran a pop-up in downtown Brooklyn. In addition to being very happy to eat it, I remember feeling a little cheated. It was as if my life had been retroactively diminished by not having eaten this simple, five-ingredient vegan side dish before.
Was I being dramatic? Hello?!?!?!—DRAMA is my middle name! It was like finally meeting the man or woman of your dreams at senior-citizens’ home and wishing you’d met way earlier. You know you’re going to stay together the rest of your life, but wish you’d met in kindergarten. Yes, I realize if I met him that early on, it might not have worked out. However, if I’d eaten garlic rice in kindergarten I’d certainly still be eating it and we would have had so much more time together…. SOB!!!
This recipe makes perfect use of leftover rice of any kind—perhaps not sticky rice, but you could use quinoa, buckwheat or another already cold, cooked grain that you want to use up. Whatever you use, make sure it’s cold, not just cooled.
The way you remember what’s in the classic Cobb salad is by using the acronym EAT COBB: Egg, Avocado, Tomato, Chicken, Onion, Bacon, Blue cheese.
I tend to be rebellious when it comes to food, plus I love a bit of overkill and I like to use up leftovers in the fridge.
When my boyfriend and I came back from eating our way around the Berkshires for my birthday, it was hot and humid in the city. We decided it would be best to offset our gluttony with something light. I suggested a salad. Here’s the one I made. I’m not sure you’d call it light, since it weighed five pounds. Let’s just say I took liberties with Cobb. I did a job on the Cobb. Did I rob the Cobb? (Stopping the rhyming now… )
The acronym for my Cobb Salad Gone Wild would start with EAT COB (mine had ham instead of bacon) on, say, a Scrabble board. Then, imagine a two-year-old appearing magically from nowhere, grabbing the Scrabble tile bag and throwing it on the floor, with completely random letters falling out—doesn’t that happen at your house? It’s unlikely the resulting letters would spell anything in English: EAT COB HRCCCYGKM. Perhaps you could spell something in one of the Slavic languages. If you come up with something coherent let me know in the Comment section.
However this salad does spell D-E-L-I-G-H-T-F-U-L and D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S! Your guests will love all the contrasting colors.
I served it with Mustard Tarragon Vinaigrette because it’s my latest addiction. You can use a classic red-wine vinaigrette or any dressing you love.
Apparently, I will invite myself to your house on the 4th of July, if you have a fantastic view of the fireworks.
We’d been invited to a number of 4th of July events this year—okay, that made us sound douchey and much more popular than we really are. It may have been a coincidence, but I do give good potluck.
The Macy’s fireworks were being moved back to the East River for the first time in many years [insert round of applause]. New Yorkers no longer had to share our fireworks display with New Jersey. Once again, I’d be able to watch the fireworks from my own neighborhood, as it should be.
When I mentioned our invitations to Paul, my boyfriend, he said he wanted to go to some friends who had not invited us. I thought, “Well, that’s presumptuous!” Granted, these friends had recently bought an apartment, in the Heights, with a stone’s-throw view of the skyline and the Brooklyn Bridge…
We went out to dinner with them at Saul, at the Brooklyn Museum—FAB MEAL, just go—and “sparked” the idea of their hosting a 4th of July party. They were pretty excited to realize that they’d purchased an apartment with an amazing view of the fireworks and said, “Yes!”
Their theme was ’MERICA Baby!, and I jumped on it by making a red, white and blue watermelon salad. I realize that my stars were six-pointed Jewish stars, but since it was a New York party it seemed kind of appropriate.
The fireworks were stunning. The salad was a hit, bringing a nice level of ooh’s and aaah’s to delight the other guests at the party. I dressed it with my homemade elderflower champagne vinaigrette, but that will not be easy to find or make unless you have a couple of years.
After the Grucci family rocked our world with a stunning fireworks display, it was nice to be able to walk home from Brooklyn Heights. As I watched the hordes and masses trying to get on the subway, standing in lines that were four blocks long, I did the Brooklyn happy dance. Paul did a zombie walk because it totally looked like a scene from a sci-fi movie “Tourist-nado.”
My chicken sushi recipe was inspired by a sushi restaurant on Greenwich Avenue that I used to go to back in the late 80s; I forget the name. They served a dish called “Tiger’s Eye.” It was a green bean and carrot wrapped in nori, then wrapped in salmon, wrapped again in nori and stuffed into squid body and steamed. When you sliced it, it looked like an eye, not necessarily from a tiger, but Tiger’s Eye sounded much better than Human’s Eye on the menu.
I like the idea of sushi without rice, so I made chicken sushi, which I’ve been making for years. It looks really cool when you plate it. It scares people a little when you tell him you’re bringing chicken sushi, but then they see it and they get it and they light up.
I made this dish for a potluck last year, where I stuck skewers in each roll and made “Sesame Chicken Sushi Pops w Teriyaki Glaze & Scallion Ginger Oil.” You know the effect of turning anything into something that resembles one of our favorite childhood treats, don’t you? More DELIGHT! Put a stick in it and they will come. LOL!
I love that this dish is also low-carb and gluten-free, as long as you serve it with gluten-free soy sauce.
Ethereal… that’s my experience of a well-made Pavlova. I fell hard for this dessert when I first had it in Australia. There’s something about the contrast of the pillowy soft sweetness of the meringue against the cool lusciousness of the whipped cream and the sparkle, tang and varied flavors and deliciousness of the fruit. Passionfruit is very common in Australia, but not so much in New York. Whenever I see it here it’s a SIGN that I must make a “Pav” as it’s called down under.
Of course, I wanted to be a ballerina. What little girl doesn’t? I took ballet lessons and I had a purple tutu that I loved with sequins and tulle. I’m pretty sure I was not serious about becoming a ballerina, but I was serious about wearing that tutu. I’m very serious about my love for eating Pavlova and spreading the “Pav-LOVE” far and wide.
Alas, my tutu days have long since passed and I don’t even have the attention span to watch a ballet. But I can appreciate the beauty, strength and grace of the ballerinas. I imagine that’s what the chef (was it an Aussie or a Kiwi?), who designed this dessert for the Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova had in mind. This dessert is beautiful, melding and taming bold flavors, but ever so gracefully.
I think the thing that made me fall in love with Pavlova was the fresh passionfruit squeezed over the top. Passionfruit is plentiful and cheap in Australia, but scarce and expensive here in New York. I rarely make Pavlova, when I can’t find fresh passionfruit, but if you never had it, you won’t miss it. If you have had the dessert with passionfruit you may experience a pang of loss until you bite into the Pavlova. It’s like getting the best massage in your mouth. All your cares and woes just slip away.
Don’t skimp on the vanilla in this recipe—use a good one. I received a sample of Nielsen Massey’s Vanilla Bean Paste, which I used in this Pavlova. It gave the Pavlova a lovely flavor and speckled it with vanilla beans seeds. But, it also made the meringue a little grey. I might just stick to vanilla extract in the future.
Just looking at Japanese people can make me hungry. Looking at this picture of braised daikon and mushrooms does the same. Japanese is one of my favorite cuisines that I rarely cook at home. The recipes can be complex and time-consuming and require a lot of ingredients, some of which can be a schlep to find even in New York. Then you wind up with a lot of odd ingredients in a city where space is limited and Japanese restaurants are plentiful.
I like to preserve the “magic” of Japanese food by eating it out. By “magic,” I mean I can just enjoy the flavors and the artistry of the food someone else has made without deciphering it and and figuring out how to replicate it at home.
However, this dish of braised daikon radish and mushrooms is very simple. Although the flavor of daikon radish varies from plant to plant, I find them to have a more delicate flavor than the more common red radishes. Braising helps mellow the flavor of the radishes even more. The umami combo of the mushrooms and the soy sauce balances beautifully with the sweetness of the mirin. Although this is a vegan dish, it packs an almost meaty punch.
Gardening is like going to the casino these days with global warming causing such wild fluctuations in our weather. Spin the wheel and you may get to make Bread & Butter Green Cherry Tomato Pickles, but you have to be lucky.
You’re lucky if you have a veggie garden or at least a place you can grow some tomatoes in containers. You’re really lucky, if a few of those tomatoes fall on the dirt and “volunteer” the following year in the shape of tomato seedlings. I feel very lucky and am extremely grateful for having a garden. I grow a wide variety of tomatoes; last year I had about 25-30 plants going, which is a lot in a New York garden.
I buy what I call uppity tomato seedlings from the my favorite organic farmer, Trina, who runs Silver Heights Farm at the Union Square Greenmarket. Her catalogue has hundreds of tomatoes and other veggies. It’s often hard to control myself because I want them ALL. I pop them in and hope they will grow up to the expectation that the catalog description has lured me with. But some of them don’t make it.