Monday, October 21, 2013

Best Underground Supper Club! Village Voice Best Of NYC 2013

sally field you like me gif 

Appropriately enough in the Best Of Excess edition... Thanks, you guys! The link to the article is here. And if you want to jump right to us, it's here.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Married With Dishes

Married With Dishes

The Cooking Channel
Sunday, April 22 @8pm and Midnight EST

When I met Karl, eight years ago, I told him in no uncertain terms I would never get married again.  I think I might have even told him that before he saw me naked.

Perhaps it made me more interesting to him; Most women my age were running the exact opposite game: "Are YOU my husband? How about you, are YOU my husband? What kind of father would YOU make? Hey! Where are you going?"

We dated, we moved in together, we got married on the Staten Island Ferry. All in all, it’s been a great time.

I have to take a moment to tell you that without Karl, there would be no Married With Dishes, and I don't just mean the title. The photograph above speaks volumes about Karl and I. He makes me laugh every single day, and there is nothing I love more than that. He is incredibly intelligent, hilariously funny, game, and encourages every idea I try to make into reality, whether it’s sensible or not. He supports my Big Ideas despite my Little Planning, and is even gracious when I shout "You have NO VISION! It’s going to HAPPEN! We can DO IT!". I drive the poor man fucking CRAZY but he ceaselessly comes back for more.

I have no idea when it initially occurred to him that a life with me was a life dominated by open doors to friends, and a living room / backyard that would be always filled with those friends, with strangers, dinner parties, and with cocktails. We never really discussed it, he just started helping one day and never stopped. He has graciously picked up my slack and fixed what was broken, sometimes just by being there. He has taught himself to make delicious desserts, even when I make fun of his OCD mise-en-place.

He has been a powerful force behind me, propelling me forward, and I am absolutely certain I couldn't have done any of it without him.

I love you, baby. even if it turns out that my Dad was right and you wind up being the star of our show.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Porchetta, Angelo Gallo, And Other Sicilian Delights...

Photo Credit: Todd Selby - The Selby
I hadn't been to San Francisco in five years. 

There had been a time in my life when I went quite often. I was dating my first husband at the time, a Navy Man who was studying Russian at the Defense Language Institute. Years later, I got to return with my current husband, (not the Navy Man), and we were treated like culinary royalty as guests of chocolatiers Michael and Jacky Recchiuti, who seem to know everybody in town.

Most recently, though, I was sent there as a contributor to Unique Eats, a weekly show on the Cooking Channel. My assignment was to sample the cuisine at five restaurants over three days. Pretty great, as gigs go... Between enormous meals, I planned to see old friends and try to fend off The Itis on the streets of San Francisco.

After a difficult flight, I arrived late Saturday/early Sunday, crashed and slept like a rock. Eventually, I got up, stumbled outside in search of coffee and in my semi-haze discovered that the streets were teeming with hot women (literally and figuratively) muscled and glistening from having just run the Nike Half Marathon. Awesome. During my layover, the ATL airport was so full of hot ass and big hair that had you added lights and music it could have passed for a club, Now this.

I wandered around for a while, feeling like a major underachiever (way to run those thirteen miles, ladies... I'm in town to eat everything!) After my coffee, I met up with my old friend Melissa with whom I formed a bond working at the beautiful (but doomed) Fressen many years ago. Melissa had gotten a job at Chez Panisse, moved to San Francisco, and had never looked back. We hadn't seen each other in about eight years, so after we met her husband and daughter over a delicious brunch at Bar Agricole, Melissa and I split off to catch up over a drink or three. As we left the bar, she suggested we walk across the alley to see if her friend Angelo was in his blacksmith studio.

Always game for an unscheduled adventure, I was DOWN. Her friend Angelo turned out to be Angelo Garro, chef/blacksmith/hunter/artist/winemaker/general raconteur and full on life loving Sicilian featured in Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, a connection I didn't make until well after we had left.

Angelo was making sausage when we arrived. He promptly invited us in, and the next thing I knew we were sampling his homemade Syrah and Pinot Noir, (he grows and picks his own grapes, naturlich...) eating homemade sausage from the wild boar he stalked and killed, and olives he had cured himself. It reminded me of my friend Victoria's father, Victor, who is equally relentless with the proffering of his homemade pickles and charcuterie when you visit. I am in love with that Sicilian assault of hospitality.

We hung out with Angelo all afternoon, drinking, talking, stuffing ourselves and watching a film he shot about an Italian culatello specialist. I lingered until I was on the verge of being late for my JOB: A dinner reservation at a restaurant we were covering for Unique Eats. I had had such a fabulous time that I managed to invite myself back for January or February to cook a dinner with him and Melissa, and he offered to shoot a wild boar for us to prepare. Awesome.

I had a great time in San Francisco. How could I not? Great town. Seriously, the trip to Angelo's studio was the best four hours I've spent in recent memory, and definitely the BEST thing to happen to me in San Francisco. I am always so amazed when the universe turns just so, and sweeps you into a life-altering situation that you didn't know existed.  I decided to express my intense feelings about this experience by giving back and creating a dinner inspired by my afternoon with Angelo and Melissa.

The Menu:
Olives and Victor Tralongo's Pickled Eggplant
Chicory Salad with Fried Prosciutto, Preserved Lemons, Poached Eggs & Fried Brussels Sprouts
Pasta á La Norma
Porchetta with Angelo Garro's Seasoned Salt & Wild Fennel Seed
Red Onions Agrodolce
Roasted Fennel with Oil-Cured Olives & Chili Flake
Roasted Broccoli with Sicilian Sauce
Olive Oil Cake with Quartered Fresh Figs and Boozy Whipped Cream

The scooby snack was done for me. Victor pickles his eggplant with mint and capers all summer long and then doles it out to us a jar at a time throughout the year. Meaty, briny, salty, with a touch of brightness from the mint, it's perfect just on a cracker. We put them out with bowls of pickled shallots and olives.

I still had some delicious prosciutto left from last Christmas, courtesy of Irene Wong, so I sliced off thin pieces and then fried them lightly in a touch of olive oil.

Salty, porky and crunchy, they were the perfect foil for the bitter chicory. I topped the salad with poached eggs.

I made a preserved lemon vinaigrette and then fried brussels sprouts in the fat from the prosciutto pan, so not only were they nutty and uber brussels-y, but they were also PORKY.

 HELL, yes.
 The Porchetta, as you can see from the following pictures, was No Fucking Joke.

I got a boneless pork loin, about six pounds, and had Big John The Butcher cut it in half. Then I had him cut me two large enough pieces of belly that each piece of loin could be wrapped completely. And I bought a bunch of twine.

I made a paste in my food processor with a mix of fresh rosemary, thyme, dried wild fennel seed I got from Angelo, salt, pepper, lemon rind, and tons of garlic and olive oil to hold it together.

I rubbed the loin and belly pieces completely, and then wrapped them up and tied them tightly with twine.

The pretty tying job is Karl's. Mine is the one that looks like an angry child did it. I haven't mastered trussing yet.

The porchetta roasted for about four hours, initially at 425º for about an hour to crisp up the skin and then dropping the temperature to 350º for long enough to cook it through but not so long that the porchetta dried out.


It ended up being too much meat for our crowd of twenty-two (buncha pussies!) but we brought leftovers to Big John and to the kids next door at Vesta, and were treated like conquering heroes and rockstars.

Tying, Shmying. They're all beautiful when they're cooked...

I set about oven-frying the eggplant for the Pasta a la Norma.

 More delicate types might have been embarrassed for us. It was a frenzy. The eggplant is combined with a simple tomato, fresh basil and garlic sauce, and topped with thin slices of Ricotta Salata cheese, salty and dry. A perfect first course.

This dish is simple, gorgeous, and people literally inhaled it.

The broccoli was steamed (well, it's supposed to be, but in our case it was actually boiled quickly-- I don't seem to have a steamer...) and was topped with a Sicilian sauce  (anchovies, golden raisins, onions, garlic, chili flake and tomatoes.


Sweet, salty spicy...again the balance is key. I can see this dish alone being a great midweek dinner paired with a salad.

Sweet and Sour Onions, or Agrodolce, is one of my favorite go-to dishes for roasted meats. Onions with cider vinegar, butter and stock roasted on 350º for about an hour or so, is gorgeous and intensely flavored.

 When you slow roast onions with vinegar, the sweet elements are really accentuated, and the tartness of the vinegar nearly fades away, leaving just enough for a bit of pucker on the finish.


The Roasted Fennel with Black Olives is another frequent go-to.

Perfect for fall and through winter, the sweetness of the anise comes out in the roasting, the bitterness that oil-cured olives hold in their skin act as a great foil to the fennel. The chili flake adds a bit of spice, and if you're gentle with it, it doesn't give you full-on heat.

Olive Oil Cake is another fan favorite around here... I use the recipe from Sara Jenkins & Mindy Fox's Olives and Oranges, and then doctor it with a little more citrus juice and zest.


A combination of tangerine, orange and a little lemon works for me.


Then I made a little boozy whip cream with orange flower water, powdered sugar and dark rum, and finished with the last fresh figs of the season.

Figs are so sexy, I wish I could eat them every day. But, like Great-Grandma Joy used to say, all good things come to an end. Even fig season, and trips to San Francisco. Lucky for me, they'll be back like clockwork next summer.

Turn, turn, turn.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wine Spectator Loves My Candied Bacon Lollipops for New Years Eve! Perfect with Sparkling Wine!

Sparkling Wine and Candied Bacon for New Year's Eve

Ring in 2012 with salty-sweet snacks on a stick and 15 recommended sparklers
Laurie Woolever
Posted: December 23, 2011
Another year is coming to a close, and soon we'll celebrate the arrival of 2012 with friends, family, sparkling wine and tasty party foods. For those hosting a party large or small, a buffet of flavor-packed, bite-size morsels will keep your guests satisfied while cutting down on your time in the kitchen. When we asked her for a crowd-pleasing New Year's Eve appetizer, Tamara Reynolds, caterer, co-author of Forking Fantastic: Put the Party Back in Dinner Party (Gotham 2009) and a regular on the Cooking Channel's Unique Eats, shared her recipe for Candied Bacon Lollipops.
"This will be the easiest, most worshipped canapé you'll ever make," said Reynolds. "People flip their lids for bacon in general, but when you candy it with brown sugar and then pop it on a skewer, watch out. And, the viscosity and salty-sweet balance of the bacon makes it a perfect match for a fuller-bodied sparkler, or one with spicy, citrus or tropical fruit notes." To that end, we've put together a list of 15 recently rated sparkling wines, below. Cheers to a happy and healthy 2012!
Photograph by Meg Cotner
Expect these tasty and aromatic bacon lollipops to disappear quickly from your New Year's Eve buffet.


Candied Bacon Lollipops

• 2 1/2 pounds slab bacon
• 1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar
• Silicone baking mat (optional but recommended)
• 20 to 25 wooden skewers
• Large decorative glass jar or other container for serving1. Preheat oven to 400° F.
2. Using a very sharp knife, remove and discard any skin on the bacon, taking care not to remove fat or meat.
3. Cut the bacon into 1-inch cubes, bearing in mind that pieces should be large enough to skewer, but small enough to be consumed in a single bite.
4. Combine the bacon and sugar in a large bowl and toss gently to coat the surface of the bacon with the sugar (there will be excess sugar).
5. If using a silicone baking mat, place it on a baking sheet, then distribute the bacon pieces and excess sugar evenly on the mat. Otherwise, distribute the bacon pieces directly on the baking sheet. The brown sugar will melt in with the bacon fat that breaks down.
6. Place the baking sheet in the oven and check after 10 minutes. The bacon should be cooking, and the sugar melted and caramelizing with the bacon fat. If it looks too spread out, or like it is burning at the edges, use a spatula to move the bacon pieces and excess sugar to the middle of the pan. Cook until done, about 3 to 6 minutes more.
7. Remove from the oven and let cool five minutes before serving. This is very important: Hot sugar will burn your guests' mouths. Thread the bacon pieces onto the skewers, arrange in the jar, and serve. Serves 10 to 15 as a canapé.

Monday, October 10, 2011

End of Ramadan-ish Dinner, Starring Persian Fried Chicken!


Swiss Chard Falafel with Tahini Sauce
Tomato, Pomegranate and Sumac Salad
Zucchini Montabel
Persian Fried Chicken
Pilaf with Chickpeas, Apricots and Pistachios
Muhammara, Deconstructed
Roasted Figs and Peaches with Brooklyn Grange Honey

When I moved to New York City fifteen years ago, I had never heard of Ramadan.

The first time I had heard of it was when I was working as a waiter at Union Pacific restaurant (the ageless Rocco DiSpirito was its celebrated chef.) Family meal was going to be served a half an hour later than usual during a few weeks in November and December, and we were instructed not to clear food away until after the "Muslim dudes" had eaten. When I asked why the entire prep staff were suddenly eating separately, a very helpful restaurant lifer said, "Because it's Ramadan."

Um, ok.

The following year, I was working at Babbo when Ramadan began, but unlike at Union Pacific, just a few of the prep staff were Muslim. This time I just asked one of the guys what was up. He kindly explained the month-long, daytime fast, only eating at sundown. I remember thinking that it was kind of hardcore, fasting for an entire MONTH, and it made me glad to be Episcopalian...

Two years later, I was living in Astoria, eight blocks from Steinway Street, or "Little Cairo." I moved in during the middle of Ramadan, and I had gone to Steinway Street looking to buy a tart pan or some bullshit. I came away wondering why everyone had been crazy rude to me, and I couldn't understand why. It wasn't until the following year, when Ali from Kabab Cafe explained to me that, as Ramadan wore on, people might start to get a bit... touchy towards the middle of the day.

Got it. They were hungry.

Photograph: Marjory Collins 1943©
As someone who wishes they had been raised in more of a culinary tradition, I always enjoy immersing myself in those of different cultures. It's the food version of dress-up.

Keeping tradition is important. It gives us all a sense of belonging and perspective, and being part of something larger than yourself makes us understand that we are a part of the continuum. Culinary traditions also help us understand politics and social change; Which countries traded with/were influenced by/occupied by whom, etcetera.

A great example of the interplay of food and culture is how Italian-American cuisine differs from regional Italian cuisine, mainly because that when Italian immigrants came to America they suddenly found themselves in the land of plenty... Surrounded by MEAT! Italian immigrants incorporated American produce and ingredients into their traditional cuisine, and added more meat to pasta. Meat in sauce. Every kind of meat! Spare ribs! Pork! Veal! Sausage! Meatballs!  This isn't the same cuisine that you find in Italy, simply because the ingredients weren't available for working class people in the same abundance.

But, back to Ramadan, the Islamic month of daytime fasting (no eating, and also, no smoking or sex) which is broken with nightly feasts after sundown. After the sun sets, you can smell cumin, garlic and spices all over Astoria. I woke up one morning in late July thinking of Persian Fried Chicken, and realized that this would be the perfect occasion to whip out this showstopper. Who needs more inspiration than that?

Karl recently brought home the "Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume" cookbook by Silvena Rowe, and this meal had many recipes inspired by it. I won't lie, I had mixed results, but for recipe ideas, this book is fabulous.
Silvena making rose petal salt. Great hair!
First up-- The Swiss Chard Falafel. Turns out, Falafel is clearly best left to the experts. I made two separate batches, both according to the recipe, and they both turned out completely fucked up. I gave up and made a chickpea/falafel fritter batter and prepared them that way.

Photo © Hani Omar Khalil
Photo © Hani Omar Khalil

Everyone loved them. I thought they tasted good but were a little dense. I might try to make them again, but not when I have twenty people over for dinner...

Photo © Hani Omar Khalil

The Tomato, Sumac and Pomegranate Salad was incredible, but tricky, as here in NYC, you can't get tomatoes and pomegranates at the same time.
Photo © Hani Omar Khalil
The tomatoes were at the height of the season and were fruity and tangy, the sumac lent a lemony/slightly bitter/tannic edge to it, and the pomegranate molasses, which I substituted for fresh pomegranate seeds gave the whole dish a concentrated fruit and tart flavor.

The recipe for Zucchini Moutabel is from the Al Halabi restaurant in the Four Seasons in Damascus. It has amazing flavor, but it's another difficult one: You essentially fry very thin slices of zucchini, then mash them with garlic and lemon. A LABOR INTENSIVE dish, and probably best attempted when cooking for small groups. That said, the ultimate payoff is crispy, garlicky, lemony and salty--- nothing to complain about on your fork. Just... Well, you know, there are no prep cooks in my kitchen, and Karl says he doesn't count.

Photo © Hani Omar Khalil

Pilaf with chickpeas, pistachios and apricots is composed of ingredients that are Ramadan fixtures. I basically covered dried chickpeas in water, with a head of garlic, and thyme and rosemary and simmered for a couple of hours. I made long grain rice, and before serving, I added some vermicelli I had cooked separately. I toasted the pistachios, cut up dried apricots and combined it all with the rice.

Muhammara, Deconstructed was my own bright idea. I roasted eggplants, skinned and mashed then with roasted garlic and stirred in cumin, olive oil, a touch of lemon juice and chopped parsley.

Photo © Hani Omar Khal
 I topped the whole thing with roasted red peppers (in the open gas flame on my stove) and sprinkled toasted, chopped walnuts over the top. Ummm... YES.

Persian Fried Chicken. Three words that ought to make you weak in the knees. It's that good.

Imagine, if you will, home-fried chicken in a cast iron skillet. Doesn't suck, right? Now, imagine if you had, beforehand, marinated that chicken overnight in greek yogurt, salt, garlic and saffron so that the perfumes and herbs permeate both the meat and the chicken skin. And now, imagine that you added dried mint and cumin to the light flour mixture in which you dredged that sinful, yogurt chicken before frying it to a glorious, crispy brown. It's the ULTIMATE fried chicken.

After such an involved meal, a light dessert of roasted figs and peaches with Brooklyn Grange Honey was the perfect ending.
Photo © Hani Omar Khalil


Barb getting her fig on. Photo © Hani Omar Khalil

Concentrated sweet/tart fruit served with clear, sweet local honey.

Photo © Hani Omar Khalil
Photo © Hani Omar Khalil
It was a lovely night, the first day of September. The best way to usher in the fall and pay tribute to Ramadan.