Friday, November 11, 2011

My Very Best for Thanksgiving

I developed this dish for my friend Jayme’s birthday. Somehow we have gotten in the tradition of cooking a French bistro meal every year in celebration of her day of birth. Last year I attempted duck confit. Two auditions later I had a lot of duck fat and no main course. I punted and planned to make rack of lamb and daupinoise gratin. Escargot, as usual, were the appetizer and of course she was getting a pear clafoutis for her birthday cake. But what to serve as a vegetable? I exhaustively researched vegetable side dishes. I consulted Jaques, Julia, Tony, Thomas and numerous websites and blogs. Nothing, absolutely nothing, ‘went’ with the planned meal.

Now, this may sound like an exaggeration to you, but it was the truth. I had criteria. It could not be salad, we already had a first course. This dish could not contain cream or cheese, that would make the potatoes redundant. It had to be a fall vegetable. It had to be green. And it couldn't be too complicated. Because obviously I wasn’t complicating the matter at all. Artichokes, too messy. Asparagus, uninspired. Brussels sprouts, last year’s news. Spinach, wrong texture. Broccoli, yawn. Zucchini, bigger yawn. I wanted green beans but not just regular old green beans or even green beans almandine. Wait, green beans almandine, then it popped into my head ‘What about green beans with chestnuts?’ Then it grew ‘What about green beans with chestnuts sauteed in the leftover duck fat?’

When I had it worked out in my head I knew it was going to be good. How could it not be? I ran out and bought a jar of chestnuts and came home and made it for Jim that night. The green beans got the eye roll of approval from Jim. The chestnuts caramelize, the green beans remain crisp with a little char and the duck fat provides a sweet, earthy background. We have decided it is the perfect side dish for Thanksgiving. We served it last year and we are serving it again this year and I suspect the year after and the year after.

Green Beans & Chestnuts Sauteed in Duck Fat - Serves 6

1 lb. green beans, ends trimmed

2 tablespoons duck fat, rendered

12 chestnuts sliced in to 1/4” slices


Heat a pot of salted water and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile prepare an ice bath. Blanch the green beans in the salted water for 1 minute. Plunge in the ice bath. Let cool in the ice bath for several minutes. Drain and dry the green beans. This step can be done the night before. Heat the duck in a heavy bottomed skillet over medium high heat until sizzling loudly (about 1 minute). Add the green beans and the chestnuts at the same time. Saute until green beans have taken on a slight char or patina and the chestnuts have caramelized, about 4 minutes. Finish with salt and serve.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

From the Archives

At the age of 10 I crafted my first culinary creation with my neighbor John; it was called the cheese melt. It was a piece of white bread with some yellow stuff pretending to be butter and a single slice of cheddar cheese on top placed in the microwave for 17 seconds. More time than that the cheese scorched, less than that and the goo factor was not acceptable. It was best when eaten molten hot, folded in half. It only took seconds to eat it because you had to race the cheese before it poured out of the ends and burned an unsuspecting body part or the cat.
During high school I was able to master more conventional and appetizing dishes such as pesto sauce and baked salmon. But the early college years brought a new method of cooking that can only be described as the dump, stir and wait culinary school. This involved the development of (groan, how predictable) stir fry! Mine featured chick peas and cabbage and a variety of dried spices, like mustard powder. I cringe.
The first college years also brought the equally predictable vegetarian chili. Working in tandem again, I developed this recipe with my friend Suzy in her college apartment. It was not a burning desire to eat chili that gave way to this recipe but rather it was actually a scam to get another, of age student, to bring the wine. The box of wine. We figured we could master chili quickly and easily. I had never made or had chili aside from the Stouffer’s boil-in-bag kind. I don’t know if Suzy had either but she is from New Mexico which gave us some credibility. We must have had some basic recipe to get us started, but I couldn’t tell you from where. The internet was not for use by the general public and I can’t imagine we had many cookbooks. I can only guess that Suzy’s mom got us started or I found something at the school library.
After college was over, after the requisite traipse through European youth hostels, and before my job in Texas started I was in post collegiate limbo. I was employed at both a consignment shop and a bookstore. I lived with my childhood friend, Mattie, in her childhood home in Waverly. I was always surrounded by my friends. We were always laughing. We entertained ourselves with trips to the reservoir for skinny dipping (peer pressure) in the middle of the night, making our own mad-libs about each other, creating dioramas, playing pool, watching the X-Files and writing sardonic essays about the state of our fellow barflies. On one of those perfect fall days I was making the chili. A blimp was circling outside and my friend Tim was reading articles (yes the real articles) aloud from a Playboy that had somehow made its way into our home.

‘You need cinnamon in there.’ I looked at him to see if he was joking. ‘No, seriously, you need cinnamon in there, for the beans.’

‘I do?’

‘Yup. I do it all the time. Seriously, just a little.’

And there it was; the secret ingredient, it had been hiding in a granola bar all this time.

I'd like to say the recipe has remained virtually unchanged with the exception of the cinnamon in the 20 years since Suzy and I set out to score a box of Franzia but I'm pretty sure it has evolved with me. I think I have it exactly where I want it now. I’ll add some bragging rights: this chili won second place in a chili competition that did not, at the time, have a vegetarian category.

Thanks Timmy, I still owe you a wok for the stir fry gone awry.
Vegetarian Chili - Serves a bunch (8-12)
2 14 oz. cans dark kidney beans
1 14 oz. can black beans
2 28 oz. can peeled tomatoes (I cut them in to smaller bits in the can with kitchen scissors)
2 green bell peppers (chopped in to 1” chunks)
1 red or yellow bell pepper (chopped in to 1” chunks, the total amount of all peppers should be about 4 cups chopped)
2 large or 3 medium Spanish onions (4-4.5 cups chopped in to 1/2” chunks)
8 garlic cloves (2 tablespoons minced)
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne
1.5 teaspoons cumin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
Drain and rinse the beans. I had a rather heated discussion with Jim about rinsing the beans recently, and he reluctantly admitted that rinsing the beans cut down on the negative after effects of his chili in a surprisingly wonderful way. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add the onions and saute until they just start to think about becoming translucent. Add in the garlic and saute for another 3-5 minutes. Add in the peppers and continue to cook for another 5-7 minutes. They want to be al dente. Add in the chili powder and paprika and saute for another minute. Then add in the tomatoes and bring to a slight simmer. Add in the beans and the remaining spices. Simmer for about 1-15 minutes. The vegetables still want to have some texture and crispness to them. Serve with whichever chili condiments float your boat.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The O.C.F.

I spend a lot of time in domestic airports, a lot of time. The food situation is always distressing. As hard as I try to avoid it I am forced to eat at the airport due to timing, constant weather hiccups or whatever equipment happened to go awry (Delta fix your doors on the 757s). My criteria for airport food is something not too unhealthy and not too smelly. I worry about the smelly so I don't offend my fellow passengers. Note I didn't say tasty or enjoyable, because those items are rarely an option at the airport. Why? I don't know. I don't think people want bad food. I suspect there is a national airport food vendor mafia. There are a few exceptions. My top three, in order, starting with the best: SFO, SNA, IND. The worst, in order from crappiest to slightly less crappy: LGA, LAX, MIA. And there's a lot of in between. I didn't include my own airport, ATL, which given the landscape of airport dining, may actually be the best.

One day Jim and I found ourselves at BWI at lunchtime. There wasn't much to choose from, or rather, nothing except we found something called 'Chesapeake Landing' 'Maryland Landing' 'Maryland Crossing' or something like that. It was non-descript as airport restaurants are supposed to be. Of course there were crab cakes on the menu, that didn't surprise me but there staring at me was something I had not seen in 25 years and while I liked it fine as a kid suddenly seeing it on the menu made me very nostalgic. 'Jim, they have clam strips! Clam strips! I can't believe they have clam strips, I don't know the last time I saw one. We had clam strips every Friday in school. Clam strips and french fries. I'm having the clam strips.' We did, Maryland being a Catholic state we had clam strips every Friday. We'd sit in our Bertoia chairs with the royal blue seat pads eating clam strips and french fries and maybe some cole slaw swinging our feet. Clam strips the original chicken finger. Then I think all I said for the next 5 minutes while our food was prepared was 'Clam strips? Clam strips! Can you believe they have clam strips?' That restaurant in the airport did not let me down. I'm sure those clam strips came straight out of a plastic bag from the freezer but they were good, creamy on the inside, crunchy on the outside and they came with fries and cole slaw. They were better than I remembered them. I was swinging my feet at my bar stool with food happiness. Jim leaned it 'May I try one?' 'Of course, have as many as you like.' 'That's good, remind me next time I want the clam strips.'

Well next time came a few months later. It was lunchtime again. I said to Jim 'Let's find that place with the clam strips.' 'I think that's the only place.' I didn't even need a menu. 'I'll take the clam strips.' I think Jim ordered something extra lame, like a salad or soup. 'You don't want the clam strips?' Jim's memory isn't the best. 'I don't want clam strips. Who eats clam strips? We didn't have clam strips growing up in Ohio.' Well, the clams came and Jim had food envy. 'Remind me to have the clam strips next time.' You should too. Terminal C, the place with the seabird, the bay and some indigenous plants for a logo.

As often happens on this blog I tell a story about a certain food but don't have an exact recipe for it. Really, I'm not going to tell you how to bread something and chuck it in the deep fryer. I think, this week anyhow. A little research shows you can get a giant bag of clam strips at Costco for $5; my money says those are the ones near and dear to our hearts. also has a recipe for clam strips if you feel the need to shuck and fry a bushel of clams. I do have a recipe for clam chowder using items that are always in our larder. Surely we all have a positive memory associated with clam chowder. This is tasty, quick, inexpensive and totally satisfying on a cold night.

Clam Chowder - Serves 4

1 8 oz. jar of clam juice
1 cup milk
1 cup cream
1 cup water
1 10 oz. can clams
1/4 cup flour
1 carrot, chopped
5 mushrooms, sliced
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 small Yukon potatoes cubed
10 sprigs thyme, leaves stripped
1.5-2 tablespoons brandy
2 tablespoons butter

Combine clam juice, juice from clams and water in a pan and bring to a boil. Add in the potatoes and half of the thyme and cook for 3 minutes. Add in the mushrooms and cook for another 3 minutes. Add in the carrot and cook for another 3 minutes. Then remove the vegetables from the pot with a slotted spoon.

Meanwhile heat the butter in a pan and add the onions and saute until almost translucent, then add in the celery and remaining thyme and saute for another 2 minutes. Add the clams and saute for a minute.

Slowly add the flour to the pot with the clam juice, whisking to combine until thickened. Add in cream and milk, heat and add in all of the vegetables and clams. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, add brandy and cook for 3 more minutes. Serve.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Holiday Traditions

I lament the loss of summer, I really do, I get frustrated about the homogeneity of the produce section. However winter brings a whole different cooking approach; my feeling about winter is you can't cook with enough booze. Come wintertime I am warming up all sorts of vegetables and meats with sherry, Madeira, Grand Marnier, Pernod, Brandy and regular old wine. Cooking straight out of the liquor cabinet.

Thanksgiving preparation usually marks the watershed trip to the liquor store to purchase all sorts of booze we don't drink, well, most of it. The one exception is the Grand Ma. I used to make the cranberry sauce with it and the ritual went, a shot Grand Ma for the relish and a shot of Grand Ma for the cook, and any other cooks (Jim), to sip to make the chores a little easier. When the bottle of Grand Ma is all gone (and it usually lasts through January and sometimes February) that marks the official end to the holiday season. We now use Jim's cranberry recipe, which uses a bottle of wine, but we still keep the Grand Ma tradition. Grand Ma also helps with the hanging of the lights on the house, tree decorating, cold weather in a town that doesn't believe in insulation and generally making merry; feel free to use in place of egg nog.

I've never met a mushroom that didn't want to be paired with a fortified wine. This 'bread pudding' has replaced our stuffing or dressing or whatever you may call it. I originally found this recipe in Food&Wine, but it was not playing by the winter cooking rules, so I ‘corrected’ it. In spite of what F&W says Jim has found letting the mixture soak overnight creates a creamier texture, but not longer than just one night. And please excuse the mess of brown that is the photo, it tastes better than it photographs.

Mushroom Bread Pudding (Adapted from Food & Wine) Serves 8

4 cups bread cubes from a Challah loaf

1.5 lbs. mixed mushrooms, sliced

1/2 cup chopped shallot

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

2 large garlic cloves, minced

2 cups half and half

4 large eggs

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons Madeira

salt + pepper

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

Pre-heat the oven to 350. Bake bread cubes on baking sheet about 12 minutes until golden brown.

Heat the butter in a pan, cook the shallot until just tender, about 3 minutes, add the mushrooms, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper and continue to saute until mushroom liquid has evaporated, about 10-12 minutes. Add the Madeira and simmer until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Add in parsley, stir and remove from the heat. Let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, whisk the eggs, half and half, cheese, more salt and pepper together. Add in bread crumbs and mushroom mixture. Toss to coat. Store in fridge 6-24 hours. Toss the mixture every few hours.

Pre-heat oven to 375. Pour mixture in to a large casserole or individual ramekins. I use two large 7" ramekins. Bake for 30-40 minutes until top is crusty and interior has set.

Monday, October 17, 2011

CSA Dilemma

Our friends are vacationing for 10 days in London; we are watching their Chihuahua, Roadie. Roadie is not your typical Chihuahua; he's a lover not a fighter. He's friendly, he's ridiculously cute, missing his tail and he does this funny little shake with his left paw when he's walking fast. Roadie is something of, shall we say, a Don Juan. He has no problems sleeping with strangers. I know because he spent the night curled up on Jim's sister's pillow after having met her 2 hours before. The next morning he casually trotted out of the bedroom at 10 AM. If his parents take him to a party my money says by the end of the night Roadie will be situated in a pretty girl's lap and she will be feeding him pinch after pinch of barbecue. The dog's social mores aside, our reward for hanging out with Roadie is that we get our friends' CSA baskets while they are away.

I have been bugging Jim about participating in a CSA for years and he's been hesitant. I suspect based on up front cost, stringent rules and in spite of his title of Mr. Spontaneous, the unknown factor of the basket contents. The first CSA basket arrived chock full of everything, enormous amounts of organic fruits, veggies and popcorn? I could barely carry it. Jim was so excited when he saw this windfall of food he washed everything one at a time and displayed them on our counter Cezanne-like only with 30x more food than Cezanne would have used. He took a picture and posted it to his Facebook. Feel free to check out his still life. He then jumped in and made us dinner making a small dent in the mountain of food.

The next day Jim went to California and I went to New York. When I returned 2 days later the food mountain was still there staring at me. I didn't know where to start, which I suspect, participants in CSAs across the country go through weekly. It was like a Chopped basket except without the cotton candy or the bison sausage, still equally baffling. It had items I cook with often, like butternut squash and sweet potatoes, it also had slightly eccentric cousins to other loved vegetables, like white radishes, but it also had an over abundance of items I rarely use, such as green peppers.

I'm not the biggest green pepper fan; while I don't dislike them and I'll gladly eat them, I don't seek them out either. I find green peppers misappropriated quite often. A giant chunk thoughtlessly plopped on a salad. Or constantly paired with onions, the perpetual wingman. Unlike peanut butter and jelly, who seem to do fine without one another, green peppers don't seem to have much of a social life without onions. I really like other types of bell pepper. Isn't there more for this vegetable? So I thought, well, what about green pepper Harissa? And you know what? It works.

The green peppers also came with Anaheim peppers and jalapeƱos. Surely you could use any type of pepper that appeals to you.

Green Pepper Harissa

4 small or 2 large green bell peppers

3 Anaheim peppers

3 jalapeƱos or 1 large

1.5 teaspoons caraway seeds, toasted

1.5 teaspoons cumin seed, toasted

6 +1 tablespoons olive oil

Large pinch of salt

Tiny pinch of cinnamon

1/2 cup cilantro leaves

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Pre-heat broiler. Place peppers and garlic on a baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and drizzle with about 1 tablespoon olive oil. Roast the peppers in the broiler. Time will depend upon your broiler. My broiler is in the top of the oven I placed the peppers about 7" from the flames, my broiler is not particularly potent and it took me 5 minutes rotating the peppers every minute. Keep your eye on anything in the broiler at all times. The garlic may finish sooner.

Place the peppers in a paper bag for about 5 minutes. Making sure they are cool enough to handles peel the skins off of the peppers. Slice them in half and discard the seeds and stem. This should make about 2 cups of roasted peppers.

Put the peppers, spices, cilantro and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the food processor, process and stream in the remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil until desired consistency. Finish with lemon juice.

Notes: Use as you would regular Harissa. I'm showing it as a dip but we also marinated and baked chicken in it. It's also great on eggs.

Fall Cloud

Last summer we took the kids to a Braves game. We took our seats in the outfield; Jim and I were happily situated with gigundo $8 water flavored beers and the kids had just finished off nutritious Turner Field pizza and nachos when the cotton candy man barked by. I asked ‘Kids do you want cotton candy?’ Our son said ‘YES! YES! YES! Cotton candy!‘ Singing now ‘Cotton, cotton candy! Oh, I love cotton candy.’ But our daughter looked at me quizzically and concerned. I’d never seen consternation from this 4 year old. ‘What is it?’ she asked. ‘Well, it’s cotton candy. It’s, it’s it’s...Jim - what is it?’ Confused look. ‘It’s, well it’s basically fluffy sugar and... it’s pink!‘ What an odd question; were we bad parents? She looked at us, blinking, unconvinced. There is nothing that that little girl loves more than sugar and the color pink, except maybe pork products. ‘Your brother is having some. Would your brother eat anything bad?’ ‘No.’ ‘OK, we’ll get one and you two can share.’ Trepidatiously ‘Okaaaay’. Jim flagged the man down and big bag of puffy pink and blue was delivered. She was still very concerned about the contents of that bag. She eyed it and cautiously watched her brother open the bag, dig in and eat it. She continued to blink at the bag. At least Jim is always a man with a plan. He peeled off a piece and held directly in front of her, she leaned in and grabbed it with her mouth. Now, I am going to do my best to describe what happened next. As she grabbed and it started to melt (as cotton candy does) the sensation took her by surprise, she literally shook from head to toe, an all over body spasm, then, she squealed with delight, her eyes lit up, she smiled ear to ear and then she opened her mouth wide for Jim to feed her more. Jim handed her the bag, she ate until her tongue and lips were quite blue from artificial food coloring and she had sufficiently sugared herself out. After the game we all headed home with our little girl still clutching the plastic bag containing the leftover puff of cotton candy. I have never seen such delight over a food stuff.

The other day I was making macaroni and cheese with butternut squash, which is really, really awesome, but not the point of this blog. One of the directions for the mac-n-cheese is to combine the cream and the squash using a food processor or blender but the recipe warns not to over whip the cream or, well, you’ll end up with whipped cream. Well I understood why not, but thought ‘Why not?’. So another day I whipped them together. A few moments with the hand mixer and I had a bowl full of a pouffy orange fluff. I dipped my finger in, cautiously. It was delicious. I didn’t squeal but I did utter an expletive. Maybe it’s not as mind blowing as the cotton candy but it’s really good.

What to do with it? I’ll tell you what I did with it but I’d love to hear what you would do with it.

Fall Flavored Whipped Cream with Fried Herbs - Makes 20-24

1 3-4 pound butternut squash, cut in half

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1 baguette

2 garlic cloves cut in half lengthwise


sage leaves

1 tablespoon olive oil

vegetable oil

salt + pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 400. Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds. Salt + pepper the squash and drizzle with olive oil. Roast for an hour. Remove from oven and let cool. Scrape the squash from the rind and combine with the cream. Add more salt and pepper if needed. Using a hand mixer whip until fluffy and light.

Pre-heat the broiler. Slice the baguette in to 1/4” rounds, rub the garlic on the bread slices, lightly brush the bread with a very little olive oil. Toast in the oven for 30 seconds, leave the door slightly ajar so you can keep an eye on the bread, do not take your eyes off of the bread until it has been removed from the oven.

Fill a shallow pan with 1/4” of vegetable oil, heat, add in sage and thyme, alternating. The sage will take about a quick count to 10 and the thyme a quick count to 5. Be careful when frying the sage, throw it in and stand back, it will sound like fireworks going off. Apparently thyme contains a lot of water.

Top the crostini with the whipped cream and the fried herbs.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Sway with Me

I was exposed to a lot of new dishes, well new to me, while in Ohio with Jim this summer: tater-tot potato salad, pretzels with cool whip salad and beef manhattans. While all of these dishes require further explanation there was one dish that was inspiring. It is a dish I have known my whole life and you have too. Canned peaches with cottage cheese. My sister-in-law ordered it. It was a ‘didyoujustreallyorderthat?’ moment. I cannot tell you the last time I saw that dish, I suspect it was on a conveyor belt in the 1980s.

Sometimes this dish comes on a wilted piece of lettuce and maybe with a maraschino cherry on top. Who came up with this? Why is it comfort food? Is it dessert or is it a salad? I find this dish bizarre but people love it and it certainly endures decades of food fads. So, I’ve reworked it, dare I say modernized it? Hopefully my sister-in-law will try it. Much like the original it isn’t dessert and it isn't truly savory either. I don’t really know what it is besides good.

Peach-Basil-Goat Cheese Galette - Serves 6

Pate Brisee (adapted from the Bouchon cookbook)

2 1/4 cups flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

8 ounces (2 stick or 16 tablespoons) cold, unsalted butter

1/4 cup ice water

1/2 teaspoon of lemon zest


Goat Cheese Filling

4 oz. goat cheese

6 tablespoons whole milk ricotta cheese

1 large egg, beaten

2 tablespoons basil chopped

Peach Topping

2 large firm peaches (skins removed)

1 teaspoon sugar
juice of half a lemon
1 tablespoon basil chopped
1 egg white beaten (egg wash)

Make the dough a day ahead. Place 1 cup flour in salt in standing mixer with dough hook attachment, turn on low and add the butter in a handful at a time, in about 4 batches, increase to medium speed and when butter is incorporated, stop machine, scrape down sides or dislodge dough from mixing arm, turn on to low again and slowly add in remaining flour, followed by the water, mix until just incorporated. Remove and divide in to two, wrap one disk in plastic wrap and freeze for later use. Return the other half to the mixer and add in the lemon zest, turn on low until incorporated. Shape in to a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Boil a small pot of water. Score an ‘X’ in the bottom of each peach place them in boiling water turn off the heat, put the lid on and let them sit in the hot water for 2 minutes.. Place in an ice bath to cool. Remove the skins from the peaches. Slice the peaches in quarters, slice in to 1/8” slices and place in a bowl, toss with sugar, lemon juice and basil.

Using a mixer combine the goat cheese, ricotta and egg. Fold in the basil.

Roll out the dough on a floured surface to 10’-12” in diameter, place on parchment on a baking sheet, spread the cheese mixture in the center of the dough staying clear of the outer 1.5”. Arrange peaches on top. Roughly fold over the edges and brush with the egg wash. Bake at 375 for 35 minutes. Remove from oven let cool on the baking sheet on wire rack. Take care when transferring it to a plate or cutting board, the pastry is very flaky.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Life Long Love Affair

I love ice cream. I mean, I love it. I was snacking on a box of mint chocolate chip the other day and that thought popped in to my head. I LOVE ice cream. I love ice cream so much I would marry it. If I were on death row I’d want 5 boxes of it for my last meal. Really, it’s probably why I don’t really care for other desserts; how could you when it kind of feels like cheating? Seriously, why go on a date with David Duchovny when you’ve got Dave Grohl at home?

Strawberry and mint chocolate chip have a tie for first place, followed by peach, pistachio, peppermint stick, Cherry Garcia, banana, vanilla and lemon. In spite of my unconditional love I do have rules for ice cream. Ice cream cannot be the flavor chocolate; any flavor chocolate. Ice cream cannot contain any candy unless it is the aforementioned peppermint stick or chocolate chips. Ice cream cannot contain cookies, cakes, pies, fudge, carmel, marshmallow, jelly or any synthetic ooze. It cannot have a name that sounds like something unappetizing you might find accidentally stuck to the bottom of your shoe, Moose Tracks, for instance. The only thing that shall adorn my ice cream shall be jimmies (or the truly shameful, please don’t tell anyone, Magic Shell). And while I’m airing my dirty secrets, really there isn’t anything more decadent (and fun!) than pouring the Magic Shell directly into the box of ice cream and eating your way through layer after layer.

I can list the ice cream stores in different states I’ve been to and which flavor I ate. If you come to my house and I actually serve you a dessert that isn’t a glass of wine there’s an 85% chance that dessert will involve ice cream. If I could keep my yap shut on childhood trips Ocean City minimizing the “Are we there yet?”s, I was treated to the ever elusive peppermint stick ice cream at the HoJo. I used to race home from the bus stop to sit on the heater vent in the middle of winter and eat ice cream everyday after middle school. My preferred brand was Bryer’s. My first job was scooping ice cream, of course. I was so devoted I managed to move up from conehead to fountain girl quickly. My sister and I have the same birthday. My step-mom always got us the same exact cake for our birthdays - Baskin Robbins ice cream cake with white cake with chocolate chip ice cream. We had this up until birthdays 30 & 25. I could tell thousands of ice cream stories.

Oddly, I’ve never made my own ice cream. The kids took it upon themselves to rectify that situation and bestowed on me an ice cream maker for my birthday.

Blueberry Lime Zest Ice Cream

1 1/2 cups cream

1 1/2 cups whole milk

1 cup sugar

1 pint blueberries

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 large egg yolks

zest of 3 limes

1 cup water

Combine the water and 1/4 cup sugar in a pot bring to a boil, add lime zest and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half. Strain and reserve the zest. Combine the milk, cream and 1/2 cup sugar and heat on the stove to 175 degrees strain through a fine mesh sieve. Combine egg yolks and remaining 1/4 cup sugar, whisk until thickened. Add milk and cream slowly to the eggs, whisking the entire time. Add the vanilla and return the mixture to the stove and heat to 180 degrees. Strain again. Cool to room temperature then fully cool in refrigerator. When cool add the custard and blueberries to a blender and blend until combined. Finely mince the lime zest. Place the custard in the ice cream maker and run as directed, 3 minutes prior to completion, add in 1.5 teaspoons of the lime zest. Pour in a container and freeze overnight.

Notes: The ice cream recipe comes from I added the lime zest based on a recipe for blueberries with lime zest confit and creme fraiche from the Les Halles cookbook.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


Long before Jim and I were romantically involved we worked together at very straight-laced firm chock full of rules and regulations as large, successful firms are wont to have. They even had a large book of rules, although they referred to it as the Employee Handbook. One of the rules or standards was that everyone was addressed by their initials. If someone in the long history of this firm previously had your initials well, quite simply, they assigned you new ones. Your parents have no say in this matter. Sometimes one managing partner would not even call me by my name; I was just simply TMG and he’d address me as such to my face. Your initials served as the backbone for locating you, on the office map, your email address and really almost anything related to your employment there; more so than your social security number. But mainly your initials served as a way to receive all sorts of imperative inter-office garbage: magazines articles, specifications for review, new rules, your mail. Jim and I still have fun with this, occasionally depositing funny stories, a horrifying $450 electric bill, or whatever quietly placed on each other’s office chair with one set of initials and an arrow pointing at the other set of initials. We may even address a Christmas gift this way. We giggle like kids with this game. I know it doesn’t sound very funny, but we’re childish.

Oddly, and in spite of my disdain, I still use these pigeon-holing methods for organization in a serious manner. In the very back of my red book (my personal cookbook, the one I have previously referred to as the book of lists) past all the recipes, the menus, the lists of appetizers and the scraps of recipes not yet made is another list titled ‘Things JPY likes’. Beneath that title and scrawled over onto the next page is the ever evolving list of dishes I make that make Jim shout ‘Eureka!’. It is cross-referenced in the red book with fifth-grade-worthy hearts scrawled in the margins of recipes with the notation ‘JPY ‘hearts’. Jim professes to like almost everything I make, but sometimes if a dish really strikes him, he will express his extreme satisfaction with an eye roll while saying ‘Baby, this is really good.’ Now he just says ‘You can put that on the list.’ The list of things TMG makes that JPY likes.

So from the list of tasty items JPY ‘hearts’, from me, TMG, to you and your initials. Happy breakfast, enjoy.

Breakfast Polenta with Linguica - Serves 2

1 cup cream

2 cups water

1/2 cup polenta

1 tablespoon butter

salt + pepper

1 Linguica sausage

1 tablespoon rosemary chopped

4 eggs

2 tablespoons white vinegar

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Combine the water and cream in a sauce pan and bring to a boil but do not let it over boil. Whisk in the polenta and two large pinches of salt. Simmer the polenta for about 25 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent lumps from forming. Meanwhile, heat the vegetable oil in a skillet and add the sausage and cook for about 10 minutes. Remove the sausage and slice in to 1/4” rounds. Add the rosemary to the pan, fry until fragrant and slightly crispy, about 1-2 minutes.

Fill a wide pan with about 2” of water and add the vinegar; bring to a simmer. Crack the eggs in to small bowls or ramekins. Tip the bowl with the egg slowly in to the simmering water so the water comes in to the bowl to take the egg out to sea like the tide. Repeat with the other eggs. Using a slotted spoon, gently redirect the egg around itself in the water. Allow the water to return to a simmer and simmer 2-3 minutes. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon or pasta claw and drain on paper towels.

Remove the polenta from the heat, stir in the butter, adjust salt and add pepper. Spoon the polenta into two warm bowls, top each with the sausage slices and two poached eggs, sprinkle fried rosemary and smoked paprika on top.

Notes: Instead of sausage I have also previously used a few ounces of chopped pancetta.