Please drink for a good cause. If I told you there was a line of wines that you can buy to help support no-kill shelters like the North Shore Animal League you might think that’s a nice gimmick to sell some crappy wine. However, Château La Paws from Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines is actually a quite drinkable selection of reasonably priced wines. I went to the launch the other night where I cuddled puppies and met Effie, the only dog from the 12 dogs that were photographed for the wine labels for the Château La Paws line that has yet to be adopted. She is a sweetie and deserves a forever home.
The Diva That Ate New York
We had some onions when I was a kid. Growing up in New York City, my idea of the perfect hot dog has mustard, sauerkraut, and hot dog onions… New York hot dog onions. They were probably my favorite part of a good old New York dirty “dawg”. Of the many, many issues I have with hot dogs from a New York cart, these days, one of the main ones is the onions have deteriorated from a thick sauce of brick-colored, sweated down, sweet and savory onions to a watery, vaguely rusty colored, flavorless, boiled up mess. They are pretty nasty. I used to be able to find good onions on a hot dog from Mendy’s in the food court at Grand Central station. It was my dirty little secret to sneak down and scarf down a dog when I was in the hood. The last time I went there, the onions were different and they too had gone to the blah side. I started to write Mendy’s a letter to let them know how disappointed I was.
I made a recipe for NYC Style Smoked Paprika Hot Dog Onions that not only brings back memories from my Big Apple childhood, but surpasses them with the addition of smoked paprika. We were lucky to have plain paprika on our spice rack when I was a kid. It had one purpose, sprinkling on deviled eggs to make them look fancy.
Oh, the glitz and the glamor! The Oscars are coming up this weekend and you’d think I’d be making something as fabulous as this Beet Cured Salmon Gravlax for my viewing party, but I’m not. But you can and you should.
This time of year in Melbourne, Australia, it’s the middle of summer. One of the very distinct smells of an Aussie summer is mangoes. If you’re in Little Saigon, in the inner Melbourne suburb of Richmond, in January, the markets are filled with stacks of boxed mangoes and mountains of loose mangoes. The tantalizing scent of the mangoes seems to whisper to passers-by, like a prostitute in a doorway, “Pssst… pssst… pssst… you… yeah, you. Do you want some of this? You know you want this…
Here, in New York, I have never smelled mangoes like them. Even in the midst of our Big Apple summer, when my fruit and veggie store has mangoes, I grab them, SNIFF furiously and NOTHING. I once visited a mango farm in Australia, in Queensland which was like being in mango heaven. Apparently, 92% of the mangoes grown in Australia are consumed there, which is great for them, but sad for me.
Another thing I miss from Little Saigon is Vietnamese Lemongrass Beef Rolls.
Endive Salad with Apples, Blue Cheese and Candied Hazelnuts
The words “winter salad” don’t stir up the same emotions or lack of emotion as the words “summer soup”. I get as excited about summer soup as a flat line on a heart monitor. The patient died from boredom. I like my potatoes in potato salad in the summer, not in Vichyssoise. I’ll have my fruit in its own skin or on top of a Pavlova in the summer, thank you. Please don’t throw my smoothie into a bowl with a dollop of crème fraiche—not that I order many smoothies either. Give me my peas right off the vine, zipped from their shells, still warm from the sun. As far as I’m concerned, cold pea soup belongs in the Exorcist.
It’s not that I haven’t tried to love summer soup, I have. It’s often the amuse bouche at upscale restaurants in the summer, so I’ve tried many of them. They are not awful, but they leave me cold, except for gazpacho, but definitely not pureed. I’ll take mine straight up with chunks is my motto.
When life gives you lemons make lemonade or divine Coconut Lemon Curd Shortbread Cookies.
Life has been giving me lemons every morning for months. I get up and the first thing I have is twelve ounces of warm water with a half a lemon and one teaspoon of honey. [Cue my mom’s voice.] “It’s good for you”, followed with a litany of reasons why “THEY,” say I should drink it. I’m not going into that here because Google.
I don’t like it. I hated it when it was just lemon and water. Lately, it’s semi-improved by the addition of raw, local honey (“THEY” said the honey was good too). It certainly had not grown on me.
I hate “THEM”. Why can’t “THEY” just mind their own business?
But I do it. It’s like a penance for the delicious food, I eat the other 98% of the time.
It’s during that span of time I make things like coconut shortbread topped with tangy lemon curd and toasted coconut.
But the health plot thickened. As it happens my dry, winter feet looked like they were shedding coconut fragments. I know, GROSS!!! (Isn’t this a food blog?). When I asked on Facebook how to soothe and moisten them, many of my friends suggested I use coconut oil and one said to take it internally (RECIPE FOR DRY WINTER FEET below).
There’s something about a toffee. I think it’s the dame of the candy world. Sexy, snappy and buttery with a nice, little bite. I could see a gorgeous gal named Toffee rushing into a third rate detective’s office in a 1950’s B movie, breathless and scared saying, “You gotta help me.” He melts at the sight of her and does her bidding.
When you make Salted Chocolate Cappuccino Buttercrunch Toffee you will not need help eating it. People will offer and if you’re nice you may give them a little. I hide mine.
The original version of this recipe was given to me by my dear friend Kathy Blake, a professional cook and food writer, who blogs at The Experimental Gourmet, when another recipe I was using for toffee failed twice. This is her mom’s recipe. Mine is a little different, but they are both delish.
I’ve always been a chunky girl. Not physically, although lately I seem to be getting that way. I’ve always preferred chunky soup to pureed soup or pureed anything. I like to feel the texture of food in my mouth, so I don’t want that annihilated by a Vita-mix. Pureed food also makes me think of baby food. I was a serial baby sitter as a teenager so I may have been overexposed to jars of machine masticated goo.
I don’t mind dal, a Indian dish made from pureed split legumes like mung beans, beans, peas, lentils, etc. because it has so much personality. I first had it as a kid, when The Vegetarian Epicure was our go-to cookbook. We’d have it as a side dish with my mom’s Madras Chicken Curry and Anna Thomas’s Carrot Banana Curry from her cookbook. My health food freak mom loved dal because it’s so healthy and cheap. It’s a high protein backbone of many vegan and vegetarian diets in India and other surrounding countries.
I could pretend that these crackers are part of some lofty ideal or resolution I made for the brand spanking new year of 2015, but anyone who know me would scream, “LIAR!” and they’d be right. I just thought these crackers were beautiful looking and fun to munch on when I had them recently at a restaurant, so I made them. I love it when it turns out that tastes good is actually really good for you! BONUS!
Flaxseeds are a superfood dating back to Babylonian times. According to WedMD: “Some call it one of the most powerful plant foods on the planet. There’s some evidence it may help reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes. That’s quite a tall order for a tiny seed that’s been around for centuries.” Flaxseeds get gummy when you wet them so you don’t need any other binder for these crackers. I tried them baked and dehydrated and liked them both ways. I can see adding all sorts of other seeds, nuts and spices to these crackers in future batches.
The only one not pictured is the Four Seasons because the photos were so dark.
Is it even possible for me to pick my top ten restaurants of 2014? After all there are so many good ones. Plus, there are so many good ones that I still haven’t been to. I clearly need two stomachs or a clone.
I cooked a lot. I ate a lot! I ate out a lot. This is the first year I kept a complete list. I ate at over 220 restaurants, bakeries, cafes, food stalls, food trucks, holes in the wall, etc. in 2014. I ate at a few of them more than once. Oddly, I don’t think I ate at any food trucks. I’m not a fan of standing in line to get food or eat food. I did got to a couple of the pop-up food markets (Madison Square Eats, Broadway Bites, etc.) that spring up around town. If you go during the off hours there are no lines.
I digress. If you’re on my mailing list, you know I send out a running list of all the restaurants I’ve gone to in New York City and on my travels. I include my IMHO ONE WORD reviews for each place that range from LOVED! to FAIL. There were 35 LOVED! ones out of the 220 places I ate in. I chose only places in New York City from that list and only sit down restaurants to make my top ten list (I will make another list of places I’d grab sweets in Manhattan).
“You’re gonna get coal in your stocking!” This was never a threat in my family because my mother’s children were perfect… NOT!!!
We were just as horrid any other bunch of kids, but I don’t believe this holiday threat was known to my mom. The one I remember best was, “If you kids get up before the sun is up, no presents”. I can still remember the torture of my brothers and I staring out the window, at the houses behind our house, waiting for that first glimmer of light. It was an eternity to us.
Every year, along with Hanukkah, come the latke battles. I sit on the sidelines and watch my social media feed fill up with “How To Make The Perfect Latke” controversy.
The titles could read:
- Don’t Grate On Me
- My Fat Beats Your Fat
- Give Me Matzo Meal Or Give Me Death
Then, there are all the variety of latkes with chefs, cooks and food bloggers trying to out-creative and out-clever one another: Sweet Potato Latkes, Zucchini Latkes, Cilantro Jalapeño Latkes, Spaghetti Squash Latkes, Spinach-Feta Latkes and on and on. I’ve even made Salmon Potato Latkes, Bacon Potato Latkes and Mushroom Latkes, so I’m clearly not a purist.
However, there’s nothing like a well made, straight up potato latke, hot from the fat, smothered in sour cream and slathered with chutney, like my new Ginger Bred chutney I made for Christmas gifts.
The battles are entertaining to watch, but as I do, I find myself becoming hungry and jealous. Hungry for latkes and jealous that my Jewish roots are very thin, so my family doesn’t celebrate Hannukah and get to eat a lotta latkes.
My people were kinda outcasts and rebels. Half white, half black children living in always ablaze Lower East Side—that’s how they made room for all those condos peeps.
Then we were pioneers in the heroin infested jungles of Brooklyn. We believed in peace, women’s rights, black power and health food. My mom’s babies didn’t drink milk unless it was Tiger’s milk—what the hell’s Tiger’s Milk? We drank rivers of Red Cheek apple juice and ate wheat germ—what the hell’s wheat germ? Is it even gluten free? We ate pumpkin bread. It probably had wheat germ in it, along with the GASP!!! Whole Wheat Flour!!!—what the hell’s whole wheat?
We escaped Drop Dead New York City for the wilds of the Catskills every summer, where walked barefoot, on the hot, rocky road, in our cutoff Levis with ecology patches sewn on the pockets. We played with the off-spring of the initially pleasant, but small worldly and subsequently racist Italian and Irish blue collar bungalow colony families on our little road in Copake Lake—what the hell’s a racist?
We didn’t notice until we were told, by a visiting six year old cousin of the family across the road—no doubt sporting a “Kiss Me, I’m Italian” tee shirt over her bathing suit—that we couldn’t swim in the pool, the one we’d been swimming in for years, because we’d make the water turn black. That one stung.
We had afros, were raised by lesbians—my mom’s bestie jumped the fence, traveled in a black Mustang convertible and later a Japanese orange Toyota jeep. Yeah, we cooked out of the Vegetarian Epicure and we ate pumpkin bread—homemade by my mom.
I don’t think we were categorically hippies, but we certainly looked like ones. The folks in the bungalow colony could tolerate a lot of things from us, but maybe they couldn’t hack women in leather hot pants kissing each other? People camping out in our 1/4 acre back yard. Or was it all the pot smoking and tripping with the Beatles blasting out of our hi-fi? Or our dog, Bags, chasing their kid’s mini bikes?
In their native habitat, the hippie has been offer a loaf of pumpkin bread as a gift of good neighborliness in the hopes of building a rainbow bridge of peace and harmony, but it couldn’t fix that.
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!
Shrimp & Lentil Cakes with Curried Roasted Carrot Habanero Sauce
Roasted Butternut, Manchego & Pesto Risotto Balls
Banh Beo with dried shrimp, garlic chives, mushrooms, jicama, carrots (pork dust on the side)
Roast Pork Egg Rolls with plum sauce and sweet chili sauce
10 Veggie Egg Rolls with plum sauce and sweet chili sauce
Fennel Sausage, Roasted Vidalia Onion, Apple, & Sage Dressing
Jax Mac & Cheese
Coconut Ginger Scalloped Sweet Potatoes
Steamed Broccoli and Asparagus
Braised Mushrooms with Bacon & Leeks
Cheese Onion Tomato Pie
Fermented Cranberry Apple Sauce
Traditional Cranberry Sauce
4G Chutney (green apple, green tomatoes, green chilies, green mint and lemon)
Pear Cupboard Harvest Pie with Gingered Creme Fraiche
Chocolate Toffee Banana Crêpe Terrine Cake
Baked Ile Flottante in Crème Anglaise Lake with Caramel and Toasted Almonds
Karen’s Apple Crumble Pie
Steamed Lemon Pudding with raspberries and whipped cream
Maple Sugar and Pink Salted Cranberry Orange Walnut Chocolate Clusters
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.”