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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Sauteed Escarole and Beans

I love escarole and beans, with lots of garlic and just enough pepperoncino (hot crushed red peppers) and a really fruity olive oil.  However, this winter I haven’t been able to find organic escarole.  I couldn’t wait any longer so I had to go for it.

This is another great Italian dish that I learned to make from the late-great Mary Cauterucci.  She raised 11 children, cooked like an Italian restaurant chef every night of the week and just about everything she did she did well.  I was fortunate to have been in her kitchen as often as I was.

Escarole and beans is one of  3 delicious dishes I make when I (or my family or friends) am not feeling well, or when I feel like I could be getting sick and I want to catch it before it happens.  The number 1 dish is Sopa de Milagros (Spainsh garlic soup of Miracles), then the next 2 are tied for 2nd place: Pasta e Fagioli and Escarole and Beans.  All 3 are delicious and all 3 work.
Escarole and Beans
Delicious, nutritious and super versatile
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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Cholent or Cholnt or Tcholent or Schulent or Hamin - but Cholent by any Other Name is Perfect for Shabbos or any Cold Winter Weekend - Updated Recipe

This is an easy recipe- the active part is about 35 minutes. This recipe is for 10 people, it is easily adjusted as you like. Cholent Recipe - partially from our cousin Chenya Wasilisi, partially  from my mom's memory of how her mom, Meryl Bayroff, made Cholent. Also there are bits and pieces from lots of other people.   
I loved researching Cholent in cookbooks and on the internet. It has a great history. Cholent has been around for thousands of years and according to The Jewish Magazine adding the egg has always been a special part of it. All those years ago people would slowly cook it buried in embers for the same 18 hours we cook it now. All the flavors would mingle and merge slowly for a delicious Shabbos meal. Later, women would put their Cholent together on Friday mornings and carry their pots (often copper pots, sealed with a flour and water paste) to the local baker on Friday before sundown.  Dad would pick it up on the way back from Shul (the synagogue) on Saturday early evening for the Shabbos meal.
Because this is an old recipe, we now use a lot more meat in Cholent now than in days past. Probably the meat was more for flavoring and the beans for substance, as in most peasant or rustic type dishes gone gourmet, like Cassoulet, the French cousin of Cholent. Cholent hasn't quite gone gourmet the way Cassoulet has, but it has a strong, loving following. When I told my friends that I was cooking it for Rosh Hashana, those who knew Cholent lit up! To know it, is to love it. There are National Cholent Competitions in Jerusalem, like the Chili competitions in the US. My sister Meryl even found an International Cholent Society page on Facebook! As of the day I joined it there were 274 members!
I don't have a slow-cooker, but I love cooking in my Dutch Oven, so I doubt I would ever use one. It is your choice, no advice there other than it works well in the Dutch Oven. The only big NO-NO is about the beans. Do not use canned beans. You'll get a bunch of mush.
Mom says that in my grandmother's recipe, rather than adding the eggs, she made a small potato kugle and put it in the middle of the Cholent where it cooked submerged in a bath of flavors. Recipes for Cholent are as varied as Jewish people. Each represents their journeys, traditions, and past.  Just thinking about Cholent, and watching my family eat it, makes me feel like a part of generations past.

Update December 24, 2013:  Thanks to Jennifer Aguglario, I decided to try using a slow cooker to make the Cholent.  I'm sold!  I still love my beautiful Dutch Ovens, but for Cholent and similar recipes, it is the slow cooker from now on. I'll still browned the meat first, and a tip from Kemp Minife (my neighbor and chef from both Gourmet Magazine and Epicurious Blog) is to add the tomato paste  and crushed tomatoes to the frying pan after the meat is browned, during the deglazing.  I think that I will also add the onions and garlic - just for a few minutes.  Then I'll add them to the slow cooker and walk away.

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Pasta e Fagioli - Pasta and Bean Soup

Winter is almost here!  We've got our giant coats ready, the heat is on and it's time for soup.  Yum, this is a great soup for the first cold weather and then again several times during the winter.

In the US most Italian-Americans call this Pasta Fazul. This is probably because most of their ancestors come from the southern tip of the Italian boot, and this is the translation of their dialect.  That pronunciation isn’t Italian.  It is really pronounced Pasta Fa-jo-li.

This is another peasant dish.  Both delicious and nutritious, and no longer just for peasants, you find it in restaurants all over the City.  I love this dish.  It’s perfect on freezing winter afternoons.  Plus, the second day you can either rehydrate it as a soup (the pasta drinks all the liquid) or you can eat it with a fork, it’s a totally different meal.

The pasta you use should hold the sauce.  Great pastas to use are: Conchigliette (small shells), Funghini (little mushrooms), Orecchiette (little ears), Ditalini (small tubes), Quadrefiore (square flowers),  and Gomiti or Chifferi (elbows). Cooking times vary for these, but be sure they are al dente (firm to ‘the teeth’) because they will continue cooking in the soup, and nobody wants mushy pasta.

I use a vegetable base to accompany the tomatoes, but feel free to use a beef or chicken base.  When I have the ends of the Parmigiano Reggiano left I put them in a ziplock bag and freeze them.  When I make the base for Pasta e Fagioli, I throw them in.  They add lots of cheesy flavor.

This is a super dish on cold winter night. Serve it with a crusty Italian pane integrale (whole grain bread) and plenty of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano and if you have any leftovers, don't be surprised to see someone in your family with a bowl of cold Pasta e Fagioli for breakfast! 


I made this with Conchigliette (small shells).  The shells hold the soup like a bunch of little spoons.
Ummmm....  soupy garlic, tomatoes beans and kale - ummmmmm..
Winter comfort

 


Saturday, September 7, 2013

Chipirone (tiny squid) Salad with Arugula, Grilled Padron Peppers, Grilled Pineapple, Tomatoes & Cucumbers

Chipirones a la plancha are one of my many favorite Spanish dishes

My friend for life, Rocio 
Chipirones are very small squid, one of the smallest in the sea, and I am crazy about them grilled with garlic and a little salt. 

My friend Rocio lives near Bilbao, in Euskadi, the Basque Country in the foothills of the Pyrenees. On a recent visit we decided to make a dinner salad with grilled chipirones and it was delicious!

It's not so easy to find these small squid here, so the next time I made the salad I used regular squid cut into 1/2" circles. The most important thing about cooking squid is the cooking time. I made this salad for my niece Belle, and the squid was too chewy.  I'll update this recipe when I get the exact cooking time for the squid.

Pimientons de Padron (Padron Peppers) are scrumptious peppers from Galica,Spain. You often see them sold as tapas throughout Spain, grilled and sprinkled with course salt. Pimientons de Padron are not easy to find in Manhattan, but they can sometimes be found in Whole Foods or the Union Square Green Market.  We often substitute shishito peppers, which can be found in some Asian Markets (especially Japanese or Korean markets).

Just because it isn't super easy to find some of the ingredients for this salad in this country, it's not impossible, and it's easy enough to find delicious substitutes

Note:  When grilling squid  don't cook it for more than 2 to 3 minutes. If you cook it longer and you want to retenderize it, you have to cook it for a lot longer, maybe even 1/2 hour - anything in between will taste like rubber. 

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Sunday, August 4, 2013

Nephew Eli's Salad

My handsome nephew Eli Gabel-Frank
My nephew Eli Gabel-Frank introduced the family to this salad, well, the family minus his dad Steven who hates, hates, hates avocados. But the rest of us love this delicious salad. I've added a little here and there, but it's still Eli's salad.

Every time I make this, Eli reminds me that he really got this salad from his friend, but to me it's Eli's salad.  And he reminds me that when he makes it he just mixes everything together.  Of course, I like to serve it 'pretty',  and once everyone sees it we can toss it around. It doesn't make any difference, as long as the ingredients are the same it's delicious.

Thanks Eli!

My friend Cathy Rosen Zuckerman (one of my very first friends in my life) introduced me to Avocado Oil - it makes a wonderful addition to this salad. Give it a try! You can usually find it in the organic section of the grocery store.

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Eli's Salad

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Frozen Fruit Pops

There's nothing like a frozen fruit pop on hot summer days.  It makes you feel really good to know that you bought the organic fruit yourself, you used coconut water and you limited the amount of sugar or honey that you added. And it's especially good to know that your delicious treat has NO corn syrup.

I know that some people don't add any sugar or any type of sweetener, and that's great, but I feel that I like the pops better a little sweeter.  When the fruits are frozen they lose some of there sweetness, so, I add sugar.  It's up to you.

I also add some fresh mint, it's such a delicious summer taste. Lime also gives it a nice subtle zing,, but I have to counteract that zing with a little extra sugar. 

My favorite pops are strawberry, blueberry, mint and a touch of lime. Sometimes I add some Stony Field Farms Plain Yogurt to it.  It just depends on what I have in the house.  This weekend I had some cantaloupe, pineapple, grapes, strawberries and kiwis that I had to use or lose, so they all went into the blender with some coconut water.  They're delicious. 

I  filled 6 pop molds and then poured the rest into small paper cups and into the freezer they went.  After about 1/2 hour, I put wooded pop sticks that you can buy online or at a craft store, into the middle of the paper cups

Adult Pop  Note: If you want to make adult pops, be aware that liquor does not freeze.  I made Mojito pops, and they were really delicious, but I couldn't get them out of the mold because they weren't totally frozen.  So we scooped them out of the mold, and yummm.  You can pour the mixture into paper cups and serve them from there. 

Note from Jennifer Agugliaro - my friend Jennifer uses pure maple syrup instead of sugar - can't wait to try it!

Did you know that popsicle is a trademarked name?  It is, so I'm just calling them pops. 

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Chicken a la Gabel

Sometimes,  even when you don't eat meat, you cook things for the people you love that you wouldn't normally cook.  Addie and Harold Gabel were my parents dear friends, and they're  my sister Meryl's in-laws, and mispucha to all of us.  So for them, I prepared chicken. 

I tried to think of a recipe for chicken that would fall off the bone, and I got lots of help from my  friends on Facebook. With their help, and my imagination, it was a terrific success.  Even my son Marc, who usually doesn't like chicken on the bone loved it.

This dish had to be special, really special as did the side dishes.  For the sides I made green pea and ricotta puree, super creamy mashed potatoes and an Israeli salad with mozzarella.  Of course, it was served with a big round Italian bread for dunking.  Oh, and the dessert, the dessert was a strawberry/blueberry and mint granita (ices).  Yum.

The chicken fell off the bone, and it smelled so good that after 25 year of not eating meat other than fish, I was tempted to taste it.  But of course, I didn't.  Watching Harold enjoy the chicken was plenty for me!

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Addie and Harold Gabel
with Bob, Kathy, Ted, Mike, Steve, George and Dan Gabel

 


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Farro Burgers! My New Favorite Food!

Last night, after going to the IMAX to see Star Trek Into the Dark in 3D (it was great) with my friends Debbie, Yayoi and Kylie we went out for some Middle Eastern food.  We walked up Broadway and decided to stop at Nanoosh for our first late night al fresco dinner of the spring.

There was a sign outside the restaurant saying "We Now Have Farro", so that's what we ordered.  I had Falafal over Farro.  Between almost every mouthful we one of us would comment about the delicious-ness of our meal. 

I was so happy that I brought a bag of Farro home with me from Italy and it was still in my refrigerator. YAY!  Today, it was raining and I didn't feel like going to the store, so I had to make something easy, just using ingredients I had in the apartment.  A Farro Burger!  Perfect!. And although you see that the shape isn't perfect (my 2nd attempt will be better), the taste was even better than I'd hoped.  Try them.  They're easy, healthy, and surprisingly nutty and flavorful.

Farro is an ancient grain that was probably the main sustenance of the Roman Armies.  It's grown mostly in parts of Tuscany and Abruzzo in Italy, where it is very popular.  And it's popularity here is growing fast.

Note to my friends who have gluten issues:  Farro is a whole wheat product.



Farro Perlato


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Monday, May 13, 2013

Alessio's Birthday Lasagna - - Lasagne Bianche ai Carciofi, Spinaci e Formaggi - - White Lasagna with Artichokes, Spinach and Cheeses

I had a real fear of artichokes.  I knew that I could never de-heart an artichoke without an artichoke
pro showing me step-by-step and then guiding me through it when I tried to do it on my own.  I thought that person would be Marie November.  She was the mom of my dear friend Ginger and she could cook some artichokes!  But, Marie is no longer with us, and I missed the chance to cook with her.  Oy, another life lesson about putting things off until tomorrow.  With Marie gone, I thought my fear of artichokes would be with me forever.

Then came Alessio Stefano's birthday dinner at my apartment.  I told him that I'd cook anything he wanted for this very important day, and that he should pick something special that his mom would have made for him.  Well, he picked something big alright, he picked Lasagne Bianche ai Carciofi e Formaggi (White Lasagna with Artichokes and Cheeses) Ahhh!!!!

It was a challenging meal.  I was totally stressed out about it, yet it came together.  I can now cut the heart out of an artichoke without a second thought.  I can de-choke it, the whole bit.  No damn artichoke is going to get the best of me!

And it's all thanks to you Alessio.  Thank you for the challenge although you had no idea you were challenging me!  Who knows, maybe I'll even go home tonight and cut out some artichoke hearts, just for the hell of it! And here's to you Marie November, the artichoke queen.

There was one serving left and I saved it for my son Marc.  Since he is my toughest critic, I was really glad to have some for him to try.  He loved it!  All the fears were well worth it.  Truly happy.

TIP - If you have a grapefruit spoon with serrated edges, it's really helpful to scrape out the choke.
 
                

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Fish Tacos for Cinco de Mayo (with Pico de Gallo and Salsa Verde)

My boy Marc
My Cinco de Mayo gift!
Cinco de Mayo is one of my very favorite days of the year.  Not because I have a proud Mexican heritage and I want celebrate my country’s victory over Napoleon’s French troops. I might raise a glass in solidarity, but I’m not Mexican.  It’s not even because I love to go to my favorite Mexican Restaurant in the City and drink Margarita’s and eat guacamole (which I do love) but that’s not it.  It is because Marc Anthony Guidetti, my son and the love of my life, was born on May 5th, Cinco de Mayo.  For me, that’s the perfect reason to celebrate!
Fish Taco’s are an easy, casual, inexpensive meal.  Three great adjectives together, what could be bad?  Nada. I use Mahi Mahi sometimes because it's delicious, but I often use cod or tilapia, because they're easy to find, and the price is pretty reasonable.  But I’m not wedded to any of them at all.  I also marinate the fish for about 15 or 20 minutes before I grill it.  Served with roasted corn chowder and some guacamole, it’s a great lunch or casual dinner with family and friends.

Fish Taco's for Cinco de Mayo and Marc's Birthday dinner at
Gabel-Frank house in the Pocono's - DEEElicous!!

I serve the Fish Taco’s with 2 choices of Salsa: Pico de Gallo (tomato salsa) and Tomatillo Salsa Verde (Green sauce).  Pico de Gallo is easy and fast to make while the Tomatillo Salsa Verde is a little work, it is still pretty easy.  There are several ways to prepare tomatillos for the salsa, lots of people prefer to roast them, some boil them, and many make them just the way I have it in my recipe.  I'm giving you a suggestion, but cooking is an art, and it's up to you to explore your own design.

And yes, Fish Taco's really are authentic Mexican food for the areas of Mexico near the sea.  The fish is almost always fried, which I'm not going to do (we're not big fryers in Manhattan), but fish tacos are real Mexican food none-the-less.
A GIANT thank you to my wonderful, beautiful niece-in-law Tanya Swartz for showing me how to make Mexican Crema.  It's so easy and so delicious!  No more plain sour cream for me with Mexican dishes!


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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Fish Tagine - with tomatoes, potatoes, olives, peppers and figs. Why did I wait so long to attempt this wonderful Moroccan dish?


My friend Setty asked me if I cooked in a Tagine. I told her that I never had, but I would learn and I’d invite her for dinner.  Within 2 days I had a Tagine, and a Tagine cookbook delivered to my apartment, and I invited friends for a late lunch / early dinner on Sunday.  

My first Tagine!  I was a little nervous about it, but it turned out just great!
I was a little nervous about the spices, where would I get them?  But, I’m in Manhattan, we have just about everything, so I went online and found a store downtown on Lexington near 28th Kalustyan's .  Wow, what a place.   They had everything I needed and more.  If you don't have a store like that near you, you can always order from Zamouri Spices.

I bought the Chermoula (wonderful spice mixture for marinating fish) and Ras el Hanout (this means “head of the store” or the best spice mixture a merchant has to offer) with the spices already mixed.  This store seemed authentic enough that I didn’t have any fear that the spices wouldn’t meet my expectations.  I was right.  My friend Karima told me that every home in Morocco has their own special Ras el Hanout recipe, and my Tangine cookbook said the same thing, but  I don’t have an old family tradition for Ras el Hanout, so I bought it already made.  I also bought preserved lemons (lemons preserved in lemon juice and salt), and Harissa paste (hot, hot, hot) and couscous, which they had from every couscous eating country!  It was an adventure. 

I served it with a shredded carrot salad and a tomato, cucumber and onion salad – and of course, couscous.  Don’t forget the mint tea at the end!

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Saturday, March 9, 2013

Al Frank's Horseradish - It's not Passover without it!

Dad and I in intense conversation
The horseradish root is a little funny
looking.
My dad made the horseradish for Passover, and he was great at it. His horseradish was always red, colored with a beet.  When we knew dad was making horseradish, it always made us smile, but nobody smiled a bigger smile than dad.  I can picture him in the kitchen, his eyes sparkling blue with tears, and a smile that made the room light up.  
Growing up my family didn't eat spicy hot food, but my dad's Passover horseradish was the exception.  It was only perfect if it cleared our nasal passages and brought tears to our eyes. There was always an unofficial contest to see who  could pile the most horseradish on their gefilte fish and pretend it wasn't too hot for them.  And every year, without fail, our Uncle Al Klein would say through teary eyes and some sweat on his brow "So this is why the Jews have suffered all these years".  And every year, we would all laugh.


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Keep the horseradish refrigerated in tightly closed glass jars. Plastic jars will absorb the smell
and it won't go away easily.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Zuppa di Polpettine (Mini-Meatball Soup - aka Italian Wedding Soup)

Marc Guidetti -my boy - at Grandma & Grandpa's house
at about 2 1/2 years old.  A real meatball soup loving kid!
I hadn’t thought about Meatball Soup for years, but for some reason I have been thinking about it a lot lately.  The original recipe was passed down from my son Marc's great-grandmother who was from southern Italy, and wow, was it delicious.  Of course, not believing in the expression "if it ain't broke, don't fix it", I changed it. I kept the basics, but I still needed to make it mine.  

When Marc was a baby, this was his favorite soup.  Before he was 1 year old he would try to grab the bowl with the freshly grated cheese and stuff handfuls of it into his mouth. 

I can’t help smiling when I think of little Marc, stinking like garlic and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and loving it!

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Sunday, February 3, 2013

Chocolate Truffles

The delicious-ness scale for chocolate truffles goes up and down based on the chocolate used to make the truffles.  The better the chocolate, the better the truffles.  It's like cooking with wine, when you cook with a wine that you don't think is delicious, that's exactly what you'll get from your food - something not so delicious.

I recommend getting something that is 60% cocoa or more.

The liqueur you choose depends on the taste you're looking for.  Since Cointreau is from the town in which I lived in France, Angers, I am partial to it's strong orange flavor.

This recipe makes about 50 scrumptious super chocolatey melt-in-your-mouth treats. 

Hint:  Gently shake the truffle after you roll it in the cocoa, too much cocoa powder can leave an itchy sensation in the back of the throat.


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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Cacio e Pepe Pasta (Black Pepper and Cheese)

This is a simple dish.  About as minimalist as a pasta dish can get.  No chopping garlic, no measuring, just easy and so very delicious.  It's made with Cacio di Roma cheese (a sheep cheese from Lazio, Italy).  I sometimes use Pecorino Romano, although it is older and less smooth than Cacio di Roma, but it's easier to get at my local grocer when I want a last minute Cacio e Pepe pasta.  Cacio di Roma is available in most places where there is a decent cheese selection. It's usually available at Fairway and Murray's. 

It can be made with whatever pasta type you chose, but it often served with bucanti, linguini or spaghetti.  I don't like bucantini, so I usually choose linguini, spaghetti, gemelli or bavette. Although last night I made it with trofie because I had it in the house.  Trofie is usually reserved for Pesto Pasta, but it was delicious.

In my recipe, I've added something that is not part of the standard recipe.  I added Cannellini beans.  I toast them with the black pepper and I love it.  I often find a way to add some protien to my dishes since as a pescatarian, I add it where I can. 

People love this pasta.  Give it a try, you'll understand why.



Monday, December 3, 2012

Big Al Frank's Famous Potato Latkes (with some new tips)

As promised, I am reposting this in time for Chanukah.  This time I've added some new tips, including one from my sister Meryl that I haven't tried, but she says it's great, so take a look!

Frying Latkes in Dad's Skillet
Al Frank's Potato Latkes
Nobody makes Potato Latkes (pancakes) like my dad did.  Even when we copy his recipe it is never exact, but it is pretty close.  He passed this recipe on to me and to my son, and then to my nephews who became our next generation of Potato Latkes champions. 

This recipe is for 10 people, depending on what you're serving with them.  The yams are a variation from Al’s recipe, I added them.  He included them occasionally, but the rest of the recipe is his all the way.

I added a few hints to improve this recipe - things I've learned trying to get these better each time:



Super Crispy Outside, Soft Inside

1. You can use the 'double fry' secret, which is to fry the latkes 3/4 of the way earlier in the day, and right before serving, complete the fry.  They'll be super crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside, just as they should be.  If you put them in the oven to reheat, even at a low temperature, you lose lots of the crispiness. You won't be sorry.

2. When shredding the potatoes, put them in a big colander over a bowl and put cheese cloth in the colander.  Potatoes are wet and you've got to get the moisture out.  Putting the shredded potatoes in a colander will allow them to drain, then you can squeeze them using the cheese cloth to rid of more moisture.  Potatoes must be dry to form the latkes.

3. Meryl's tip for cooking and freezing latkes ahead of time, and keeping them crispy. 
Cook the latkes as you normally would. When the are cool freeze them uncovered on a cookie sheet in a single layer.  Once frozen, put them in a freezer bag.  When you are going to use them, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Put the latkes in a single layer on a rack in the oven.  DO NOT put them on a pan or cookiesheet or they'll get soggy.

Note: (added later) - At Meryl's Chanukah party this year, she did tip #3 (above) for freezing the latkes and then putting them on a rack in the oven - it works! They were delicious!
 



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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Roasted Multi-Colored Cauliflower


Nobody hated cauliflower more than I did when I was growing up. 

I hated almost all vegetables, but I couldn’t even stand to be near the room when cauliflower was cooking! And I knew that my mom would try to make me eat it.  She’d try, but she’d never get more than 1 mouthful passed my lips.  Thank goodness she didn’t know the deal made with our sweet, veggie eating beagle Poochie.

This was my story with cauliflower.  It was on my extreme hate list.  As far as I was concerned it had no redeeming qualities.

Later in life I found out that so many of the foods I hated, I didn’t really hate.  I just hated the way they were prepared!  So, cauliflower got another try and when cooked well, it was delicious!  Who knew?

I decided to try this recipe because my sister Meryl and I were walking through a Farm Market in her town, and we saw 3 different color cauliflowers: white, orange and purple.  They were beautiful! I googled this to see if there was something strange going on and there wasn't.  No food coloring, no genetic engineering, just years of selective breeding. They may even have some extra health benefits like higher beta carotene levels. Pretty, healthy AND delicious!  Yum!

I put the recipe together and my sister Carol did the cooking. Everyone hesitated because of the colors, but once they tried it, they loved it! Yay!  We're heading into winter, the perfect time to think up more cauliflower recipes!

Note: This recipe is fine for regular white cauliflower or multi-colored cauliflower.  I chose to cook with the multicolored for asthetic reasons only.  It was so pretty!

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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Skillet Apple Crisp with Granola (or Kashi)

Hurricane Sandy Apple Crisp with Kashi Go Lean
and Butter Pecan Ice Cream
What do you do when you know a hurricane is coming?  If you’re me, you cook. 
I was at my sister Meryl’s house and we were prepared for a big dinner.  We knew there would be a lot of people to feed, so we had that part all planned.  But what would we have for dessert?
Meryl asked me to use some apples she bought at a local farm market.  They were small, windfall apples of all different sorts and they didn’t look so great, but what the heck, they were there, so I’d use them. 
I wanted something easier to make than an apple pie, but something just as comforting.  Maybe even more comforting, and then I the idea popped.  An apple crisp, cooked in a cast iron skillet.  What could be more homey than that?
We had the cast iron skillet, we had the apples, we had really great cinnamon that Meryl got in Morocco, but I didn’t want to use the typical bread crumb topping.  Granola would be great, but she didn’t have any and the winds were picking up so there was no way I was going out to buy any, Then I saw it!  Kashi Go Lean Crisp! Perfect (I hoped). 
I had to hurry because we needed the stove and it is electric – we could lose it at any minute. 
I toasted the Kashi with some butter in the skillet, and then added the apples sugar and cinnamon.  The house smelled like a you'd imagine a house would smell in the 1950s.  Like home. Delicious.
Then into the oven it went.  Everyone who walked into the house asked what I was cooking that smelled so wonderful.  We took it out of the oven to cool, sat down for dinner, and perfect timing, we lost electricity. 
Marc, my son and toughest critic said it was the only apple dessert he really liked.  Yay!  It was a winner, and the best part is, you don’t have to follow the recipe specifically.  If you don’t have one thing, use another.  It’s an old time American recipe and I’m sure there was a different version in each home.  This will now be my standard.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Peanut Butter Crème Icebox Pie - Wow! This is rich!

 


Peanut butter is as American as mom and Apple Pie.  Mix it with some cream cheese, some whipped cream, a little chocolate and lots of love - Wow..  Rich and absolutely delicious! 

I made this for Rosh Hashana at my sister Meryl's house.  I was a little nervous because I never made this before, but what could be bad, right?  

It was delicious!  Everyone loved it! But even the kids said that they could only eat a little bit of it.  Very rich.  Not at all the kind of pie you can sit down with in front of the television with a fork and a glass of milk (skim of course) and eat half (or all) the pie. A sliver of Peanut Butter Crème Icebox Pie is perfect.  It will make you very, very happy.  Maybe I should learn to make it a little less rich, so you could sit in from of the television with a fork and a glass of milk and enjoy it - but it tastes so darn good the way it is!

The only person who didn't like the pie was my son Marc.  He only likes peanut butter when it is accompanied by jelly on bread. 

I chose to use milk chocolate with this recipe because I really like milk chocolate.  No other reason.  If you prefer dark chocolate, that should be fine too.  I also chose to use chocolate graham crakers to make the crust.  I just love chocolate and peanut butter. 
Like the Nutella Crème Icebox Pie in the April archive on this blog, it isn't a dessert I recommend making often.  It's rich, it's sweet and it's delicious, but it should only be for something very special if you don't want to buy new (larger) jeans
.   
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Monday, October 8, 2012

Ricky Frank's Meatloaf and Cauliflower Puree - Love you Mommy!

Once again, yes, I am a pescatarian, but sometimes I cook meat for my mom.  Mom is 95 years old and if she wants meat, I’m going to make it for her. 
Meatloaf is the ultimate American carnivore comfort food. And this one is for my mom.  The fall weather just arrived, it was raining and this was the way to make mom feel comfy.  We had meatloaf (no, I didn’t taste it), cauliflower puree, luchen kugel (Jewish style mac and cheese) and roasted carrots.  Mom was happy and so was everyone else at the table.  My brother-in-law Steve couldn’t believe that he liked the cauliflower puree – a good Shabbat dinner for all.
Some hints:  mom doesn’t like strong spices, so rather than using straight garlic, I roasted it.  This was something new for her and she couldn’t believe that garlic, on its own, could taste sweet and delicious.  I ended up using the whole head and she said it was just perfect.  I should have used 2 and added the 2nd to the cauliflower puree. 
Mom's mom always put a hard boiled egg in the middle of the meatloaf - of course, I did it too. If you're serving this to kids, it's the prize!  It was the prize for us too, since this is how my grandmother served it and maybe even her mom before that.
I use only beef chuck when I make this.  I know that most people use a combination of beef, pork and veal, but I wouldn't use pork for my mom, and I wouldn't use veal for anyone, so I just stick to beef and my carnivorous relatives loved it. 


This meatloaf was very light, that is, everyone said it didn’t feel like it weighed a ton while and after they ate it.  I believe this is due to 2 things: 1) panko bread crumbs, they’re light and airy 2) not squishing the meat when combining the ingredients.  Squishing the meat when you are trying to combine the ingredients makes it too dense.
One more meatloaf hint - if you want it perfectly shaped (which I really don't care about), you can make it in a loaf pan first and then turn it over into the pan in which it will be cooked.


 
Then there's the cauliflower puree.  This is great for people who think they hate cauliflower.  A lot of recipes call for cream, which is delicious, but so is the buttermilk and that's the way I choose to go with it.  Make your own choice. I had to beg Steve to just take a little taste, that's how much he hates caulifower.  He ended up having 2 full servings. 
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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Butter! Ooo-la-la!

I’m an olive oil kind of gal…  I don’t use butter too often except for baking, and even then I often use olive oil (see Meyer Lemon Olive Oil Cookies in this blog from January, 2012).  Even when I’m in a restaurant I usually ask for oil for the bread.  But sometimes, in a good restaurant, when the butter isn’t pre-wrapped, I’ll try the butter.  Oo-la-la, butter's good!
I took a really great cheese making class with Chef Katie Rosenhouse at Sur La Table in Hell’s Kitchen, and we not only made mozzarella, ricotta and mascarpone, we also made butter.  I knew that making butter was super easy, because when I was a kid the owner of the farm where we kept our horses would give us gallon jars of fresh milk from the cows he raised.  And true to the adage the cream really did always rise to the top.  Mom would pour the cream into her mixer and make whipped cream and butter.  But I was a little kid, the farm is now a housing development, and we don’t get too much access to cows on the Island of Manhattan, so mom's butter making left with the last cow on Bowne Road in Wayside, NJ. 
Making butter is fast, easy and fabulous!  Wow!  I have to talk myself into not making it all the time or next year’s cholesterol test results won’t be anything like the results I had a month or so ago! But sometimes it’s a scrumptious treat . 

If you have kids, making butter is a great project.  It takes more time (about 15-30 minutes), but it's worth it.  My sister Carol is a teacher and her preschoolers love making butter even though their arms get tired.  Next time it rains and your kids are stuck inside, get some super clean jars, some heavy cream and start shaking!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Granita di Caffè - Con Panna (Espresso ices with Whipped Cream)

I made Granita di Caffè without ever tasting it.  I had tasted some really bad Granita in the City, but my friends from Italy said that you can't determine what Granita di Caffè should taste like from that garbage.  Mine was delicous, but I had an idea how it was supposed to taste, and I needed to be sure.  So, how do you find out that your Granita di Caffè is perfect?  That's easy!  You go to Tazza d'Oro in Roma across from the Pantheon, of course!

I had to resist all the other caffes offering Granita di Caffè con Panna all over the beautiful, very hot Eternal City.  It was more than 10 Euros in Piazza Navona, which made it easy to resist. But, we found it for anywhere from 2.5 to 3.5 Euros in other places and it took all my will power not to try it.  Then there it was, large and beautiful, the Pantheon.  Amazing.  And then I turned around and find the other destination - Tazza d'Oro.  Nothing fancy by any means.  Plastic cups, no tables, just lots of very hot people, mostly tourists, waiting on line for a pick-me-up of strong, sweet coffee ice with whipped cream.

So, how did my Granita di Caffè fare?  YAY!!!  I tasted it at the famous Tazza d'Oro and it mine was every bit as delicious!  Needless to say, I was happy.  Give it a try!

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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Granita di Limone - the "Real" Italian Ices! It's Summer!


Granita di Limone
Perfect summer cooler
Add some Limoncello and Yummm
Perfetto!
 When my dear Albenganese friend Cristina d'Abramo lived with me she was really disappointed when she found Granita in New York City.  It was awful!  So, we practiced and practiced and we got it!  Granita is also great with peaches, strawberries - and a favorite of mine, Granita di Caffe.  It's summer!  What a great way to chill!

It's easy to make, but can take lots of time because you have to scrape it every half hour for the first 3 or 4 hours so it doesn't turn into a lemon rock - it should be soft and snowy.  I've found an alternative which is to pour it into ice cube trays and pop the cubes into a blender and pulse it - don't blend or it willl turn to liquid.

My Italian friends love when I make this, but nobody loved it as much as my dad.  I would go to his house, make it at night and he'd have 2 big helpings for breakfast the next morning.  "Ahhh, good Char".

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Pasta al Limone (Lemon Pasta) - A Taste of Sunshine!

Summer is here and to me that means lemon dishes, blueberries, cantelope, Jersey tomatoes, basil, strawberries - Yummmm... 

I love, love, love lemons.  They really do taste like sunshine. 

I was introduced to this dish by my friend Ginger Brokaw on Saturday night at a trendy little place in the East Village called Supper, and it was well worth the wait (they don’t take reservations).  It is one of my very favorite pasta dishes.

I experimented at home, and think I got pretty close with the recipe But, it was missing something.  My Roman friend, Barbara Roppo, was visiting and she said it was missing butter, her mother always uses a little butter.  I didn't believe her. Butter? Not just olive oil?  Well, she was right.  It was missing butter.  Who knew?

Pasta Al Limone is a burst of summer in every mouthful. Served in small quantities it can be an extraordinary first course, or in larger quantities it is a delicious (an unforgettable) main course.  Very different.

This is great served with a spinach or arugula, orange (clementine) and pineapple salad with a lemon/balsamic vinaigrette.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Egg Islands - Who Doesn't Love Breakfast Any Time of Day!

I had 2 favorite breakfasts growing up.  My earliest favorite was 'Lakalas', which was a child's way of saying the diminutive for little latkes, that is, matzoh meal pancakes.  I used to stand on a chair and 'help' my mom or Aunt Mollie make them.  Loved them as a little kid, not so much anymore.

My lasting favorite was and still is Egg Island.  Yes, I know that not everyone calls them Egg Islands, but we did and we still do, and I love 'em! I had the Egg Islands you see in the picture for dinner last night, and even all these many years later, every time I make them I think of the anticipation I felt as a kid when my mom (and sometimes my dad) would make this delicious breakfast. 

Egg Island - A GREAT childhood memory!
I remember being surprised that my friends didn't know what Egg Islands were.  So, I thought my parents must have invented them. Many years later I found out that it wasn't really their invention, but I know they perfected them.

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