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!
Thanksgiving 2014 APPETIZERS
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.”
“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.
(Whispers) They’re in still in the freezer. I’m not supposed to be thinking about them….
I had some friends over for brunch recently and I thought I’d make scones. Traditional Australian scones are very similar to American biscuits and would go well with the rest of the menu (below) .
My pantry nixed this idea when it turned out I didn’t have self raising flour—yes, I could make my own, but the texture is never as good. LUCKILY, I found some yeast in my fridge. This was strange because I so rarely make bread or yeast based baked goods. I’m try not to eat a lot of gluten unless it’s amazing. The problem is over been finding myself in the presence of some mighty fine gluten. I now know that the yeast was a gift from the angels.
Armed with yeast, I thumbed through the internet and decided to make rolls. I couldn’t recall the last time I’d made rolls, but I got very excited at the prospect. There’s nothing so inviting than a basket of freshly baked rolls. The centers are like pillows and I just want to roll around in them. That has to be the definition of comfort food.
I made the Honey Yeast Rolls from Southern Living magazine. As you can see from the photo they were gorgeous! The only change I made was sprinkling them with sea salt.
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.