Food and Fireworks

3 Jul

tumblr_mp43muLq3t1rsdtszo1_1280While these sparkling recipes are designed for July 4th fireworks, they are perfect for entertaining all summer long. Three cheers for the red, white, and blue! Hope you have a festive holiday weekend.

 

WATERMELON, FETA & SLIVERED BASIL SALAD
This is the essence of summer entertaining. It is a marriage of sweet and salty delights. Nice to mix red and yellow watermelon if you can find it.

- 6 thin slices of ripe watermelon, plus 3 cups of cubed watermelon, chilled
- 8 ounces feta cheese
- 1 cup slivered basil
- 24 oil-cured black olives
- ¼ cup olive oil

On a large platter, place overlapping slices of watermelon and scatter cubed watermelon on top. Crumble cheese and scatter on top.  Scatter basil on cheese and garnish with olives. Drizzle a little olive oil over fruit and cheese. Add a grinding of black pepper. SERVES 6.

 

tumblr_mp3yc4OIpy1rsdtszo1_1280SUN-DRIED TOMATO-BEEF SLIDERS with PESTO

These will surely become a family favorite – whether big or small. If making large burgers, they are sublime cooked on an outdoor grill.

- 1 pound ground beef (chuck or sirloin)
- 7-ounce jar sun-dried tomato in oil
- 1 cup finely diced yellow onion
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 12 little dinner rolls, split and toasted
- ½ cup prepared pesto
- 3 tablespoons Greek yogurt
- Handful of mesclun or baby arugula

Drain oil from the sun-dried tomatoes and set aside. Finely dice enough tomatoes to get ½ cup. Cut remaining tomatoes into slivers and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat reserved oil. Add onions and cook over medium-high heat until onions are soft and golden, about 10 minutes. In a large bowl, combine beef, diced sundried tomatoes, cooked onion with all the pan juices, ½ teaspoon salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add ¼ cup ice water and mix well. Form into 12 small patties. Heat oil in large skillet and cook burgers on each side for several minutes until desired doneness. Stir together pesto and yogurt. Place the burgers on the buns and top with pesto mixture. Garnish with a few leaves of mesclun or arugula, and the remaining slivered sun-dried tomatoes. MAKES 12 SLIDERS.

 

tumblr_mp2it2CMwI1rsdtszo1_1280BOMBAY TURKEY SLIDERS with HURRY-CURRY SAUCE

These are a cinch to put together and both the sauce and the sliders can be prepped early in the day.

HURRY-CURRY SAUCE

- ½ cup light mayonnaise
- ⅔ cup plain yogurt
- 4 teaspoons curry powder
- 2 tablespoons ketchup
- 1 small clove garlic, finely minced

BOMBAY TURKEY SLIDERS

- 1¼ pounds ground turkey
- 2 teaspoons curry powder
- 1 teaspoons ground cumin
- Large pinch chipotle chili powder
- 3 tablespoons finely minced scallions
- 4 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro or basil
- 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger
- 3 tablespoons light mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 12 little dinner rolls, split and toasted
- 12 thin slices Kirby cucumber
- 12 thin slices plum tomato

Stir together ingredients for sauce. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Put turkey in a large bowl. Add the curry, cumin, chili powder, scallions, cilantro or basil, ginger and mayonnaise, plus 1 teaspoon salt. Mix until blended. Form into 12 small (2 ounce) burgers. Heat the oil in a large skillet and cook burgers over medium-high heat for 2 minutes, turn over and cook 2 minutes longer. Place the burgers on the buns and slather with curry sauce. Top with a slice of cucumber and tomato. MAKES 12 SLIDERS.

 

tumblr_mp4dvrL0St1rsdtszo1_1280RED, WHITE AND BLUEBERRY SHORTCAKES

This luxurious dessert is worthy of fireworks. Wonderful if you can get tiny ripe strawberries from your local farmer’s market. The light touch of lemon zest in the biscuits and thin layer of lemon curd makes these truly memorable. Garnish with edible flowers.

LEMON-BUTTERMILK BISCUITS

- 1½ cups flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Grated rind of 1 lemon
- ⅔ cup buttermilk

SHORTCAKES

- 1½ cups heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons confectioners sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- ½ cup lemon curd
- 3 cups fresh berries: raspberries, tiny strawberries, blueberries
- Edible flowers for garnishing

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Sift together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and 1 tablespoon sugar. Cut butter into small pieces and incorporate into flour mixture. Add lemon zest and buttermilk and mix lightly. Turn dough out onto floured board. Roll out to 1-inch thickness. Cut out 3-inch round and place on ungreased baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with sugar. Bake 16 to 18 minutes until golden. Let cool.

Whip heavy cream with confectioners sugar and vanilla until very thick.

Cut biscuits in half. Spread lemon curd on bottom half of each biscuit. Spoon whipped on top and add fruit. Top with biscuit “hat” and add more berries and whipped cream. Garnish with edible flowers. SERVES 6.

Olives, Lemons & Za’atar

19 Jun

2014-06-15-4b18f811676713e51f4f40443c6ce38d_full_size-thumbI’ve been writing about za’atar for decades. The haunting spice mixture, which looks like marijuana and smells like Jerusalem, has had a home in my pantry since my first trip to Israel in 1980. I use it as an earthy rub for chicken with blackened lemons; as a zippy dip mixed with good olive oil and grated parmesan; as a coating for grilled swordfish, or tossed with heirloom tomatoes and feta cheese. So I was thrilled to see its place on a banner headline for this year’s standout cookbook: Olives, Lemons & Za’atar: The Best Middle Eastern Home Cooking by Rawia Bishara (Kyle Books).

Everything about Ms. Bishara’s evocative new book made me want to run to the kitchen or get on a plane and wander in the Old City. Instead, my family and I hopped in our car and drove to Ms. Bishara’s acclaimed restaurant, Tanoreen, located in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. All praise bestowed upon it by my colleagues rang true about the excellent food Ms. Bishara serves. But no one warned me about her exotic warmth and hypnotic intelligence.

Ms. Bishara’s first name, Rawia, means storyteller in Arabic. She uses her imaginative food as her words to share an intimate bond between her mother’s recipes and her personal narrative, which illuminates the history of her homeland, Nazareth, in southern Galilee. I have been there: It is beautiful.

Born into a food-obsessed Palestinian family, Rawia grew up eating food that has recently become trendy currency: the flavors and spirit of the Arabic kitchen found along the Eastern Mediterranean and in Israel, or Palestine, depending on your point of view. Ms. Bishara, once head of an organization that helped new immigrants settle in New York, became a grand hostess and entertained often. Friends encouraged her to open a restaurant which she did in 1998. Named for the majestic Lebanese town, Tanoreen, Rawia said it is a name far easier to pronounce than her own. The tiny storefront restaurant with only 12 tables has grown into someplace quite spacious, but it retains Rawia’s aura of personal attention. .

Clearly there are dishes not to be missed. Brussels sprouts with a tahini-yogurt sauce and crunch of panko; mouthwatering eggplant napoleon brightened with a “salata” of tomatoes and basil and layered with baba ghanouj; and lamb shank marinated in herbs and rosebuds, are signature examples of redefined authenticity. Thankfully instructions for making these delectables can be found in her new book.

Allspice, cardamom, lentils, sumac, freekah (smoked green what berries), maftool (a traditional tiny pasta), pomegranate molasses, cumin and ghee, lentils and, of course, za’atar, lemons and olives – are part and parcel of this vibrant cuisine. In Nazareth, baba ghanouj is called mutabal (and I have recently seen this word on restaurant menus in the city.) Rawia adds tomatoes, chilies and cumin to her rendition. And I can’t wait to try her recipe for cauliflower salad. In Nazareth it is simply fried and tucked into Arabic bread, sprinkled with lemon juice and sea salt. At Tanoreen, Rawia dresses nuggets of caramelized cauliflower with thick tahini laced with pomegranate molasses, served as a mezze. We couldn’t get enough. This was also true of makdous — tiny pickled eggplants stuffed with walnuts and red pepper, which my brother and sister-in-law loved when they visited Syria. Also of note was the baked kibbeh and sayadiyya, or fisherman’s meal, which Rawia said her family ate every Friday night. I would run back for musakhan, a homemade flatbread topped with sumac-spiced shredded chicken with slow-cooked onions and toasted almonds.

For dessert, I would order her supernal knafeh, the best we’ve had, where layers of shredded phyllo are filled with warm homemade cheese and anointed with orange blossom water and crushed pistachios.

It’s all in Rawia’s book, complete with beautiful photographs and arresting design. It is a heartfelt documentation of the mystical wind gently blowing these flavors from the Levant. But if you don’t feel like cooking, make a reservation at Tanoreen. Rawia will be there, waiting.

Techno-Gastronomy in the Big Apple

17 Mar

logoImagine lots of food for thought by inspired thinkers who inspire others to probe both the virtual and the tangible corners of the edible realm. This is the food + technology conference taking place in New York City on April 3 through April 5th, and I can’t wait to go.

More auspiciously called The 2014 Roger Smith Conference on Food/ From Flint Knives to Cloned Meat, the line-up includes more than 100 presenters, 31 panels, workshops and receptions but, most importantly, the event promises an extensive three-day flirtation with culinary luminaries and like-minded scholars – more than 250 of them. From Modernist Cuisine to The Brave New World of 3-D Printing, there is something here to satisfy anyone’s taste for knowledge and thirst for the unknown.

Last year, the conference, held at the Roger Smith Hotel, was devoted to the erudition of cookbooks and featured a tantalizing array of speakers – from Mollie Katzen to Amanda Hesser. This year, Andrew Smith, the conference founder and driving force (along with organizers Roger Horowitz, Cathy Kaufman, and Anne Mendelson), imbues today’s food vortex with “ambiguity.” The sympathetic tag to the event’s flinty name is, after all, “Our ambiguous love, hate, and fear of food technologies.” I’m there.

The conference’s leaders describe food technology as “any imaginable means of using and manipulating food, from cracking nuts with a rock to molecular gastronomy. The very act of deciding what is or isn’t food is intrinsically bound with up technology.” Wylie Dufresne, a leader of the movement to integrate science with food preparation and presentation will be there. So, too, will be experts in milling, flour and bread baking techniques, sensory profiling, wine and terroir, and biotechnology. Other compelling subjects include “The Eight Minute Egg” and “The Technology of Cake.” A lecture on coffee would go nicely right here.

And there are workshops in social media for food writers, on the history of chocolate, and the truth about olive oil, led by Nancy Harmon Jenkins, the author of The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook.

Andrew Smith, a prolific writer and assistant professor of food studies at The New School, is particularly excited this year to have panelists coming from all over the United States and from six countries to participate. His latest book is New York City: A Food Encyclopedia (AltaMira, 2014); and his 3-volume Food and Drink in American History: A “Full Course” Encyclopedia was released by ABC-CLIO in November 2013. This is a man who can clearly handle a lot of information and knows a heck of a lot about New York City. If you already live in New York, this conference is a must. If you live out of town, it is an excellent reason to visit. For more information, to register, or book a room at the Roger Smith Hotel, go to foodconferences@gmail.com or http://thefoodconference.com/workshops.php.

And why does this conference matter? We are a nation obsessed with food and technology. The flow of one has always influenced the outcome of the other. Now we need to find out how they go together on one plate.

Spring Review

13 Mar

springreviewIt’s time for a Spring Review since beginning my blog in 2010. I’ve written more than 300 entries and wanted to share the best with you. Because of instantaneous access to one another via the Internet, the “world’s table” is now on public view. It is my goal, then, as a journalist, chef, author, restaurant consultant and food trends junkie, to help set the table with decades of perspective. When Vladimir Nabokov got around to writing his memoir, he called it “Speak, Memory.”  When writing my blog, I issue a similar command to myself:  “Taste, Memory!” I seek ways to connect the reader emotionally to his or her own gastronomic wavelength.

Just as Anna Quindlen writes about her keen observations about life – tying together politics, family, and one’s inner experience, often with whimsy — I have written my voice into daily, and weekly, connections to food, dining, cooking, history, biography and memoir. Each entry is a deliberate serving of the past, present and future – whether connecting the uprising in Egypt to my respect for Naguib Mafouz and my fondness for Egyptian cooking (with a contemporary photo of a young man preparing an ancient dish of ful mudammas); or experiencing the soul of Philadelphia-chef Marc Vetri through his singular approach to food and cooking and told his story by deeming him a “culinary bodhisattva.” A posting about “white carrots” informs the misinformed (which at times can be most of us), with an observation backed up with a bit of history, some speculation, and a few recipes to make the point. Included is a mesmerizing photo of carrots.

I believe that a younger generation of “food passionistas” – a term I coined for the group of dedicated, enthusiastic, and obsessively curious types about the world of food, chefs, and cooking – are in need of less hype, and more information, in an accessible  way. Inspired by the daily experiences of life in my kitchen, life in other people’s kitchens, learning at the hands of some of the industry’s most influential tastemakers, the purpose of my blog is not to attract advertisers or lure masses of readers; rather, it is an intimate, highly personal, often funny view of the world of food. Every blog posting puts my readers in-the-know about something timely. As a bonus, there’s always a “goody bag” in which one finds original recipes, ways to use new ingredients, food and wine pairing ideas, tips for entertaining, news about the coolest chefs and hottest restaurants. Or something more personal – a taste experience (ever try bitter chocolate, Parmigiano-Reggiano and sweet red grapes?); a mind stimulant (what about making marmalade from carrots?), or a new technique (like my deconstructed “wined-and-brined turkey,” or making cream cheese via “drip irrigation”).

Cooking is not merely about measurement and temperature, and the culinary world is not merely about gastronomy or nutrition. Food has deep historic and emotional resonances, and profound historical connections — think about “feast” or “famine” or “bread riots.”

Food is familial and simultaneously social: We break bread together and then divide the world into pig-eaters or pig-shunners.

When one writes well about food, all these factors come into play, consciously or not. One should know that The Gleaners in Millet’s famous painting reach backward historically to biblical injunctions not to harvest to the corners of the field, but to leave food for the poor. One should know that without the discovery of the Americas, there would be no tomatoes in Naples, no paprika in Budapest, no chocolate in Zurich. One should know something about why certain foods connect to certain religious festivals – why, for example, we serve lamb at Easter and also at Passover, and why both “feasts” relate to activities around the table.

What my mother cooked for the her family is different from what my readers’ mothers did then or do today, but they all set standards for how we view not just what’s on our plate, but how we will relate to a larger world – one in which even the present seems to vaporize in an instant.

Please take a moment to enjoy the posts below, and I encourage you to search the archives for others that may be of interest to you.

Cooking in Silence

Chocolate Dirt: Is it Art or is it Dinner?

Insanely Delicious Fresh Figs

Oscar Gold: Red Carpet Recipes

1 Mar

Whether you are hosting an Oscar party tomorrow night or simply want to make yourself a festive feast, here are some recipes that I put together for Lenox that are sure to delight.

tumblr_mhv3ppzdQt1rsdtszo1_1280SMOKED SALMON HORS D’OEUVRES

Here, three simple ingredients become bite-size luxuries: smoked salmon rosettes and smoked salmon pinwheels. Festive and sophisticated, these are the perfect match, in flavor and color!

ROSETTES

- 1 hothouse cucumber
- 8 ounces best-quality, thinly sliced smoked salmon
- 1/2 cup whipped cream cheese

Wash cucumber but do not peel; slice into 1/4-inch thick rounds, about 24. Slice the smoked salmon into 24 strips that are 1-inch wide by 3-inches long. Roll each piece loosely. Curl back the edges and flatten slightly so that it begins to look like a rose. Spread about 1 teaspoon of cream cheese on each cucumber slice and place rosette on top. Arrange on a platter.

MAKES 24

PINWHEELS

- 8 ounces best-quality, thinly sliced smoked salmon
- 8 ounces cream cheese
- 4 kirby cucumbers, sliced 1/4-inch thick

Put 2 slices of smoked salmon slightly overlapping. Spread with a thin layer of cream cheese to cover completely. Roll up like a jelly roll (beginning with short edge) and place in a piece of plastic wrap. Twist the edges so that you have a small tight sausage shape. Chill well. Slice thinly and place a slice on a cucumber round.

MAKES 24

SEARED SCALLOPS ON SWEET PEA PUREEtumblr_mhv48ztfEe1rsdtszo1_1280

This is great any time of the year as frozen peas are always available. Trendy pea shoots can be found at this time of the year in many farmers markets. You can make the pea puree ahead of time and reheat while you’re cooking the scallops.

- 2 10-ounce packages of frozen petits pois
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 18 very large sea scallops
- 6 tablespoons dry vermouth
- Handful of pea shoots or microgreens

Put the peas in a saucepan with salted water to just cover. Boil 2 minutes. Drain well and save 3/4 cup cooking liquid in a blender. Process until very smooth and thick (adding more liquid if necessary.) Add salt and pepper and return to saucepan.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large frying pan. Season scallops with salt and pepper and sear over high heat for 2 minutes per side, until golden and cooked through. Reheat pea puree until hot; spoon a mound onto each of 6 warm plates. Arrange 3 scallops on puree.

Add the vermouth and the remaining 2 tablespoons butter to the pan. cook 30 seconds over high heat until syrupy. Pour over scallops and top with pea shoots.

SERVES 6

tumblr_mhv5pluiI81rsdtszo1_1280FILET OF BEEF WITH WASABI-GARLIC CREAM

Kiss your butcher and ask him (or her) to cut you a nice 3-pound filet of beef and tie it like a roast. You can buy wasabi paste in a tube in most supermarkets and Asian food stores.

Serve with black rice tossed with a bit of grated ginger and your favorite vegetable: I’ve chosen diced carrots sauteed in sweet butter with fresh thyme.

- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3-pound filet of beef, tied
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 2 very large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
- 1 tablespoon prepared wasabi

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Drizzle the oil on a rimmed baking sheet and toll the beef in the oil. Combine the sugar and 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Rub into the top and sides of the filet (but not the bottom or it will burn.) Roast 25 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer reaches 125 degrees for rare. Meanwhile, bring the cream and garlic to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce the heat and cook stirring until reduced to 1 cup, about 15 minutes. Push the softened garlic through a press; whisk back into the sauce. Add the wasabi, cook 1 minute, and remove from the heat. Add salt. Transfer the beef to a cutting board. Let rest 10 minutes. Gently reheat the sauce. Remove the strings from the beef and thickly slice.

Serve with the sauce.

SERVES 6

AWARD-WINNING CHOCOLATE MOUSSE CAKEtumblr_mhv7mjvQM21rsdtszo1_1280

This is the world’s simplest and moistest cake: just be sure to remove it from the oven while the center is still quite soft. Edible gold leaf is available in food stores specializing in Indian food products and in specialty baking shops.

- 10 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 5 extra-large eggs
- 16 ounces best-quality semi-sweet chocolate
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, espresso powder, or fresh orange zest
- 2 pints fresh raspberries, washed and dried
- A few sheets of edible gold leaf, optional

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper. butter the sides of the pan with 1/2 tablespoon butter. Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs with a pinch of salt until tripled in volume, about 8 minutes. Melt the chocolate with the remaining 10 tablespoons butter slowly over low heat in a medium saucepan; stir until smooth. Fold the chocolate mixture into te egg mixture with a flexible rubber spatula until completely incorporated. Add the vanilla (espresso or orange zest). Pour into the pan. Bake 18 minutes; the center will be quite soft. Let cool. Arrange the raspberries side by side on top of the cake. Top with gold leaf, if using.

SERVES 8

Olympic Gold: Veal Steaks “Stroganoff” with Shiitakes & Portobellos

20 Feb

AFP 520158322 S SPO SPO RUS -I hope you have been enjoying watching the Olympics as much as I have. I’ve found myself wanting to indulge in a few hearty Russian classics, but how about a new-fashioned Veal Steaks “Stroganoff?” Priyatnogo appetita!

Veal Steaks “Stroganoff” with Shiitakes & Portobellos
(Radically Simple, Rodale, 2010)

Flavors of fino sherry, espresso, and lemon “lift” an old-fashioned dish, generally made with beef, to something lighter and special.

4 thick veal steaks, about 9 ounces each
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 cup heavy cream
6 tablespoons fino sherry
8 ounces baby Portobello mushrooms, sliced
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh lemon thyme
¼ teaspoon espresso powder
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh chives

Preheat the broiler. Rub the veal with the olive oil. Season with the paprika and salt and pepper and arrange on a broiler pan. Heat the cream in a large skillet until bubbly. Add 3 tablespoons of the sherry and all the mushrooms. Cook over high heat, stirring, until the mushrooms soften, 4 minutes. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons sherry, thyme, espresso powder, and salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the mushrooms exude their liquid and then absorb much of the sauce, 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, broil the veal six inches from the heat for 3 to four minutes on each side, until just cooked through. Let rest 5 minutes; thickly slice on the bias. Top with the mushroom sauce and sprinkle with chives. Serves 4

Game Day Drumettes

2 Feb

photo(30)According to Claire Joyes, editor of Monet’s cooking journals, Monet had “perfected a ceremony” for his favorite fowl. He would remove the wings, sprinkle them with nutmeg, ground pepper and coarse salt, and hand them over to his cook to be flame-broiled. Since duck wings can be very tough, the James Beard Foundation blog has a recipe suggesting multi-step cooking.

Here’s a recipe that younger Super Bowl fans can help make. Not quite wings, but just as delicious.

Crazy-Leg Drumsticks (Drumettes)
From Kids Cook 1-2-3 (Bloomsbury, 2006)

The nice herby taste comes from pesto—an uncooked Italian sauce made from fresh basil, garlic and pignoli nuts. You can find it in any supermarket. A dusting of Parmesan cheese turns into a crispy coating.

1/3 cup prepared pesto
4 chicken wings and 4 drumettes
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Spread pesto all over each chicken leg to cover. Sprinkle cheese all over leg (except the bottom where they will sit on the baking sheet—you don’t want the cheese to burn). Lightly press the cheese onto the chicken so it will stick. Add freshly ground black pepper.

3. Lightly spray a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Place legs on baking sheet.

4. Bake 35 minutes until chicken is crispy and golden. Makes 4 servings.

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